Rockies Mailbag: Should Rox have signed Kyle Schwarber rather than Kris Bryant?

Rockies Mailbag: Should Rox have signed Kyle Schwarber rather than Kris Bryant?

Denver Post sports writer Patrick Saunders with the latest installment of his Rockies Mailbag.

Pose a Rockies — or MLB — related question for the Rockies Mailbag.

Kyle Schwarber has 25 home runs at the season’s halfway point while Kris Bryant has only three. How high was Schwarber on the Rockies’ free-agent list before the season started? He ended up signing a modest four-year/$79 million deal with the Phillies.

— Dom, Longmont

Dom, the Rockies were interested in Schwarber during the offseason, but the player they really wanted was Bryant, someone the organization liked dating all the way back to the 2013 draft.

As I write this, Schwarber, 29, is hitting .219 with 28 homers and a .856 OPS in 85 games for the Phillies. Bryant, 30, is hitting .300 with four home runs and a .836 OPS in 29 games for the Rockies.

Considering that Bryant has dealt with a back injury most of the season, it’s really not fair to compare statistics. When healthy, Bryant has looked really good at the plate. He’s a better all-around hitter than Schwarber, though he doesn’t have as much raw power.

One statistic we can compare is home run percentage (percentage of all plate appearances a home run was hit).  Schwarber is smacking homers at an impressive rate of 7.6% while Bryant is hitting homers at a modest rate of 3.2%.

Following is what I wrote about Schwarber in a Rockies Mailbag in January. As you can see, I struck out with my prediction:

“If I had to pick one player the Rockies will make a run at, it would be free agent Kyle Schwarber. He could be a designated hitter, play left field, or fill in at first base for the Rockies. I know that the Rockies are interested in Schwarber, but that doesn’t mean they will land him.

“Schwarber slashed .266/.374/.554 in 113 games last season with Boston. Despite missing a month with a hamstring injury, he hit 32 home runs for Boston. Imagine the damage he could do at Coors Field.

“The Rockies, however, will have plenty of competition for Schwarber. In fact, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury wrote that the Phillies were “in full pursuit” of Schwarber in the days leading up to the lockout.

“There were pre-lockout reports that the Rockies were looking at Kris Bryant, but with Scott Boras as his agent, I don’t see the Rockies paying the kind of money Bryant will demand.”

Who are the Rockies going to take at pick No. 10?

— Chase Sommars, Denver

Chase, I am not a draft guru. In fact, my colleague, Kyle Newman, usually covers the major league draft and will do so again this year. The truth is, projecting picks in the MLB draft is even tougher than predicting selections in the NFL draft.

Here is a short list of predictions about who the Rockies will take with the 10th overall pick:

Keith Law, The Athletic: Brock Porter, RHP, St. Mary’s Prep (Orchard Lake, Mich.)

Jim Callis, Gavin Cross, OF, Virginia Tech

Mike Axisa, 3B/OF Jacob Berry, LSU

Kiley McDaniel, ESPN: Jordan Beck, LF, Tennessee

Hi Patrick, I wanted to get your assessment on how the Rockies have handled the latest call-up of prospect Elehuris Montero. I sent a question to the mailbag a few weeks back as to why he hadn’t been promoted despite the team’s struggling offense, so I was pleasantly surprised when he was called up a few days later. However, since then, he’s only had 14 at-bats in 14 days. Understanding that he’s blocked at third base (Ryan McMahon) and first base (C.J. Cron), it seems from the outside that the Rockies still could do a better job of finding him a consistent role. For example, he had a single and a couple of solid at-bats Sunday against Arizona, and then the next night against a lefty in LA, they opted to play Garrett Hampson over him at third. Your thoughts?

— Jon, Elk Grove, Calif.

Jon, as I wrote in my Rockies notebook on Monday, there is a  good chance that Montero will be optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque in the next couple of days when Kris Bryant returns from the paternity list. The Rockies brought up outfielder Sam Hilliard to see if he can perform better after a Triple-A tuneup and that likely means a demotion for Montero.

That’s the best thing course of action. Montero, who’s still very much a work in progress, needs to play in the field and he needs more consistent at-bats. He’s not getting them. Manager Bud Black said that Montero was benefitting from the major-league experience, but that only goes so far.

Recently, Montero has looked much less confident at the plate and he’s been fishing at off-speed pitches. He needs to play.

By the way, I talked to Todd Helton about Montero the other day while interviewing Helton for our story on first-base prospect Michael Toglia. Helton believes Montero has a bright future.

What year should I actually be excited for the Rockies again? I’m thinking 2024 at least can be fun with shortstop Ezequiel Tovar already up, and outfielder Zac Veen and catcher Drew Romo, and potentially this year’s draft pick, coming up (if it is a seasoned college bat).

— Shane Falco, Columbus, Ohio

Shane, I think 2024 is a good target date for some exciting young players to start making an impact on the Rockies’ major-league roster. But, as we all know, rising through the minors can be a difficult ride. Slumps, injuries, adjusting to life on the road, maturity and so many other factors play a part.

Although I’m excited about the Rockies’ potential lineup in 2024-25, quality pitching is going to be difficult to develop by then. Lefty Ryan Rolison and right-hander Peter Lambert are injured and their careers have stalled. The Rockies simply don’t have a lot of pitching depth in the majors or the minors.

Where do the Rockies rank in terms of dollars spent on the front office compared to other teams? Obviously, not all of that is public information but just wondering if it would show where the Rockies invest vs. other teams.

— Mark, Denver

Mark, I plead ignorance. I don’t know how much the Rockies pay their front-office personnel and I don’t know what other teams pay, either. However, the salaries of some of the high-profile general managers are known. For example, Yankees GM Brian Cashman is in the final year of the five-year, $25 million contract extension he signed in December 2017.

What I do know is that the Rockies’ front office, when data analysts are included, is smaller than most other major league teams.

Do you see any chance C.J. Cron returns to the Rockies after his deal ends next year? To me, it feels like he’s great trade bait for July 2023 — a power bat with an expiring contract who could be moved to a contender for some prospects. It’s not like we haven’t moved someone like him before.

— Mike, Denver

Mike, if I were the Rockies, I would be open to trading Cron this summer, for the right combination of prospects. Teams such as the Red Sox and Mets could certainly use a power hitter. The Rockies, of course, have control over Cron through 2023, so they can use that as leverage. Or, they could trade him this winter.  Or they might hold on to him until next summer, thinking that they might be closer to contention.

General manager Bill Schmidt has been proactive when it comes to extending contracts for current Rockies players such as Kyle Freeland, Ryan McMahon and Antonio Senzatela. But with first base prospect Michael Toglia on the horizon, and Elehuris Montero already making his debut, the Rockies have a couple of young first basemen waiting in the wings. Toglia, however, has stalled a bit at Double-A Tulsa and Montero is still very raw. So could Cron be re-signed? Yes, but I don’t see it happening.

I see Sam Hilliard is back on the roster, what with Kris Bryant going on paternity leave. Is this his last shot with Colorado? He has incredible tools but doesn’t seem to get them going at the major-league level.

— Ron, Parker

Ron, Hilliard is starting Tuesday night’s game against the Padres. I’m very interested to see how he performs. You’re right, he has all of the tools but he was not up to the challenge of hitting major-league pitching earlier this season. In fact, when he was demoted to Triple-A Albuquerque, he was in a 0-for-20 slump.

His last shot? I’m not sure about that. He is already 28 but the Rockies don’t have much young, outfield depth right now. So Hilliard will likely remain on the 40-man roster over the offseason, even if he continues to struggle at the major-league level.

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