The Colorado Rockies approach the end of this season in a prime position to snatch one of the two wild-card spots in the National League, and centerfielder Charlie Blackmon has contributed immensely to their performance. The catch is he becomes a free agent after next season, and signing him past 2018 should be one of the team’s top priorities this offseason.
Becoming one of the best hitters in baseball
Over the past two seasons, Blackmon has not only elevated himself to one of the best current lead-off hitters; he has produced one of the most productive seasons for a leadoff hitter of all-time, and he has earned himself a spot in the for the race for the NL’s Most Valuable Player award.
The most important job for a leadoff hitter is to get on base and catalyze the offense. With a .397 OBP, Blackmon certainly gets on base. But he does more than just get on base; he produces runs from the leadoff spot. He has already set the NL record for the most runs batted in for a season from a leadoff hitter with 93 RBIs (22nd in the NL). Tack on his 35 home runs (fourth in the NL), and he becomes an overwhelming force at the top of the order that no pitcher wants to face. All of this production has created a .416 wOBA (fourth in the NL) and a 143 wRC+ (sixteenth in the NL).
Furthermore, he has not suddenly broken out. He had a .381 OBP, 82 RBIs, 29 home runs, .394 wOBA and 132 wRC+ in 2016. With his performance this season, Blackmon has put himself into serious contention for NL MVP from the leadoff spot, so investing in Blackmon would help the Rockies keep their most important offensive piece.
Getting paid what he is worth
Blackmon still has one year left of arbitration, meaning that the Rockies have one year to sort out an extension before he becomes a free agent. But based on his performances, Blackmon deserves that extension now.
For the Rockies, retaining Blackmon means they keep their most valuable offensive piece before he hits the open market. During the stretches when the Rockies have not swung the bats well, Blackmon has consistently provided a spark that the team needs and paying him should not be an issue. With the dead money from the Jose Reyes trade decreasing from $20 million to $4 million next year, along with the expected departure of Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado should have the payroll flexibility as well as the urgency to give Charlie Blackmon a contract he deserves.
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