For their entire history until the moment that DJ LeMahieu arrived in 2012, the second base position had been a revolving door of question marks for the Colorado Rockies.
Over the next seven seasons, LeMahieu emerged as easily the most prolific and beloved player to ever man the position for the franchise. He began slowly at first, surprising most of the baseball world with the way he continued to get better and better, eventually placing a trio of Gold Gloves and a Batting Title on his mantle.
But the writing had been on the wall for some time that 2018 was likely the final year for LeMahieu in Denver. It was announced on Friday that he will be trading in the purple pinstripes for the more traditional kind, joining the New York Yankees on a two-year $24 million contract.
And now, the Rockies are back to the drawing board with plenty of plans in place, but a future shrouded in mystery much the same as the one that had followed second base for so long.
So, what happens now?
Let's take a look at what Colorado can do to absorb the loss of one of the most important players in their history.
The most likely candidate to step immediately into the majority of the playing time at second base will be sophomore Ryan McMahon.
Not his natural position, McMahon has played third base for most of his pro career and has a decent number of reps at first, with second lagging a bit behind. But he has taken to the position well and sources inside the Rockies have continuously confirmed that they are thrilled with the way he has taken to the position defensively.
If he can learn enough of the nuance (footwork, etc) that his athleticism and size (6'4) can play up and maybe even turn him into a similar defender as the one who is departing. High praise indeed, but the tools are there.
Furthermore, McMahon represents a potential coup offensively if he can take to the position. While there are still some wrinkles to figure out in his offensive profile at the MLB level, he again has the raw power and bat speed to be a 20-30 home run guy at some point in his career. That kind of power can be tough to find in an up-the-middle spot.
His struggles early in 2018 may have some a bit more hesitant but his huge late-game moments further along in the year have most of the fanbase clamoring to see more of what McMahon can do.
He is the young (yet unproven) player on the roster most deserving of additional opportunities and unless there is an injury elsewhere, second base is the most logical spot to put him to make sure he gets those at-bats.
While he may not be able to finagle his way into the starting lineup, Garrett Hampson may end up being among the most important players on the 2019 roster.
As it stands, he makes the most sense as a first option off the bench for contact and speed and an insurance policy on... well... everyone.
His ability to play third, short, second, and center field make him an ace-up-the-sleeve for the Rockies to counter ill-timed injuries and slumps. Furthermore, he fits naturally as a platoon player should a young lefty (David Dahl, McMahon, Raimel Tapia) struggle against same-handed pitching.
Hampson represents a high floor option for the Rockies at second. At the very least, he will defend well and run the bases as well as anyone on the roster. Like with McMahon, we are still waiting to see what he can do with the bat at this level.
A couple of things ought to be remembered to temper some of the excitement and expectations surrounding the Rockies top prospect, Brendan Rodgers. First, he is still just 22 years old and, even though he rocketed through the farm system and up to Triple-A with impressive haste, he only has 19 games played at that level.
The prodigious hitter also looked slightly overmatched at the plate for the first time in his young pro career in that stint, batting .232 and slugging just .290.
Ok... are you done tempering expectations?
In my view, the only question with Rodgers is when he will show up to be an impact player and not if. It would be foolish to rush him, especially with the two players we've already discussed available. But before too long, probably around June or July, we will get a look at one of the most exciting players to debut since Trevor Story.
Much like Hampson did in 2018, Rodgers will be ready on Alert 5 should anything shake up the middle infield for the big league club. And I suspect he will be ready to answer the call.
The other nice thing about all three players we have detailed here is that they can also play third base in the potential scenario that a certain third baseman leaves the team in the future.
Should there be a rash of injuries or flameouts or just general terrible luck, the Rockies can always look to veteran Daniel Murphy to take some time at second base. His defense won't get anyone excited but his bat has played so well over his career that sometimes it matters a lot less.
It's unlikely to ever be the first option, but don't be surprised if Murphy gets a handful of games at his old stomping ground, especially as a fill-in for any short-term needs.
But the acquisition of Murphy is more about replacing, and arguably improving upon, LeMahieu's offense which often served as a consistent rock for the rest of the lineup.
What is most interesting about the decision to let LeMahieu go is that it can be applauded or criticized for much of the same reasons.
Colorado has three guys that are making league minimum who can play the spot and might, just might, end up being even better than the player they are losing. That said, they are handing a spot that has long been a quagmire over to a series of largely unknown commodities.
This decision will end up being fully judged in hindsight. If the new era doesn't pan out, Colorado will be rightfully panned for allowing one of their best ever to walk away for a price they could almost certainly have afforded to pay.
Conversely, if just one of McMahon, Hampson, or Rodgers reaches their full potential, the Rockies have just made a shrewd business move that could help keep them competitive for years to come.