Since The Trade went down, I’ve done my best to remove the emotion of losing Ubaldo and evaluate the deal objectively. However, the GM is making that very difficult. You can spin this trade a number of different ways, but acting like they are restocked and ready to compete for the NL West right now is an absolute joke.
Perhaps this trade will eventually pay off in spades for the Rockies. With any trade — especially one centered on four prospects — it is impossible to appropriately evaluate the deal until at least a year later. With this one, it will probably take at least two. Therefore, it is impossible to know if this was the right move or not. However, one must ask if it was a necessary move, and, unless the team knows something about Ubaldo that nobody else in baseball knows, this was absolutely not a necessary move.
O’Dowd said that if the Rockies had a ten game lead right now, he probably would’ve made this trade anyway. I’d imagine that if Dan traded Ubaldo while on the verge of the team’s first ever division title, there would be riots in LoDo. For him to sit there and try to sell the fan base on that is insulting. Right or wrong, this was a reactionary move driven by the Rockies’ woeful performance. If they were in first place, any conversation about Ubaldo’s availability would’ve been incredibly short.
In general, the Rockies have failed miserably at drafting pitchers, particularly in the first round. Without the efforts of their Latin American scouts, their pitching would be downright shameful. Without a doubt, the farm system has a void of solid starting pitching prospects and this trade definitely helps that. But, it’s a backwards approach. Under a best case scenario, one of these prospects will eventually become as good as Ubaldo. Either way, they will inevitably be compared to the best pitcher in franchise history. That’s the standard. However, the Rockies already had an Ubaldo. Now, they are gambling that they have another one.
According to Troy Renck, O’Dowd initially began shopping Ubaldo as motivation. It was just one little tidbit in Renck’s piece from this morning, but it’s something that has really stuck with me. When a player is struggling for a few months — and, yes, we are talking about a few months, folks — is it appropriate to threaten that player with a trade? Personally, I hate those kind of player management tactics. It borders on buffoonery to think that Ubaldo’s problems this year could be fixed by instilling fear. Perhaps that would work on some players, but even the fans know that Ubaldo probably isn’t the type of guy that responds to that kind of thing.
O’Dowd’s attempts to scare Ubaldo into performing are a sign of an institutional problem — one we’ve seen play out all year. If a developing player struggles at all, they are immediately sent back to the minors. Ian Stewart, Dexter Fowler, and Chris Iannetta have been on shaky footing since the day they were first called up. This season the fear of being sent down has constantly hovered over Fowler and Stewart. That kind of pressure is unnecessary. Baseball is tough game to conquer mentally. Management should do what they can to ease that burden, not compound it by threatening trades and demotions.
Dan O’Dowd has now been running this team for over half of the franchise’s existence. In that span, the Rockies are over eighty games below .500. Despite two lucky playoff appearances, they have never won the division. While they’ve made a few decent draft picks — Tulo and Matt Holliday come to mind — they’re overall draft performance under O’Dowd has been subpar. As I previously said, they are particularly bad at picking pitchers. This past off-season, O’Dowd made moves that turned an 86 win contender into an under-.500 disappointment. With any other organization in baseball, that kind of resume will — and should — get you fired. And, after years of skating by, it seemed like this season would finally put O’Dowd on the hot seat. But, he somehow found a way to buy himself some more time. No matter what happens next year, he will be given the benefit of the doubt by the Monforts as we wait to see what comes of Alex White and Drew Pomeranz.
A year or two from now, it’s possible that we will look back on this trade as a stroke of genius. However, with the way the Rockies have been developing players recently, it’s a hard deal to be comfortable with. If the Monforts really want this rebuilding project to succeed, maybe they should change organization’s culture, starting at the top. In the end, it’s about wins and that is one department where O’Dowd has repeatedly come up short.
I’d like to hear your opinions on O’Dowd. Is it time for the Rockies to make a change?