Spring training beckons every year with new excitement for most every team (sorry Astros). Now that the Rockies are now full swing into spring training it is time to look at just what the future holds for this franchise. This is especially timely given that last year the Rockies traded the only pitcher in franchise history that baseball might consider an ace, right in the midst of his prime years. Given that the Rockies did that, what are the plans for the future? An examination of all of the transactions the Rockies have made beginning with the Ubaldo trade will show just what this team is up to.
The Rockies were exceptionally busy this offseason. After the Jeremy Guthrie trade it looks like 15 men from last year’s opening day 25 man roster will not be with the Rockies. That is a lot of deals to analyze, and perhaps more importantly, a lot of deals that cannot be judged independently once you know that the plan to overhaul was so expansive. So let’s look at the moves and look at what could happen—both for the better and for the worst. GM’s are smarter than the collective baseball blogosphere gives them credit for; they know what the upside and downside of each deal is and they are in the business of taking calculated risks. A plan for the future is just that- a plan. Results are not givens. Here is the future, both with things bouncing the Rox way and with the universe not cooperating.
July 31st: Ubaldo Jimenez traded for Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Joe Gardner, and Matt McBride
Best case scenario: Pomeranz becomes the 15th20th best starter in MLB for a 4 year arc between 2014-17 (last year Fangraphs had Chris Carpenter, James Shields, Cole Hamels in this range), White has 6 seasons of more than 190 innings with a 3.50 ERA 2012-2017, Gardner makes a few good spot starts over 2013-2014, and McBride provides depth with a September callup in both 2012 and 2013. This gives the Rockies 2 rotation pitchers, including one who could be better than Ubaldo (Pomeranz), all during the prime of Tulo-Cargo (now -2017 or so). As unfortunate as it is, the reality is that Ubaldo’s performance will also dictate this trade. Not that anyone wishes him harm, but if Ubaldo never gets his fastball back up to the mid to upper 90’s and doesn’t reclaim the ace performance in he showed in 2010, even a less than perfect scenario for the package the Rockies got back could be a good trade.
Worst case scenario: Pomeranz and White are not ready for the big league in 2012 and Ubaldo Jimenez wins the 2012 Cy Young (don’t forget that halfway through 2010 this was a given), thereby meaning that the Rockies missed out on a year where they could have had Cargo-Tulo-Ubaldo at their best and Helton’s last year of good production (possibly enough to get to the World Series with Chacin having a good year as well). When Pom and White get to the Rockies in 2013, they are both underwhelming and are more of 3-4 of a rotation instead of a 2-3 or possibly even a 1-3 that some thought they could be. Gardner and McBride are claimed on waivers after spending a few years in AA/AAA.
November 30th: Chris Iannetta for Tyler Chatwood
Best case scenario: Chatwood contributes to the bullpen in 2012 and spends 4-5 years as a good 5th starter. His curveball is legit and delivers good strikeout numbers for a 5 from 2013-2017. Iannetta is exposed away from Coors field and everyone wonders why they let the peripherals get in their way of seeing that the man had a .235 batting average in spacious Coors even as a selective hitter and hits .205 the rest of his career.
Worst case scenario: Chatwood impresses in spring and is named the 5th starter in 2012, but it turns out he is just a AAAA pitcher. He bounces back and forth from AAA and Denver and never gets traction, is a AAA depth guy from 2013-2016 because the Rockies just simply have better 4-5 starters. Iannetta gives the Angels 3-4 years of a .245 with 20 HR’s, something the Rockies salivate over after Wilin Rosario only catches 75 games a year and has a .305 OBP over that same period.
November 30th: Signed Ramon Hernandez for 2 year/$6.4 million
Best case scenario: Hernandez performs well over the contract and hits with a high enough batting average and enough HR’s that no one complains about losing Iannetta. The transition from him to Wilin Rosario is perfect, Rosario takes more and more playing time and is starting 5 days a week by the end of Hernandez’s contract. Rosario is who scouts thought he was when they ranked him among baseball’s best prospects a few years ago, becoming a power hitting catcher with above average defense from 2013-2019
Worst case scenario: Not too bad here as far as signing Hernandez. If Hernandez is healthy he will produce enough. Unless Iannetta becomes an all-star this will probably go down as non-noteworthy. The real worst case here is that Rosario is not as good as advertised and the Rockies look for a decent catcher over the next handful of years.
December 7th: The choice to replace Huston Street with Rafael Betancourt
Best case scenario: Betancourt closes well for 2 years, eventually giving way to Rex Brothers who closes for the Rockies from 2014-2020. Street continues his uneven performance and no one thinks twice about it.
Worst case scenario: The change just messes up the whole bullpen. Betancourt doesn’t perform that well and Brothers replaces him in August of 2012, creating a mess of the bullpen roles. Street pitches well and everyone wonders why the Rockies ever tinkered with a good thing.
December 8th: Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers for Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu
Best case scenario: Tyler Colvin is the Rockies 4th outfielder for 3 years. He does hit for power and is very successful against right-handers. DJ LeMahieu plays 120 games in 2012 after Marco Scutaro gets injured in April, he shows the great hit tool scouts loved, and his frame fills out just enough that he becomes a doubles machine in Coors and competes for the second base job with Josh Rutledge in 2013. Ian Stewart just is not a big league hitter and he is eventually non-tendered by the Cubs. Weathers never sees the show. Josh Rutledge becomes a solid second baseman from 2014-2018.
Tyler Colvin is just not a big league hitter. He spends 2012 in AAA and is sent away in a meaningless prospect trade. LeMahieu is just Johnny Herrera and spends some time as a utility guy, none of it being very good. Ian Stewart becomes a contributor for the Cubs. He is able to find his stroke in Wrigley and hits .265 with 20 HR’s a year from 2012-2015. Weathers becomes the Cubs 7th inning guy in 2014.
December 20th: Rockies sign Michael Cuddyer for 3 years/$31.5 million
Best case scenario: Cuddyer hits well and his ability to hit lefties and righties gives him superior value to Smith. Coors even renews his power enough that he averages 25 HR’s over the contract. His defense is just fine; in fact his strong arm keeps runners from going from 1st to 2nd or from 1st to 3rd even though he gets to the balls at a little bit deeper angles. Bottom line, with Fowler and CarGo in the outfield and Cuddyer hitting well, his defense is not a hot topic (let’s not forget how much Seth Smith’s defense regressed last year). In 2013 and 2014 Cuddyer plays first base after Helton retires after the 2012 season.
Worst case scenario: Cuddyer declines over the life of this contract. His power is nothing special and his defense becomes a liability as he ages. Seth Smith hits well and everyone compares their numbers each year and wishes the Rockies would have signed Smith to a 3 year/ $18 million deal in 2011.
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