Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part post. The following two paragraphs were the original opening. Part I can be found here.
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.
January 5th: Rockies sign Casey Blake for 1 year/$2 million
Best case scenario 1: Blake performs well enough that the Rockies see the benefit of not having a giant black hole at the hot corner for the first time in a few years. He is solid, especially for the bottom of the lineup and he graciously steps aside when Nolan Arenado comes up in July. Arenado hits well and becomes a good hitter from 2013-2020, including some all-star years.
Best case scenario 2: The Rockies decide to leave Arenado in the minors for 2012 (save for a September call-up) and Blake plays the whole year, providing solid play far and above what Ian Stewart offers in Chicago.
Worst case scenario: Blake just runs out of gas or gets injured. This either forces the Rockies to play someone at third base most of the year who doesn’t quite fit (LeMathieu or Pacheco) and the production is far below average, forcing the Rockies to bring up Arenado before he is ready and it regresses his development.
January 16th: Seth Smith for Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman
Best case scenario: Guillermo Moscoso wins a rotation spot in spring training and performs well. He is traded before the deadline because he is expendable after Jorge De La Rosa comes back from injury. The return on him is a bullpen arm and a great young prospect. Outman becomes a left-handed force coming out of the bullpen in 2012 and is just an unhittable LOOGY, filling that role from 2012-2015. Seth Smith continues to hit well, but only against righties.
Worst case scenario: Moscoso’sfly ball tendencies kill him in Colorado and he spends 2012 in the minors. By 2013 the Rockies have plenty of 5th starter candidates and he is traded for next to nothing… to the Oakland A’s. Outman never really regains his command after Tommy John surgery and shows promise, but just keeps walking too many people and becomes a bullpen liability, but not before giving up some devastating performances a la Felipe Paulino. Seth Smith is given a full season of opportunities against lefties and makes enough strides that he is one of the more effective right fielders in the AL.
January 21st: Marco Scutaro for Clay Mortensen
Best case scenario: Scutaro plays well, hits .300 and solidifies the lineup. With the combination of him and Casey Blake playing well the Rockies have good production from 2 positions that killed them last year, leading the baseball world to praise Dan O’Dowd for slotting in these guys as one year fixes in a way that allowed them to compete in 2012 without giving up any future performance. Josh Rutledge takes the second base job in 2013.
Worst case scenario: Scutaro gets injured and LeMathieu underperforms in his stead.
February 7th: Jeremy Guthrie for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom
Best case scenario: Guthrie is renewed by playing competitive baseball again. In 2012 he has a 3.80 ERA and succeeds despite his lack of strikeouts. He loves Colorado (and being near his offseason Utah home) and signs a 3 year deal with the Rockies. He is the Rockies 4th starter from 2013-2015. Hammel gets crushed in Camden Yards with the high level of competition and never really breaks through. He becomes what Guthrie was: the AL pitcher with the most L’s at the end of the year. Lindstrom is an average bullpen man.
Worst case scenario: Guthrie gives up loads of homeruns at Coors and just gives the Rockies an average 2012 season. He signs elsewhere in 2013. Hammel taps into the mojo we saw come and go and becomes a solid pitcher who somehow regains his out pitch. Lindstrom becomes a solid 8th inning guy and the Orioles flip him at the deadline for a good prospect.
Rockies future best case scenario
Two of the young arms that O’Dowd got in the Moscoso, Outman, Chatwood crop become contributors of some sort. Pomeranz and White are good. Nolan Arenado is a stud. Josh Rutledge becomes a good second baseman. Wilin Rosario is good. JhoulysChacin continues to make strides and the Rockies enjoy a 4-5 year period where they contend, with an offensive core of Tulo, CarGo, Fowler, Arenado, and Rosario and a pitching core of Pomeranz, Chacin, White, Nicasio, and Matzek. Not a bad bargain in my estimation.
Overall 2012 Offseason worst case scenario
Of the 5 young pitchers acquired during this period (Pom, White, Moscoso, Outman, Chatwood), only 2 of them contribute, and not at a high enough level to forget how well Ubaldo is pitching. The young position players (Arenado, Rosario, Fowler) underwhelm and Tulo- CarGo continue to make up the bulk of the offense—which, when combined by the disappointing young pitchers, is not enough to contend.
What is the plan?
The plan is to depend on the solid youthful core or the franchise. However, I think O’Dowd has put the structure of veterans in place (Scutaro, Blake, Hernandez, Cuddyer) to make the transfer to that youth more competitive than some assume. At the end of the day it is a bit like reliving the 2007 season: young and talented pitching that is unproven and inexperienced (Ubaldo, Franklin Morales) along with top notch (but again unproven) young position players (Ian Stewart, Tulowitzki, and Seth Smith). This is going to be exciting to watch, and with a few things going their way, this Rockies team could be a force. But the plan is for this team to use the blessing of having Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzales both in their primes to contend for a World Series each year from 2013-2017. With a few good bounces, it just might happen. Here is the lineup and pitching rotation for those years:
Rockies core 2013-2017
CF- Dexter Fowler
2B- Josh Rutledge
LF- Carlos Gonzales
SS- Troy Tulowitzki
3B- Nolan Arenado
RF- Tim Wheeler
C- Wilin Rosario
1B- Cuddyer in 2013+14; prospect/FA 2015-2017
1- Drew Pomeranz
3- Juan Nicasio
4- Alex White
5- Jeremy Guthrie
Others contributing (perhaps stealing a job above) during 2013-2017: Jorge De La Rosa, Chad Bettis, Tyler Anderson, Christian Friedrich, Tyler Matzek, Peter Tago, and Edwar Cabrera, Chatwood, Moscoso.
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