I have been reading every where, “Oh the Rox have to trade Tulo, they need to restock, they have no hope…” You know the line. First, off, all of these articles are coming from one of two sources:
1) Completely silly professional writers at a newspaper called the Denver Post. Not the actual main baseball writers (who are very good), but the equivalent of Dave Barry in the sports page. They are either just trying to zing people and need ideas for articles or truly are complete, um, fill in the blank with your favorite word, and shouldn’t have a job writing in a school newspaper
2) National sportswriters who really like Tulo but forget that the Mountain Time Zone exists and don’t want to have to cover him in Denver. They assume a great player has to be in California, Chicago or New York. They think the Rockies are empty and worthless. They also have no idea of the Rockies long-term plans, and they have not been following this club like we have.
This discussion (sorry, another long article) takes history:
First, let’s go back to the off-season of 2010. The Rox had made a serious charge to try and make the playoffs for the 2nd year in a row, but just fell short. The Rox shock the baseball world by signing not just Tulo to a long-term deal but getting CarGo to sign one as well, even though he was represented by Scott Boras. They did not however give a big deal to Ubaldo, who had a great first 3 months, but faded down the stretch. But, the 2011 Rockies were the chic pick to win the NL West and with some of the prognosticators, go to the World Series. With Ubaldo (who finished 3rd in the CY) and Jorge De La Rosa, Jason Hammel (who won 10 the year before), a young stud name Jhoulys Chacin, and wily veteran Aaron Cook their starting rotation looked solid, and with Rafeal Betencourt, Huston Street and Franklin Morales the end of games looked like a lock to.
We all know what happened – they started great 11-2, and by the end of April they were 17-8. Then the bottom fell out. DLR blew his elbow out. Ubaldo sulked and stunk. Hammels and Cook both lost 10+ games with ERAs of 4.76 and 6. By mid-season they had dealt Ubaldo, Morales pitched himself out of town, and only Chacin ended up with a sub-4 ERA. Their pitching was a shambles. What looked like a season for the ages was the start of a 3 year run of garbage. 2012 was the year the humidor broke, further emphasizing that the Rox had no pitching, no plan, and no hope. By the time 2013 came around the baseball writing elite had decided the Rox were a joke, worse than the Stros because at least the Stros were smart enough to get #1 picks every year. 2013 actually started the turn-around, not in the final record, but in the direction of the team. On May 24 they were 27-21 and ready to be in the race for the long-haul.
Then came June 13, a loss that dropped them to 35-32, 2.5 behind the DBacks. Of course the key part of that day was the three injuries to Dexter, CarGo and Tulo. The season essentially ended that day, and that despite a season with 3 pitchers having sub4 ERAs (Chatwood, DLR, and Chacin). All off-season we heard “The Rox have to trade Tulo and CarGo, they have no pitching, they have no team!” And then traded Dexter Fowler and we heard, “This team is stupid, they have no pitching and now no lead-off man, and they traded him for junk, Jordan Lyles and Brandon Barnes.”
And how smart were the experts? Lyles was arguably the best pitcher til he got Rockies Disease and Barnes has been a very good 4th outfielder. Add to that moving Dexter allowed Charlie Blackmon to not only take over the lead-off job but to become an All-Star, something that Dexter never did.
And all that despite failing to following the experts – they failed to trade Tulo…who has only been the best player in the majors. Now, maybe they should have traded CarGo…but he was coming off an injury that scared off any team…unless the Rox were willing to eat most of his salary. Yea, that was going to happen.
Now, the Rox once again are in a position to end up in the last place, so of course the Rox have no hope and must trade the player with the highest WAR in the majors. Now, I would agree with this…if the Roxs were in this position because of bad performances. But that isn’t the case. This team isn’t in last place because of bad performances, which I think is the assumption nationally for the constant change. Nor was the epic failure of the season because management failed to create depth in the pitching area, which the viewpoint of the local commentaries. Yes, there is some performance issues involved, but if we actually look at the reason this team has had 13 starting pitchers the facts become clearer. So let’s take a look at the 13 starters, beginning with planned starting 5:
1) Chacin – injury – yes bad outcomes but all do to a shoulder that make cadavers feel good. There was no indication at the end of last season or during their off-season conversations. Had there been I imagination there would have been another quality starter pursued.
2) DLR – had been good enough, despite injury – the one bright spot.
3) Anderson – good pitching, weirdest broken finger in baseball history, or half a Rockies Injury .
4) Chatwood – first goes the hamstring, then goes the elbow.
5) Nicasio – the only genuine failure – he was great in April, okay in May, and, maybe it goes with Arenado’s injury, he became a batting practice machine. This is the one genuine performance issue.
Now to the replacements
6) Jordan Lyles – steps in for Chatwood, is the staff ace for 5 weeks, and a decent pitcher until his hand injury.
7) Franklin Morales – steps in for Chacin, and actually does what you want from a fill-in starter, giving them 5 weeks of okay baseball before the bottom falls out. Almost a performance issue, but given he wasn’t supposed to be in the rotation and his last 2 outings, let’s just say this is a neutral.
8) Eddie Butler – up comes their #2 prospect, he pitches one game… and his voodoo doll gets pierced.
9) Christian Bergman – after running up the best shut-out streak in Sky Sox history, he gets his big break, does okay for the first few starts and blows up in the same game he suffered his Rockies Injury.
10) Tyler Matzek – up comes 2009 #1 pick, who has been pretty well overall. His ERA is 4.79, but he has pitched better than that, with most of his runs coming late in games. Looks like a keeper.
11) Christian Friedrich – you know your desperate when the injury bug causes you to bring up a guy who missed 2013 with a broken back and who had a 7.90 ERA in AAA is asked to pitch. Performance failure is why he is no longer in the bigs and why we move to #12
12) Yohan Flande – a 10 year minor leaguer got to the bigs finally…he had a 4.42 ERA, wasn’t on the 40 man roster until this outbreak, and he pitched himself right back to Colorado Springs. There may be a role for him in the pen next year where the changeup to lefties can be used.
13) Jair Jurrjens – a career ruined by injury before he ever got to Colorado, he came here in a minor trade deal, pitched poor against the Dodgers and good enough vs the Padres and now is back in Colorado Springs.
Despite the injury situation, the team has learned a lot about the potential for 2015. DLR must be re-signed. Lyles can tap into the talent he showed in minors. Anderson is injury prone but worth acting on his option. Chatwood cannot be counted on despite his talent due to that elbow. Morales can provide short-term help but can help the pen. Butler needs a bit more development…we think (1 start is hard to get too concerned about). Bergman might be able to provide good innings and competitive starts from the #5 spot, Matzek can pitch and occasionally dominate at this level, Friedrich probably is done as a starter but can he throw from the pen, Flande might be a pen arm but we know why he has been stuck in the minors, and Jurrjens…is a shadow of himself but could be a long-man. So, even with this disaster, some learning has occurred.
So why has this team lost 18 of 21 at one point? The depth they brought in during the off-season helped cover the injuries until the bottom fell out. As I said in a previous post, not even the Dodgers, Joe Maddon managing, and Billy Beane as GM is going to survive this situation. I had been saying that because of the huge injury bug this team wasn’t going to learn anything about its players for the future. In fact, I think they have learned some things, and now know which directions to go in the future.
How close is this team to being a playoff team? Closer than the national media understand and far closer than the local “writers” have chosen to look. This team has, assuming they keep Drew Stubbs and CarGo are back in 2015, a fantastic outfield, both on offense and defense. They have a future AS at 3B, a great defender a 2B, and both a good option for 1B in 2015 in Morneau and an interesting option in Parker for the future. Yes, their catching is a disaster defensively but has good offense potential and 3 interesting options at AA, even if they haven’t been as great as they hope.
In their rotation for 2015 we can assume that Anderson will be back on the team option, Lyles will be back, Matzek will be back. Then you have the mix of Butler, Bergman and Jon Grey (yes, he hasn’t been as good of late in Tulsa but they are still teaching him to pitch not throw, so I am not worried about outcomes at this point…its better than the situation that Houston has with Marc Appel, who has been a disaster in A ball). They will add some veterans on make-good deals for depth. And of course they will try to bring back Jorge De La Rosa. That is a decent rotation, with depth. Yes, they will have to re-build the bullpen (as teams do each year).
Now, I say all this because…why trade the best player in team history and current major league baseball? They don’t need to add a whole bunch more prospects – their positional player depth is coming fast, and they already have the best pitching prospects in team history. We have seen already in the Ubaldo trade (one where most analysis say the Indians were robbed at the time, giving up Alex White who had already made it to Cleveland and won a game and a big-time lefty pitcher in Pomeranz), prospects don’t pan out. And, by the way, the only way you get prospects when you are trading a player with a $25 million price tag? You eat part of the price tag. The only reason to trade him is for payroll flexibility, and you would have to use that payroll replacing 8 win in WAR. So again…why would this team trade Tulo? The same applies for CarGo, who is slightly cheaper but has to re-establish his value. They might make a deal in the off-season for CarGo…if they can get a good deal…but again, they are not eating money to make it happen.
Now, I am not saying that the Rockies will not trade Tulo or CarGo. If a team throws a deal at you to good to believe, of course you make a deal. While Tulo is older than Mike Trout, he is still young, and as we see this year, developing. And can you imagine the Angels trading Trout? If Tulo was 32, I would trade him before we see decline, but he is still on the ascendency. CarGo? The guy we saw before that June game last year is capable of carrying a team and his defense is so good that he makes it look easy. Tulo can bring between 5 and 8 WAR to this team – how many prospects will it take to cover that much WAR? CarGo when he is healthy is a 4-5 WAR guy, again, how many prospects do you need to get to cover that much performance? If you are blowing things up and telling us that 2020 is the next competitive team, fine…but there will be no one still caring by then. I mean were talking falling behind the Colorado Rapids in fan interest. The management knows that – fans have endured a lot the past 4 season, and trading Tulo and/or CarGo really will be the end of baseball in Colorado. The owernship knows that – whatever argument you want to make about trading Tulo and CarGo…there is no way the fan base can accept it, and there is no way this team will be competitive for several years until whatever prospects arrive in the trade make it (if they do). In the end the business side means a lot in this equation – and that includes dollars in tickets and other fan’s oriented dollars than end up in the corporation coffers. This team can compete in 2015 with a few tweaks here and there, HEALTH, and growth in a few positions.
That said…this team is not as good as the Dodgers – and I don’t think that is going to change unless they have a series of injuries like ours this year (Kershaw is just that good, and adding Greinke and Ryu, that is just a power trio, and their pen is going to be great every year because they can buy the top FA each year for their bullpen).
Sorry, as optimistic as I am, I just think for the next few years the Dodgers will be the division leader. The Giants I actually think are heading the downward. The Padres have an offense so bad that it will take years to be competitive. The DBacks will be back, soon. That is the NL West.
The 2014 Rockies I think had a real chance at the Wild Card before the deluge. In 2015 with more experience in guys like Butler, Grey, Tyler Anderson, Kahnle, Dickerson, and… (do you realize how good many of their younger players are and they still have growth potential), they will be that much better. Why do you trade Tulo or CarGo? Answer….you don’t, period. Well, if someone offers you the moon and several adjoining plants and say a comet, yes, you make the deal. But you don’t go after a deal – you go after the missing parts to get this team ready to play in October 2015.
So, can we get back to focusing on how this team adds depth, fixes the holes that are there, and getting them ready for competitng in 2015.