Over the All-Star Break Tulo in what has widely been reported as an interview to make everyone happy, insisted he wants to win in Colorado…but he doesn’t want to go through a rebuild program…and I think the underlying words were – 2015 had better be a playoff run.
I have been saying that the Rox would be nuts to trade him, and knowing they hold the cards in this situation (unlike Holliday who was nearing Free Agency), the talk of trading him with the seemingly positive direction of the club is just silly talk. But the Rox moves the next few weeks might change that.
The question that the Rox have to ask is, “How close, really, are we to winning?” I have been arguing all season that they are close, and in fact would have been in the hunt this year (the NL which I earlier in the year called as solid as it has been in my lifetime from top to bottom, has in fact, been fairly middling in performance, which may reflect the number of good teams beating each other every other night, keeping many teams near .500. But am I right?
If the Rox are 2-3 years away, then before July 31 they should deal DLR, Charlie Blackmon (his value is at an all-time high, and you have David Dahl who will be here in 2 years most likey), Brett Anderson (whose value shot up after the Saturday night game vs the Pirates), Boone Logan, Hawkins, and hear on CarGo and Tulo (it might make more sense to wait on the big 2 until the off-season, when everyone is buying, not just playoff teams).
But, are they that far away? The rotation has been the focus for much of the season. But, it is very likely we could have a strating 5 of DLR, Anderson, Matzek, Lyles, and Gray starting next year, with depth in the minors in the form of Bergman, Butler, Anderson, and the Rockies latest #1 pick, Kyle Freeland, who if he can stay healthy – a problem for Friedrich, Anderson and Reynolds, lefty #1 picks before him, could be at the gates as early as next year’s September call-ups. So, on the surface, they can have a very good starting 5, not Dodger quality, but within shouting distance.
The starting 8 looks set for next year, with a chance this off-season to add value at 2B and C. But the starting 8 they have right now, when healthy, is pretty good (maybe the best in the NL West), though 3 lefty outfielders as your starting nods is not a great setup. But, then again, a nice problem to have (just like have 3 starting lefties in your rotation).
They do need bench help – more balance and depth at infield positons, but, again, that is easy to try and address in the off-season. Earlier this year, when the Rox were close in the race, I kept track of the number of games they lost in what I called “Bullpen games” – where either the pen gave-up a lead the starter handed off or lost a tie game. At the time I stopped counting it was 3-15, and then came the DBacks series in early June and I just lost the will to count. The first 2 games in Pittsburg are both games the bullpen had in their hands and managed to lose. Yes, they were both 1 run leads but…good teams hold leads, bad teams lose them. This is a bad team.
In March I thought the pen was going to be a strength (then again I thought the rotation as going to be a strength but when two sub-4 ERA pitchers – a mark of quality playing at Coors – are both facing the potential end of their career 5 months later, quality disappears quickly). The Rex we saw most of last year was awesome, and looked like a good closer pair with Hawkins. Adding Boone Logan was a great move. Adam Ottavino in 2013 went from long-man to 8th inning slider king, Tommy Kahnle looked like the all-time greatest Rule 5 grab in history (still looks darn good), and then you had Chad Bettis who showed potential in 2013, Matt Belisle who did have a bad 2013 but had been nails for years, and yes, Wilton Lopez, a former closer in Houston who couldn’t have 2 bad years in a row and Nick Masset just about ready to go from major shoulder surgery – that looked like a solid to very good bullpen.
Geez, was I wrong! Of course bullpens are that way – guys who are great one year can just lose it the next. Heck, guys like Ottavino who was pure Zero in April and early May has become too hittable since. The pen they planned died…a slow and horrendous death. You can blame lack of depth (I didn’t mention Morales but even counting him and Brooks Brown, clearly they didn’t have enough good arms to survive and thrive in the NL West). You can blame injuries or arm issues (does Rex Brothers have shoulder or elbow issues, when will Boone become the guy they thought they were getting, and…you know the story). Or maybe they just were not that good to begin with…which is looking like the story.
We have seen year-in and year-out, that bullpens can be totally remade. The Red Sox of2012 were not a great bullpen team. The team of 2013 won the World Series on the strength of its pen and…in 2014 back to less than great. So, bullpens can be built or rebuilt each year – but it is always a bit of a crap-shoot. Unless you r the Dodgers that can give big contract after big contract to former closers, you are always doing your best to build what you think will work. Whether it does or not…we find out each April to October.
So again, how close is this team? Close – they need to upgrade at least 2B or C (prefer catcher). They need a much greater utility guy (I love Ben Zobrist, and given injury history for this team, he would be worth the contract to bring him here).
They need at least one more veteran starter to add to next year’s rotation, even assuming they re-sign DLR, and use the option on Anderson.
And they need a massive re-build on the bullpen. Really aside from Kahnle, is there any guy who has been good enough you must bring him back? Masset when he was healthy perhaps. Logan when healthy. But aside from perhaps those 3, the whole group must be an open invite. If the existing guys are still here (Brothers rather than a trade) or want to re-sign (Franklin Morales, Matt Belisle or Hawkins), great, but no guarantees, and no major league deals to the existing group.
The bullpen has to be better. Some of that will be a function of pitching few innings thanks to better starting pitching. But in the end, guys have to perform. In 2007, 2009 and 2010 (and even 2015) the club has had good to great pens, even when the starting pitching hasn’t been top-notch.
And perhaps this is why making deadline deals right now doesn’t make sense. What they need is better gained this off-season than through these type of frades. If you get blown away by a deal for a Blackmon, sure, you do it. But as far as dealing Anderson and DLR, I don’t see them getting anything good enough to keep it from becoming a rebuild job. They are close – if they stay healthy, if they get good bullpen next year, and if the offense and defense play as they can, this team is ready to go for it in 2015. They have the chance for their best ever starting rotation in history (which I said this year without knowing the depth of the damage to Chacin and Chatwood).
If you are not going for it in 2015…it is time to deal CarGo and Tulo. Their performance is going to begin the slow decline of age within the next 3 years. That is the windom for going for it – so intelligence now says 2015 is the most important year in club history, if the future is going to be much better than the past.