This past Sunday (July 6), the Denver Post ran an article around Woody’s talk with Orel Hershiser and Nomar Garcipiarra. It was an interesting article, and both players said interesting things (how Nomar thinks the humidor is cheating is beyond me since both teams face the same situation and the humidor makes baseball at Coors at least a bit more like real baseball – just an odd comment).
But then Woody makes a case for Orel to be essentially either the new GM or the replacement for the sorely missed late Kelly McGregor. I really enjoyed Orel’s 1988 season and most of all the Dodgers defeat of the As that year. But I don’t think Woody is really serious (I hope not) and he misses the reasons for this team’s lost season – injuries and the lack of development in position players prior to the 2011 draft. I don’t care if the love child of Theo Epstein and Billy Beane was running this team during this disaster of a season – there is no way this team could be competitive under these realities.
And let me say something that is, as they say, pretty common knowledge in baseball circles (and this is hard for me to say as someone who shares the same faith convictions as Orel) – he is a first class jerk! He wears on people and never stops giving his opinion (I know, look in the mirror Doc), and that is why he is not in an official capacity with a team (as we know from our own broadcast teams….they tolerate a lot of weird people in the booth). Bringing Orel here is about as bad as resurrection Larry “Bear” Bearnarth and giving him the GM job again. Orel Hershiser would ruin this team. Sorry, had to say it. Loved him as a pitcher…but as we say in our family, is someone says you’re a jerk, that is their issue, if EVERYONE says you’re a jerk…its your issue.
They do need someone to take the role of Kelly McGregor. I spent my 20s working in Fortune 500 businesses. And a good director who connects the field performance, the financial performance, and the building of a brand is a must. But they are not easy to find. I think the DBacks made a smart grab in LaRussa, who was always more than a manager – he is a very holistic thinker – keeping all the parts in motion in his mind at the same time. Those people are necessary and rare. I loved working for the one person I saw in that row during my “Big Business” faze of life. But that is not Hershisher anyways. They need that person…but not sure who he is yet.
As for SDCarp’s link to “Tulo Must Go!” – agree, good article but…hogwash. Do you make major decisions in a season where even the guys selling beer are getting broken hands? Really? No, you do have to make sober judgments but you do not get rid of arguably the best player in baseball…unless you get at least one of the guys in the top 10 plus a huge prospect. That won’t happen so a trade of Tulo…well, let me address that as part of the whole package.
And now the Rosenthal article. No smart team burns the ship just because its been through a once in a lifetime hurricane like the Rox have been through this year. People complain about a lack of plan for the Rockies…they have one, but even the Dodgers plan would have failed with this injury list.
As usual, I have a long list of a response 🙂
That being said, it raises the issue – how to improve the Rockies going forward? Here is one fan’s analysis. First, points of agreement with the various writers and structural moves:
1) I do agree that moving in the fences, especially in right and center, is a smart move. If the fences were made transparent – you could make them not picnic areas, but high dollar seats or the like. We already know that balls hit to left in the summer just fly out. Moving in the center field seats would bring far more homers – you really have to crush it like Drew Stubbs did yesterday or Culberson did on his grand slam to know it out – but you have to make the gaps smaller. It not only would help the pitchers with balls dinked or hit in the gaps (they can become outs now), but would allow the Rockies to keep their outfielders healthy and strong.
2) Jim Wright is a good pitching coach for pitching at altitude. If you look around at pitching coaches, for some strange reason those who were great pitchers don’t make great pitching coaches, but pitchers who either never made the big leagues or were very average – like Bud Black and Roger McDowell – understand the challenge pitchers without great stuff face day in and day out. The team has already hired a very good pitching coordinator in Mark Wiley, and I truly believe the progress we have seen from AA and below reflect his guidance and coaching. The team should be working on developing its next pitching coach from within the organization (it may already be), as Wright it not young and this job does wear out coaches.
3) The comments about curves and sliders in the article are nothing new – we have heard this before. The most effective curves I have seen are either true over the top throwers – who get drop more than movement, and side-armers whose curves turn into slow sliders, but are still dangerous. The slider comment is also wise, but well known. One needs only watch when Adam Ottovino over throws – the slider goes from tight to over-spin, and becomes a hittable Frisbee. There is nothing new here but players need to perform
4) The challenges of home and road are as Orel and Nomar state, but again, well known. The idea of roofing Coors is something a lot of us have discussed (if it were not our dollar) but a) you lose the wonderful view that is part of the charm of Coors b) it would change the park in other ways that are not known and could actually make things worse and c) isn’t going to happen in the current fiscal environment. Having huge sprinklers is an interesting idea, but keeping humidity at a park the size of Coors for 3 hours in mid-July? Really? How much water would be needed? And this is proposed after hearing the humidor is illegal?]
5) If they are going to invest in infrastructure…it needs to be here in Colorado Springs. They need to find a way to get a downtown park that they can build so match the experience of Coors. A real stadium. The advantage of facing near major league quality batters in a near Coors environment could be huge for the future development of pitchers. The preference will likely remain for Tulsa – it’s not just the Rockies who place an emphasis on AA rather than AAA for top prospects – but for the rest of the staff I think it would be hugely beneficial, not quite on the level of the excellent facility in the D.R., but close.
So, if I worked for the Rockies (and I would love to do such, serving them to look for where they have gaps in the business side of things as well as helping to run the advanced stat side – I have an MBA as well if the Monforts are interested), here are the list of things I would do:
6) As you will notice below, I don’t include a trade of either Tulo or CarGo. The reason quite simply is the fact this team has – if it can keep it healthy – the chance to have a competitive rotation and it needs to see if the two superstars can bring this team a chance at contention. No, I do not believe that Corey Dickerson is the equal of CarGo. And I am about the biggest Corey booster in Rockiesfandom. Heck, I cheered when Cuddy had his hamstring because I knew they needed to see what they had in Dickerson, Blackmon, and Barnes – they needed ABs to be evaluated (Cuddy should probably have been traded last off-season, but with the strong moves to add Anderson and Lyles gave the management the belief this season was one for the playoffs and you want a bat like that for a playoff run – also, what is the value on 35 Coors Field-added hitter?). I love Corey, but he doesn’t bring CarGo’s defense or speed, or ultimately his power. If CarGo was ever healthy for a full season he could be a 30-30 guy…and those don’t appear every day. Corey? I can see him being a 25-15 guy, who hits .350 vs lefties and .250 vs righties. But I would love an outfield of both.
7) To the Fangraphs issue: trading Tulo…really? They say this is the height of his value, true, but which teams that have holes at SS have anything worth accepting in a trade at this point? Remember, this is a $25 million player, who stats outside of Coors are not the greatest (I have defended the issues regarding Coors to death but if you are a GM and you are trading…do you embrace that risk?). Tulo is with Trout and Stanton and Harper the best player in baseball – there is no trade that can be equal to that in the real world. Would Seattle trade King Felix and either their current catcher (a #1 pick from 2 years ago) or their top prospect who is also a catcher? I doubt it. But a trade of Tulo would have to include a player who is also in the upper echelon of players – a Hernandez, a Kershaw, a Verlander? A pack of prospects sets this club back at least 3 year back, and as we a saw with Ubaldo prospect does not equal great player necessarily. And even if we trade for a pitcher ,the risk of any pitcher of whether he can pitch at Coors arises as does health? And as we saw when Nolan was out, the defense and pitching collapsed. That was a 3B, what do you think happens with a SS? Who is going to play SS with great defense and at least league-average offense? A trade for Tulo just isn’t going to happen if this team has any hope to make the playoffs in 2010s. Now, if management really believes they are going to stink for the next 3 years…sure, you do it. But with the young arm, the growing young talent around the diamond? You cannot make that deal – this team might now be that far away (if only we could have gotten a good read in 2014). CarGo does makes more sense if you feel you must make a deal, but what is his value? And again, why the trade? If they think they can invest his $20 million better elsewhere…then maybe, but I would hold on to both til next trading deadline – giving CarGo the chance to rebuild value and both the chance to do what they did in 2009 – get this team to October. Remember this is the best player in the NL and a former batting champ and potential 30-30 guy – you will not get back the value they represent.
8) The original plan this year is wise – pitchers need to be in Tulsa for as long as possible to learn all that there is to learn about pitching. There are good arms and there is solid pitching potential in the system. When they are rushed, even as we all want them up here, it hurts their development. I would rather have a kid spend an extra year in the minors to learn that much more that rush them and have a lot of on-the-field learning to go. Especially since they have a limited time before arbitration and then free-agency kicks in. While I was among those wanting to see Butler, Winkler, Anderson and Grey at Coors – they need their time to learn. The Butler single game shows the issue of rushing pitchers (yes, I know, the option was Morales, and that is not much of an option). If he had not gotten hurt I would have pitched him until the first of the group of Lyles, Anderson, and Chatwood was back and then get him back to learning at Tulsa.
9) They must find a way to lock-up Nolan Arenado. Yes there is some talent that could play 3B in the future, but we saw this year how important he is. A great kid, a spark-plug, and along with Tulo the key to serving the pitchers by making them confident of giving up ground balls.
10) Invest in a trade of a serious all-around infield substitute. I am thinking of a kind-of Jose Oquendeno with a decent bat (Juan Uribe might be a good modern equivalent). They need someone who can give days off to Tulo, Nolan, and 2nd a day off and cover fc or them if they have a 15-day DL stint. When you lose a star for 60-day DL, things you are going to be in deep trouble, but adding a high-value utility guy is a must going forward. Basically I think this team needs Ben Zobrist or his equivalent. That is a player who brings above-league average performance at most positions he plays.
11) Re-Sign Jorge De La Rosa. Yes, he is over 30. But he is now going to be 4 years post Tommy John, he knows how to beat Coors, he is pitches when hurt, and he is a classic stopper of losing streaks. He is currently on the budget at around $12 million. Going 2 or 3 years at around $15 million should not kill the budget but should bring solid stability to the rotation, especially as the future of Chacin seems really in doubt. DLR is of greater value to the Rox than any other team…but if he hits the FA market, he may get a reverse Coors-bonus for all his quality performance here. But he does have injury issues that the Rox know more about than others. We know he won’t be signing in Baltimore at least.
12) I would pick-up the option on Brett Anderson. Again, not a budget buster, but gives them another potentially solid lefty starter who, if things go bad in the season, would be marketable in the trade world.
13) I would actively pursue a catcher through the trade or free-agent market again this off-season. I like Baby Bull, we all do. But I truly believe he is part of the problem with the pitching staff. A nice bat would be good, but a great game-caller and ball stopper on low and hard pitches that are turning into wild pitches and passed balls this year would I believe be worth at least .5 run on the ERA for the team. Trading Bull might help fill a hole in the roster below.
14) If Morales is willing to re-sign (reliever only), then work a trade for Boone Logan (who is a hard worker, but has value that the team can flip) and attempt to sign a shut-down closer. Hawkins has been solid this year and if he wants to come back for similar price-tag, that would be smart re=sign as well. But if they could get a legit-“lights-out” closer for a reasonable price tag, that would be huge for the pen and Weiss. If Masset is open to staying he would also be a nice keeper (as he should be stronger another year from his injuries), and lkeep ooking for a player similar to him as a back-up plan for around May, that would be helpful for the depth of the pen. The development of Scahill, Bettis, Chris Martin, and Kraig Sitton. Also, if Rafeal Betencourt is healthy and still wants to pitch at his age, he could be a nice addition to the pen group. Also, will Juan Nicasio become a power arm in the bullpen? Can Christian Friedrich make the transition from starter to lefty-reliever, in order to get some value of this #1 pick and utilize the talent that was evident before the injuries? These are interesting possibilities to fill out the pen from within the club. Starters in the minors regularly become relievers, and these two present interesting options and ways to capture their strengths and avoid their pitfalls.
15) Decide what has to happen with Michael Cuddyer. At his age he is not an everyday player. His potential versatility and quality ABs would be a plus but is his salary better spent elsewhere. The outfield seems set going forward, and the team has to decide what to do with Kyle Parker (is he the replacement for Mornea, or is he valuable in a trade). A guy like Cuddy could make a great extra. But at maybe $3 million. Re-signing Drew Stubbs would be a good move as well, again at the right dollar amount, and use him as that bat against tough lefties, the late inning defender, or a regular platoon with either Dickerson (if he has not yet proven his ability against lefties) or in center as a platoon. A 5-man grouping of CarGo, Blackmon, Dickerson, Stubbs, and Barnes would set the team up well. That probably means Cuddy doesn’t have a spot…unless he can prove he can play in the infield (other than 1st). I love Cuddy but…I just don’t see the team being able to keep him.
16) As for the rest of the rotation? If DLR can be re-signed, you bring back Anderson, and you have Lyles, Matzek (yes, the potential of 3 lefties in a rotation, which is unusual but could make for a very strong rotation) and then the best of Butler, Grey, Bergman, Tyler Anderson, and others – including some free-agent signings and others in the system. As we have seen this year they will need probably around 9 starters in a normal year. So the addition of a free-agent or two (low-level, make good contacts as we see each year) is important. Never know what quality might appear. A rotation of DLR, Anderson, Lyles, Matzek and Butler to start the season is not going to be the Dodgers rotation, but does set-up as potentially very solid, and can be built without huge additions to the overall cost structure.
17) The biggest issue – who manages the team and coaches the key positions. Weiss deserves the chance to lead a team for a full season with both of its stars and less than 25 different pitchers before July 10th. He should get another year, but hopefully he has developed his own managing system. If the team plays well to the end of 2014, Weiss should come back. I like Jim Wright still at the pitching realm, but at his age he may prefer going back to a roving instructor position. There is no one in the system currently that seems like an easy replacement. The team would likely need to go outside for a new pitching coach, which is why the current pitching coaching group should remain. The issue of hitting coach is more difficult. Blake Doyle is a very smart coach, and early in the year the team was really taking advantage of the “swing-early” orientation. However, after about May 9th or so, on the road especially, the strike-outs really began to add-up. With a swing early in the count should have avoided that, and by swinging at fastballs it should have avoided curves and sliders (which move far more on the road) or other top pitches. But it didn’t work on the road after mid-May. Then the lack of length of lineup played a huge role. I lean towards giving Doyle a 2nd year because of the injuries but a lot depends on how the team hits on the road this next 2 months.
Maybe I am an optimist on the future of the team. They are not as bad as they have been since mid-May, but they are not a division winner (not in the West at least). That being said, a playoff-challenging roster can be built from most of what is here and what can be brought in for reasonable prices.
With that in mind, here is the roster I see for 2015 that would give some serious competition for the playoffs (the final 25 will depend on whether they decide to keep 6 outfielders or two utility players and how many relievers):
1B – Justin Morneau/Kyle Parker
2B – Josh Rutledge
SS – Troy Tulo
3B – Nolan Arenado
LF – CarGo
CF – Dickerson/Stubbs
RF – Blackmon/Paker/Barnes
C – New Starter / New Backup
Utility Infielder – DJ/New Addition
Starter Pitcher 1 – Jorge De La Rosa
Starter Pitcher 2 – Brett Anderson
Starter Pitcher 3 – Jordan Lyles
Starter Pitcher 4 – Tyler Matzek
Starter Pitcher 5 – TBD
Closer – TBD New Player
Relievers – Adam Ottovino
Relievers – Rex Brothers
Relievers – Tommy Kahnle
Relievers – Lefty TBD
Relievers – TBD
Relievers – TBD
This off-season payroll should go up a few million, and with Cuddy going off, as well as Belisle they should have the money to re-sign DLR, sign additional arms, and pay the increases in various contracts. The real sad part of this year’s DLappoza is that we cannot adequately evaluate the team. Again, from the end of March to middle of May, to that afternoon game vs the Giants that was hailed and rained out…that team is close and with a growing Butler and Grey and healthy Anderson and Chatwood, that team may not beat the Dodgers (unless they have injury issues), but they can win the Wild Card. I think…we just didn’t get enough information before the whole thing blew-up.
But if I was working in the front-office, these would be my moves. I would also be far more proactive in communication with fandom. Not just twitters, but regular articles about what is happening with this team – even in the offseason, as we follow players performance and comments from Winter Ball, bring article and updates and Tweets from inside the management. Become a constant source of fun and useful information about the Rockies so their fans are having optimism sown all off-season, not gloom from this season. There are a lot of gaps that the team could fill in its business and on-field performance. I love this team, and I am on record I like our management (GMs and managers get way too much blame and credit from the media and fans), but they have had a four year run of bad luck. Time to be pro-active in making this team #1 in the Rocky Mountains and in the National League.