The Rockies, like most teams, have a decent idea of what players on other teams they could have use for. One of these players for some time now has been Tim Redding. Yesterday, they finally got their man, and apparently it's left a lot of Rockies fans scratching their heads.
Before I start, I want to point out that the signing of Redding indicates that Dan O'Dowd, Jim Tracy and the rest of the Rockies front office believes two things:
- The team does not need a starting pitching upgrade.
- The team does need starting pitching depth
By default then, additional starting pitching will have to agree to a minor league contract. A team's not going to get the highest quality of free agent starter when they can't guarantee them an MLB rotation slot. So my guess is that when fans complain about a signing like Redding, they are really asserting that the front office belief #1 is false. So their beliefs tend to look like this:
- The team does need a starting pitching upgrade
- Who cares about who's in the AAA rotation?
There are a couple of reasons that I think some fans have this in their head. First, I think this stems largely from anxieties over Jeff Francis' return. The last memory most Rockies fans will have of Francis was his awful 2008 season, when he handicapped himself and the team by trying to play through a lingering shoulder problem. The Rockies front office, meanwhile, believes that Francis is at a point where the 2006-2007 version will be more likely in 2010.
What is the team's track record of identifying the quality of pitchers returning from injury?
So far, it's been pretty solid. Recovering pitchers with starting track records that the team has dealt to other clubs, buried in AAA or allowed to sign elsewhere such as Jason Hirsh, Greg Reynolds or Rodrigo Lopez, respectively, have gone on to largely undistinguished results. In these cases where the Rockies felt they needed to get starting rotation upgrades (I realize that with Reynolds, the desire for an upgrade probably had as much to do with his ineffectiveness as it did with his balky shoulder) they have been proven correct.
For the reverse side, pitchers that the team has decided to trust with a rotation slot after major lost time due to injury/surgery, we have to go back Aaron Cook's 2004 blood clot surgery and recovery in 2005 or perhaps Jason Jennings returning from a fractured finger (ending his season in July of 2005) in 2006. Neither scenario involves a completely lost year like Francis' 2009, but both show the club has made decent judgments in the past when it comes to picking which damaged pitchers to trust.
In short, I think O'Dowd deserves some leeway here because he's been decent with his judgment on these matters in the past.
Another part of why fans don't share FO belief #1, I think, is a bigger yacht fallacy. Just because the neighboring estate has a bigger yacht than you do does not make you poverty stricken. I think fans will see an inferior rotation to the Giants (which itself is debatable given their lack of depth and the uncertainty of their likely #5 starter Madison Bumgarner) and think that the Rockies can only be successful if the team's clearly superior to that unit. Rather than looking at the smaller craft docked around the rest of the division, they focus on a goal that given the Rockies budget and current MLB ready personnel is unobtainable for now. Rather the focus should be on the estate as a whole. The yacht may be a little smaller, but the grounds and overall net worth are larger.
Now more specifically, what exactly, are the Rockies seeing in Tim Redding that you aren't? First, he meets the default criteria of being an MLB experienced starter willing to sign a minor league deal.
Second, I think you'd have to look at what he was doing in Houston that he's gotten away from since then. His first three seasons with the Astros his GB/FB rates were 1.10, 1.22 and 1.16. In the four seasons he's pitched since (he missed 2006), they've been 0.94, 0.97, 0.99 and 0.75. Like Lopez, Jason Marquis and Jorge De La Rosa, I think the Rockies have identified in him a candidate that they can dramatically increase the GB percentage he's getting and thereby also greatly increase his value at a place like Coors Field, mainly by bumping up the use of his two-seam FB and keeping his four-seamer lower in the strike zone.