Wednesday Rockpile: Will the GM Meetings Bring Deals for Rockies?

So, the annual GM Meetings are next week in Dallas, and word on the street says that the Rockies are ready to deal. By this, Thomas Harding means that the Rockies are more likely to fill their holes in the rotation and in the field by trade rather than through free agency. Here are the pieces being bandied about by Colorado, in order of trade likelihood:

1. Huston Street

I've been advocating a Street trade pretty much ever since he signed that 3 year, $22.5 million deal. Very few relievers are going to produce that kind of value, especially over a 3 year span. As such, I'm still a big fan of trading him. Colorado has asked about the Orioles' Jeremy Guthrie and the Mets' Mike Pelfrey in a Street trade, and either would be fine with me as a return. Potential replacements in the bullpen could include former Rockie LaTroy Hawkins.

Little known fact -- Street has an evil younger brother named Juston according to Fangraphs, who is a pitcher who was in the A's system as well.

2. Chris Iannetta

Given Colorado's interest in free agent catcher Ramon Hernandez, it has been made apparent that incumbent starting catcher Chris Iannetta is on the trading block according to the Denver Post. Given Jim Tracy's obvious disdain for Iannetta's skill set (high strikeouts, high power, high walks, low average), Hernandez (low strikeouts, low walks, medium power, medium average) is the player that our manager would like to have. Either way, if the Rockies insist on changing catchers before the gap to Wilin Rosario is bridged, Hernandez is a much better option (due to his consistent offensive production) than, say, Rod Barajas or Yorvit Torrealba.

Iannetta has two years of team control left for the Rockies, but only one year for acquiring teams (his $5 million team option for 2013 will be voided if he is traded), so he's worth more to the Rockies than he would be to another squad. This limits his trade value somewhat, but with the current dearth of quality MLB catchers, Colorado still has a hot commodity in Iannetta, which is why they reportedly have asked for the LA Angels' Tyler Chatwood. Chatwood is a guy whose ceiling is a #3/4, but whose floor is rotation depth (let's say Alex White lite). Here's Minor League Ball's John Sickels on Chatwood. Do we want to give up a 3 WAR catcher for that kind of production?

In terms of economics, Colorado can probably expect 3-6 WAR from Iannetta while he's under contract for the next two years, dependent on playing time. For that, they'll be paying $8.55 million, which is a pretty good deal. Of course, a Wilin Rosario/Ramon Hernandez duo could probably replace quite a bit of that production for a similar price. For that reason alone, Chatwood makes sense as a guy with at least 5 years of team control remaining -- though I am worried by his high walk rate. I say the Rockies should pull the trigger on this deal (if possible), but only if a catcher in the Hernandez mold is going to be signed as a replacement.

3. Ian Stewart

Much has been written about Ian Stewart, including the reasons why I think he should be our Opening Day starter. He'll make around $2 million in arbitration, he's entering his physical prime, and he is (hopefully) due for some serious regression. However, it seems more and more likely that Colorado is just going to look for a AA or AAA pitcher in return for Stewart and let another team deal with him. I'm not a fan of giving Jordan Pacheco or Chris Nelson the 3B job, so I hope that Dan O'Dowd is able to acquire a more competent option if he does trade Stewart.

4. Seth Smith

Smith is the trade piece that should garner the largest return, as he still has three years of team control remaining, plus the expectation of a league average or better bat. Matt Klaassen of Fangraphs writes about the crisitunity of Smith's platoon splits and why the Rockies would be better off holding on to him. In short, Smith has an above average batting line, regardless of how he's done against lefties. In addition, his performance against southpaws is likely to regress higher to the mean -- especially if he's given more playing time against them, Jim Tracy. In any case, the argument is made to pair Smith with a Lefty Killing Outfielder (TM).

The fact that Smith could be a bargain-priced outfield bat is why he's been linked to a trade for Atlanta's Martin Prado, who would fill Colorado's 2nd base hole ably. Two weeks ago I wrote about the potential of a Prado/Smith-Tim Wheeler deal. Since that time, my primary free agent outfield target, Grady Sizemore, has been signed, leaving Andruw Jones and Jonny Gomes as the best Lefty Killing Outfielder (TM) options.

I'd still be in favor of a Smith/Wheeler trade to land Prado, but it would be a risky move given that a lot would depend on Charlie Blackmon breaking out at the MLB level while relying on lesser talents like Jones or Gomes get more plate appearances.

Other Pertinent Links

Colorado's Top 10 Prospects have been posted at Baseball America. Drew Pomeranz tops their list, with the biggest surprise being Kent Matthes ranked as 8th.

One potential option for the Lefty Killing Outfielder (TM) position, former Rockie Matt Murton, is returning to Japan, where he set the NPB's hits record in 2010.

ESPN's Jayson Stark has a very informative Q&A with player's union head Michael Weiner to discuss the recent CBA. Reading between the lines a little bit, it seems clear to me that the player's union as well as many baseball people were pretty opposed to the draft compensation changes as well as the thought that the new rules would improve competitive balance. However, that was priority number one for the commissioner and the players didn't care as much about it, so those rules were implemented. There's a lot more good stuff in there -- I'd really recommend reading it.

Finally, Matt Swartz at Fangraphs has a very fair and thoughtful take on the new CBA, particularly the draft compensation rules.

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