Merry Christmas, everybody.
As a gift from family members, I received a Rockies Toaster along with a Topps 2011 Rockies set of baseball cards. Now, I'm no jrockies when I get baseball cards, but Lord knows that nothing makes me happy quite as easily as a fresh pack of baseball cards to crack open and look at. Even if just for a few minutes.
What made this set of cards interesting is going through the players the Topps people thought were Rockies staples, and where they are now:
OF Seth Smith: Still a Rockie, but probably the team's best trade chip for filling other holes on the roster.
P Jhoulys Chacin: Still a Rockie.
CF Dexter Fowler: Still a Rockie.
OF Ryan Spilborghs: Non Tendered.
UTIL Eric Young Jr: Still a Rockie, but drawing some interest from the Mets.
1B Todd Helton: Still a Rockie.
OF Carlos Gonzalez: Still a Rockie.
P Jason Hammel: Still a Rockie.
P Aaron Cook: Option declined, Free Agent.
P Jorge De La Rosa: Still a Rockie, should be back by like June-ish from Tommy John Surgery.
SS Troy Tulowitzki: Still a Rockie.
Out of those 16 players, 7 are likely Rockies in 2012, 7 are no longer Rockies, and 2 are sort of debatable. The team is clearly undergoing a massive overhaul, given the fact that they're trading roughly everybody not nailed down (or already part of a position of weakness - Jason Hammel breathes a sigh of relief) in pursuit of a paradigm shift.
In addition to trading off/not retaining a whole pile of players, the Rockies have also brought in the aforementioned Ramon Hernandez as well as RF Michael Cuddyer and 3B Casey Blake. They've succeeded in basically swapping out one style of batter (Iannetta/Stewart's low-average-high-walk-high-strikeout) for another (Hernandez' higher-average-lower-power-lower-strikeout and the promise of Nolan Arenado) without having to wait for another catcher to come along through the system. They've brought in Professionals to take the places of players they are going to move or have moved already.
So now what?
Well, they still need a 2B, which may be harder than we initially thought. Martin Prado talks have gone cold, and it's debatable whether the team is going to make a move for a different 2B or just stick with internal options until Josh Rutledge is close to MLB ready.
They also need starting pitching, but they're kind of confusing as to how much they want starting pitching. They've brought in Chatwood and Kevin Slowey via trade, but those guys at this point are kind of depth, unless Chatwood impresses in Spring Training (and the team hasn't brought anyone else in). The Rockies seem to have cooled on Hiroki Kuroda, aren't really in on Joe Saunders (at least publicly), and given the Gio Gonzalez and Mat Latos trades, they probably aren't going to be involved in a major trade for pitching.
So now what? What exactly are the Rockies looking to get as far as pitching goes? Is Seth Smith being viewed as bait for pitching? We know the team isn't about to move the Camp Tulo attendees just yet, so are guys like Friedrich, Bettis, and Cabera all expendable prospect depth to be used for landing a free agent pitcher? Or is the team going to pick up another Kevin Millwood caliber pitcher just to try and round out the rotation and take a load off some of the young hopefuls?
Again, this brings me back to the question in the title: What are the Rockies doing?
If the team is trying to win Now, the prospect depth should be absolutely moved for whoever might be available and good. You know, selectively speaking - don't go trading Nolan Arenado for Daisuke Matsuzaka or anything.
But if they aren't, then a lot of these moves make a lot more sense. I mean, Casey Blake for 3B? Travis Wood? These guys are transitional players if anything, and it looks more and more like the team is throwing its chips into the Arenado/Rutledge pot.
This does lead to the question of "why would they sign Cuddyer if they didn't intend to win Now?"
Well, it could be traced to a cultural thing again. The team wants to shake up the entire clubhouse, and they don't want a bunch of lingering malcontents creating a stagnant and negative environment for the next group of youngsters to come up to. Maybe it's really worth $31.5M to create an environment where the players want to Win, and not just to not get fired.
Perhaps the team really is just sold on a Helton-Rutledge-Tulowitzki-Arenado infield, and they're hoping that a Chacin-Pomeranz-Hammel-White-Friedrich-Chatwood (etc) rotation can be the one that gets the job done.
Speculation aside, I'd sell my new toaster just for a bit of clarity on what the team's doing and where they think they're going.