Thursday Rockpile: How to succeed in the Rule 5 draft without really trying.

Rule 5: Like a gaggle of old ladies at a church charity bingo game, sports fans get absolutely crazed over drafts. It doesn't matter if success in a sports draft is mostly determined by your team being particularly bad at utilizing what it obtains from said drafts, they still engender feelings that somehow, someway, your crummy, but not crummy enough to have a decent slot team will somehow do better with the player it picks this year. Not that this is referring to any crummy, but not too crummy team, mind you. At any rate, this is trying to get around to this morning's draft of drafts, draft of cosmic import, draft of air on the nether regions, draft of professional baseball players, draft of mostly useless minor league filler that paradoxically has to be kept in the majors, baseball's Rule 5 draft.

I used to be one of that gaggle that loved this draft, back when the Rockies would spend the energy to draft and lovingly nurture players that had no business in the majors such as Luis Gonzalez or Marcos Carvajal, but eventually I discovered that there were ways for teams to obtain players that have no business in the majors from other teams and actually not have to keep in them in the majors. It's true, I swear.

  • One way is to wait until other teams decide what players currently on their major league roster have no business in the majors and release them. This is especially easy when these teams are going through a phase of signing other players that have no business in the majors but need roster spots anyway.
  • Another way to get this type of a player is to trade a surly long man nee starter whose burnt all clubhouse and media bridges in your city. Boom. Instant* Rule 5 type of player.
  • Finally, you can trade the second best closer in your franchise's history and you too instantly* get a Rule 5 caliber player

* - not actually instant, in fact, you'll have to wait until all the teams that are actually participating in the Rule 5 draft decide that this player is not, in fact, worthy of the Rule 5 draft.

Now I actually have no qualms with avoiding the 25 man roster hassle of the Rule 5 draft and waiting for those silly teams that do get caught up in the bingo game aspect of it, as the chances of success for the players that don't get selected but are at about the same level are about as high as they are for the players that will get their names called today.

What I do have a pretty big qualm with is the basic algebra the Rockies made this week to make all of this go down:

Huston Street at $8 million = $1 million cash + Rule 5 eligible player

Kevin Slowey at $3 million = Rule 5 eligible player

If the Rule 5 level players are about equivalent, and I have no reason to think that they won't be, they cancel out. One leaves the Rockies in the Slowey trade, one comes back in the Street trade. The Rockies are paying Slowey and the $1 million in the Street trade, so if you take it from Street's obligation and put all on the Slowey/Rockies side, the end result is this:

Huston Street at $7 million = Kevin Slowey at $4 million.

The upshot of this week is that the Rockies traded a less costly than he usually is Huston Street for a more costly than he usually is Kevin Slowey. Ugh. There's simply no way to justify that on the players' current value.

Kevin Slowey's heat map. This hasn't been pointed out yet, so I thought I would. Note the lack of activity in the bottom of the strike zone for Slowey, which I think we'd all pretty much surmise is the reason the pitcher's flyball rate is as high as it is. For a pitcher of such supposedly elite command, he seems to avoid throwing at the knees like the plague. Maybe Joe Mauer couldn't crouch that far. After Bob Apodaca and Matt Kemp teach Slowey a couple of Coors Field tricks (namely, don't live high in the zone) that will change, and we'll have a serviceabale starter on our hands. I would be okay with the exchange of a set-up reliever for that, but at their current value, nope.

With the money saved on Street, the Rockies were apparently hoping to knock Hiroki Kuroda's socks off, but there's been no sign that Colorado is any closer to signing Kuroda than they were before they made their latest overture. Troy Renck's post says that the Yankees would be the favorites for Kuroda, but he seems to have it backwards from what New York is saying. Both the Yankees and Red Sox (especially after David Ortiz accepted arbitration yesterday,) are at a position where they will have to move other salary first, and then they could perhaps pursue Kuroda, not the other way around.

The Rockies are interested in Jonathon Niese, and with good reason, he's a very solid pitcher and fits the Rockies current rotational age group. The question with Niese and every "available" pitcher this winter, however, is at what cost, and as long the price remains unknown it's okay to speculate, but if it turns out beyond a Jason Hammel and #5 or so prospect (Tyler Matzek? Giving him up makes some sense to me in this case,) it might not behoove the Rockies or fans to engage in further speculation.

The Diamondbacks seem to be willing to go all in for contention

Sort of okay in that they have a lot of pitching prospects that could potentially fuel an NL West powerhouse for seasons to come, but I'm doubting that they'll give up all of them and this just might make the Rockies path to division contention in the next two seasons that much more difficult. We'll see what transpires, but the Rockies might need a game changer type of move if Arizona improves much.

The Giants, meanwhile, are cutting back.

Scott Boras and Carlos Beltran basically handpicked San Francisco as the place that Beltran would most likely get the lucrative final contract he seeks, but the Giants are passing. That means that top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler bought them two months of the oft-injured slugger but little else. And while Brian Sabean says that the offense will be better than 2011, it's kind of difficult for me to agree without knowing how much Buster Posey will be able to play, and play at catcher, next season. They say he's on a path for Opening Day readiness, but I always am somewhat skeptical of winter health reports (that includes our own good news on Juan Nicasio, btw.)

That article lists what Sabean is counting on for his offense next year:

So, despite the pretty terrible decision with Huston Street, despite the terror that an even stronger Diamondbacks rotation invokes on the Rockies chances for 2012, at least I have Schadenfreude about the Giants and Dodgers. Never mind that with their pitching staff, the Giants are still in better shape than Colorado heading into next season, I can at least laugh that they're counting on a healthy Freddy Sanchez and a productive Aubrey Huff.

Jose Morales signed a minor league deal with the Pirates

It's a better situation for the catcher than he would have had in Colorado with Ramon Hernandez and Wilin Rosario, not to mention Jordan Pacheco around, but I liked Morales better than other names the Rockies have been connected to for their minor league depth at the position.

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