Dan O'Dowd is in the middle of his 13th offseason as the Rockies' general manager. Thirteen. Soon after Opening Day, thousands of Coloradoans will be graduating from high school. That's not unusual in itself of course, but consider that graduating class was in their first weeks of kindergarten when O'Dowd was hired as the Rockies' second general manager.
In the time it would take to raise a child through the entirety of this country's public school system, Dan O'Dowd has presided over this franchise, enacting a half dozen master plans along the way. I kid you not, he has seen some...stuff. He has been called a dealer, a clown, a genius, a fool, clever, directionless, and executive of the year. Throughout it all, he has been consistently candid. O'Dowd recently sat down with Richard Justice for one such candid interview to convey the course of this unique offseason.
O'Dowd has come to understand that the really good teams are the ones that get four things:
• Star players performing at a high level.
• Surprising performances from at least one or two young players. ("Look at the Diamondbacks last year," O'Dowd said. "They didn't expect Ian Kennedy to put up Cy Young numbers. They didn't know Paul Goldschmidt was going to contribute the way he did. Every good ballclub needs that.")
• Good health.
This list could be nitpicked, but by and large, it seems to be reasonable. Unfortunately for general managers, these are not really in direct control of the general manager. We have seen O'Dowd stack the deck on at least three of these in his master plans.
He tried to compliment Todd Helton with Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle to push his chips into bullet one. Money alone does not guarantee stars playing at a high level. The last several years, he has mostly stuck by the young prospects, hoping an Iannetta/Fowler/Stewart/Smith would put up a break out season. No dice. Good health is a roll of the die, unless you bring in injury-riddled old players. Let's pass on this for now.
Now we get to intangibles, where O'Dowd is really stacking the deck. This roster has its stars capable of playing at a high level already. It has young players capable of breaking out, particularly in the rotation, center field, and maybe even third base. O'Dowd has sacrificed the odds in the health category, the one arguably most up to good fortune, so he can push all his chips into the intangibles category. His line of thinking is now clear: guarantee success with the intangibles bullet, have good odds in the other three categories, and this team could surprise some people.
The biggest changes to the roster were to catcher, third base and right field. The organization clearly believed four years was enough to turn the page on Ian Stewart and Chris Iannetta, and in so doing, sought out veteran bridges to their top two position player prospects, Nolan Arenado and Wilin Rosario. Neither Iannetta nor Stewart would have taken kindly to being pushed aside, but in Casey Blake and Ramon Hernandez, O'Dowd found ideal men for the job. In the case of Hernandez, I dare say the perfect guy:
"I will help any player - catcher, pitcher or even a position player. I think that's great. I want to teach (Rosario) everything I can teach him. I know the guy's going to be the future of this organization, so if he's the guy and he's got all the tools and he's ready to be in the big leagues, then come on, go ahead, I'll be ready to help." - Ramon Hernandez
Will it work? Who knows? O'Dowd himself does not.
"It remains to be seen if we accomplished anything," O'Dowd said. "I've been humbled enough times to know nothing is certain. I thought we'd be good last year, and we stunk. I don't think we're a championship quality team as we sit here today. With young pitchers, you can have incredible inconsistency, or they can take off and run with it. That's the great unknown." - Justice
O'Dowd the Swindler
Not long ago, most were confused with what O'Dowd was thinking. Now, people are confused with how O'Dowd pulled a few deals off.
BBTF's Sox Therapy Discussion :: A Crap Trade Yep...A Scutaro reaction. This from Baseball Think Factory, the blog that houses Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections.
Did the Rockies outsmart the Twins in the Kevin Slowey trade? | StarTribune.com The Rockies basically upgraded a pitching prospect.
This Date in Rockies History
2011: Traded RHP Ethan Hollingsworth for RHP Clayton Mortensen. Mort was Rockies' property for all of 363 days.
2011: Signed OF Willy Taveras. I heard he did learn to finally steal first base. It was just a Spring Training drill though.
2003: Signed 1B/OF Mark Sweeney. A decent pinch hitter.
1997: Signed 3B/OF Darnell Coles. After missing the previous season, the 35-year-old former Mariner/Tiger/Pirate/Gaint/Red/Blue Jay/Cardinal played 21 games from the bench to close out his career.
Since the Scutaro trade, much has been made of the depth of the Rockies' line-up. Five of the nine players in the 2011 Opening Day line-up have been traded away. Here is what the new line-up looks like right now with their ZiPS OPS+ projections:
There are three players with an OPS+ of 97 or more. It'll still be great for the division though, right? Certainly way better than the Giants....who have....oh. Six players of 97 OPS+ or more. Huh.
So what gives? The aging curve won't be kind to the Rockies' lineup, according to Szymborski's algorithms. A lineup that features Scutaro, Helton, Hernandez and Blake is likely to get at least one nosedive due to age. Meanwhile, the Giants really only have two men on the tail end of their careers. Fighting off Father Time will be a big aspect to the Rockies' line-up, one we may not have looked at deeply enough.