Yesterday, the Denver Broncos won their first playoff game since 2005, when they beat the New England Patriots 27-13 in the Division Round of the NFL playoffs. Sunday, against the defending AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers, after a huge 2nd quarter, the Broncos went all but silent, scoring a mere 3 points in the 2nd half, leading to a 23-23 overtime period. First play of overtime, Tim Tebow takes the snap in the shotgun on the Broncos' 20 yard line and passes to Demaryius Thomas across the middle who then ran the remaining 70 yards or so to give the Broncos a 29-23 victory.
I never thought I'd sink to the point of actually writing about Tim Tebow on Purple Row. But here we are. The Broncos, despite a very disappointing 3-game losing streak to end the season, did rattle off a 6-0 run before that disappointing finish, many of those wins involving a variety of magic. Magic that the Rockies don't seem to have.
In one-run games in 2011, the Rockies were 21-27. In blowouts, 18-24. Extra innings? 4-8. Sundays? Not going there.
You see, right now, and I mean in the short term, the Rockies are screwed. Us, the fans, are waiting and hoping for youth and talent to arrive in all aspects of the game: pitching, batting, fielding. Many of the pieces are in place, in one form or another, in the forms we're all familiar with and have discussed ad nauseum (Tulo, Cargo, Fowler, Betancourt, etc). We are waiting on a few obvious players to arrive, in other obvious forms (Arenado, Pomeranz, Rutledge, Rosario, etc). But what about the pieces the Rockies need that aren't there, that they need to go external to find?
How much of the above records in those un-clutch games could've been changed by one of those "bigger than the numbers" players? How much are the Rockies hurting for a Tim Tebow type, the guy who shows up in the 7th, the 8th, the 9th, makes a game of it when the chips seem down? Do you know who the biggest hitter in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings was for the Rockies? Kevin freaking Kouzmanoff, with a .974 OPS. Next would be Carlos Gonzalez, with a .919 OPS (.331/.392/.528) - which is incredibly important, but based on the sequential nature of baseball (that is, you tend to need a second guy to get a hit after the first guy, you know), you kind of need that second guy. A .802 OPS isn't bad from Tulowitzki, but a far cry from his pre-7th inning wonders.
No, the Rockies need another big hitter. Another big pitcher. Another something or other to put the team over the top: when injuries haven't decimated the team, we need one of those guys who is gonna turn some of them there 1-run games from a 1-run loss to a 1-run win.
So how does a team go about getting new players? Well, there's obviously three main avenues: Trades, Free Agents, and Amateurs (Draft and International Free Agents).
So far in trades, the Rockies have done... well, mixed results. Moving Matt Holliday got an excellent return in hindsight, given what Oakland got out of Holliday and the production the Rockies have gotten out of Greg Smith, Huston Street, and Carlos Gonzalez (Street's extension aside). It's too soon to tell, but the Ubaldo Jimenez return is looking alright. Past that, the Rockies seem to have trouble moving prospects to land that one big bat/arm (Muzia has pointed out many times that Dan O'Dowd has never traded away a top prospect). So trading might just be out when it comes to having a new centerpiece player on the club.
Free Agency is just a mess. This isn't to criticize the Cuddyer signing; the objections still exist and are valid, in my mind, but Cuddyer signing is a GOOD thing in principle.
Look at the facts of this: the Rockies play in the most extreme hitting environment in Major League Baseball. Top flight Free Agent pitchers won't come to Colorado without an extreme overpay, as a stint in Coors Field will wreck a pitcher's numbers and chances for a following contract. Top flight Free Agent hitters won't come to Colorado without an extreme overpay, as a stint in Coors Field will overinflate a hitter's numbers and chances for a following contract. Double standard? You betcha. This isn't even bemoaning the small TV market and limited chance for exposure that also keeps many big name Free Agents away from Colorado.
This is why Cuddyer signing is kind of a big deal. It's some sort of sign that the Rockies might be capable of attracting better Free Agents than the bargain basement guys who would pretty much sign anywhere.
So this leaves us with internal development, and also plays us the same song about Nolan Arenado, Josh Rutledge, Wilin Rosario, and the rest of the farm. This puts so much more of an onus on names like Tyler Anderson, Tyler Matzek, Kyle Parker. This makes upcoming drafts just that much more important. Depth is good, it's very important, but drafting depth tends to mean that your farm's upside is also depth. Some players like Brad Hawpe or Clint Barmes will get you value from the late rounds, but we need to be real: the top round or two of the draft needs to start turning out some winners if this team wants a shot again.
So maybe Unfair is the wrong way to describe Colorado's plight. But the fact is that the Rockies are in a very unique situation. In a sense, so are most teams, but just given the absurd nature of Coors Field, the conundrum of trying to acquire external talent, and trying to stay the course of building from within, the constraints just seem that much tighter.
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One link, and it's a decent one:
Twitter / @Ken_Rosenthal: Sources: RHP Aaron Cook in agreement with Red Sox on Minor League Deal
Attaboy, Cookie. Shame to see a longtime Rockie go and play in Boston, of all places, but I'm glad he's getting a shot somewhere.
That said, I find the disparity in pricetags from a Carl Pavano type to an Aaron Cook type is interesting, to say the least. This isn't to excuse Cook's poor past couple of seasons, especially when you consider his ERA/FIP(xFIP) discrepancy or anything like that. I mean more that it's like $8-10M per year or a Minor League contract (or incentive laden $800k deal, or whatever).