Wednesday Rockpile: Rockies Trade Replacement Player For Potentially More

Norm Hall

Colorado's bullpen exodus continued yesterday as the team traded away LHP Matt Reynolds for INF Ryan Wheeler. While we were confused by putting Josh Roenicke on waivers, this was a sneaky good move by Dan O'Dowd.

There was something of an uproar among the Rockies fans still paying attention when the team tried to sneak reliever Josh Roenicke through waivers a few weeks ago but instead lost him to a waiver claim. After all, Roenicke had just thrown 88 innings of 3.25 ERA ball for a team with a 5.22 ERA and, if you subscribe to rWAR, had just put up the 4th most valuable season by a Rockies pitcher (and 5th most valuable overall). Then again, according to Fangraphs Roenicke was a replacement level pitcher last year (0.1 fWAR) due to his substandard FIP (4.72).

In any case, while there was a debate about how effective Roenicke was for Colorado last year, it was generally agreed that he was a more valuable (and only slightly more expensive) pitcher than some players that were kept on the 40 man roster instead of him (Will Harris and Josh Sullivan, I'm looking at you). Yesterday's trade of lefty reliever Matt Reynolds for Arizona utility player Ryan Wheeler represents the kind of deal we were hoping the Rockies could swing for Roenicke if they were to get rid of him.

After all, Roenicke was a much more effective pitcher for the Rockies than Matt Reynolds was. Remember that argument between rWAR and fWAR about Roenicke's productiveness? While rWAR had him as a 1 win player in 2012, both systems basically had him as a replacement level pitcher for Colorado throughout his entire career. Relievers are largely fungible, particularly lefty specialists that are below average at getting both lefties and righties out (Reynolds allowed a .262/.309/.459 line to lefties and .259/.323/.506 line to righthanders).

But enough about Reynolds, I don't think there's too much anguish about letting him go. I'm much more intrigued by the fact that Colorado was able to get something of value for him in Ryan Wheeler. And make no mistake, Wheeler could be valuable for this team for the next few years.

Wheeler was a first baseman in college who moved to third base in the minors because better prospects were playing there, so we shouldn't expect a whole lot in the way of infield defense. With that said, he's a 24 year-old player who broke into the Show as a 23 year-old, much like DJ LeMahieu or Charlie Culberson had when they were acquired by Colorado in trades. If I were to place him on my PuRPs list, it would have been around the 10-12 range -- around the other Wheeler prospect in Colorado's system.

He instantly becomes Colorado's best first base prospect (until Kyle Parker eventually moves there), plus he provides a lefty power hitting option with defense at the hot corner that can't be much worse than what we endured with the Jordan Pacheco/Chris Nelson Experience last season. While his ceiling isn't crazy high, Wheeler represents a utility piece that could actually provide some pop off the bench and play in the field, unlike Jason Giambi.

John Baragona of AZ Snake Pit wrote up a piece on Wheeler comparing him to an Allan Craig/Ian Stewart player, which when you think about it is a pretty darn good return for Matt Reynolds. And if he doesn't, what was the cost? A below average lefty reliever who will be replaced by somebody just as good next year at the same cost. For as much grief as we give the front office, this is a sneaky good move by Dan O'Dowd.

Los Links!

There was a compilation of the Cult Favorite players for each NL West team posted on Monday. With all due respect to Andrew Martin (who wrote the Rockies selection), I never liked that guy.

There were some rumblings (ESPN Insider) about what the Rockies could get for Dexter Fowler if he were placed on the trade market. Julio Teheran of the Braves was brought up as a potential target if he were to be traded.

Dave Cameron points out something that should give Rockies fans some semblance of hope -- baseball is very hard to project. I think most people here believe that the Rockies should have won more than 64 games last year (their Pythagorean record suggested 69 wins) due to injuries and a historically strange year of bad pitching.

Seasons like the one Baltimore just had don't happen all the time, but they do happen. It's that hope that encourages the fans of downtrodden teams through the lean years. And 2012 was a very lean year for the Rockies.

Off-Topic.

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