Sunday Rockpile: Fowler trade smoke still seems more artificial than real

Mike Minor's chances of coming to Colorado may be increasing, he's got to be thrilled. - Rich Schultz

Conflicting tweets from Braves and Rockies journalists add more to the fog around Dexter Fowler's future with the Rockies, but the underlying source of of the smoke may be more artificial than real.

The moves available to the Rockies this winter were always going to be limited. For example, there's no evidence that Kevin Correia even strongly considered the teams' overtures before signing with Minnesota. And if you can't get Kevin Correia to notice you, good luck attracting pitchers higher up on the skill ladder. Add to that the fact that the Rockies feel they don't have major needs on the other side of the ledger (seemingly blissfully unaware that all four corner positions were only league average at best, and dismal at worst in 2012) makes for a quiet winter on the free agent front.

So the focus instead has been thus far on the pursuit of pitching through trade, and the most likely chip to achieve that goal has always been seen to be Dexter Fowler. This created a bit of an analytic quandary for me, as I wasn't completely certain if the constant smoke around Fowler was a real signal of the team's intention to move him, or merely the result of media naturally focusing on the most likely big move to come out of the Rockies camp this winter, even if the likelihood of said move was remote compared to those of seasons past. Why it's important to know where the smoke is coming from comes into play today as we ponder where the Atlanta Braves are in regards to Fowler.

What we know from prior articles is that the Rockies price for Fowler of an MLB starter like Mike Minor and a prospect like Randall Delgado or Julio Teheran was seen as prohibitively high by Atlanta after the GM meetings in November. Since then, we've seen Ben Revere and Shin Soo Choo get traded for similar packages to what the Rockies have been apparently asking for, so we also know that the asking price for the outfielder really isn't that far out. Now, the Braves may or may not be circling back to Dex as other options are removed from the table, but what we really would like to know is whether this is because they're willing to offer more now and meet Colorado's asking price, or if the Rockies, running out of options to move Fowler themselves, are willing to accept less. If the smoke around Fowler earlier this fall and winter was mainly media driven (as the "may not" Troy Renck tweet seems to indicate,) the better scenario for a trade will be more likely than the bad scenario.

The trading costs this winter for young yet established outfielders like Fowler seems to be eclipsed only by those for established but not so young starting pitchers that pick up a lot of innings and "wins" like James Shields and R.A. Dickey. Those two arms aren't close to the skill level of pitchers like C.C. Sabathia or Johan Santana were when traded just a few seasons ago, or even where Dan Haren was when the Diamondbacks made either of their trades involving him, but these two recent deals seem to be getting packages of prospects at least as high or even higher in value. This along the outfielder packages could be welcome news of a bubble bursting, as prospects may have been getting overvalued by teams in recent years.

Wilin Rosario returned to winter league action yesterday and collected two more hits, one a double. The league average OPS seems to be up from where it was last season, but Rosario's 1.061 figure would be well ahead of Juan Francisco's league leading .953 had Rosario enough PA's to qualify. There may be signs Rosario's defense has also been improving, as yesterday's game was clear of passed balls or wild pitches for the Eagles, obviously it's way too small a sample, but I've been trying to keep an eye on that. Perhaps some of the offensive prowess is batting in front of Manny Ramirez, but Manny's not been looking too great thus far.

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