When the Dexter Fowler trade rumors first started circulating, there was initially panic as Rockies fans figured the front office to undersell the center-fielder who still stands to be quite valuable to Colorado over the next two seasons. As inquiring teams leaked their sticker shock when asking about a Fowler deal to the press, our fears on that asset appraisal front abated, but it still was a question as to what exactly the Rockies were asking for. That information is starting to materialize, however, as the hot stove heats up.
Patrick Saunders at the Denver Post fills in some of the information, while other sources from around the league heading into the winter meetings add a bit more and we can start to see that the basic framework for a Fowler deal appears to be one young MLB starting pitcher of any quality, plus one pitching prospect of elite quality. Saunders mentions Vance Worley, Mike Minor and Jeremy Hellickson as the pitchers currently starting in the majors that the Rockies have asked about, with top prospects Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado and Trevor May also mentioned. The Tampa Bay package seems weakest of those three to the point of not being in the same ballpark, so I'm wondering what's not being said there.
As that Saunders article indicates, should a Fowler trade finally materialize, one of a couple of the best run small market franchises might emerge as the victor. Both the Cincinnati Reds and the Rays media have articles mentioning Fowler as a target in advance of the winter meetings. In a market with several bidders and the aforementioned steep price tag, the efficiency seeking Rays don't make much sense to me, and the Saunders suggestion, one of their two fly ball bottom of the rotation starters, Wade Davis or Hellickson, makes even less sense depending on the quality of additional prospects coming to Colorado. From Tampa's end, Bill Chastain indicates that a Fowler trade for a starter is still a possibility. I could see the Rockies targeting young GB oriented Alex Cobb, but have difficulty believing Tampa would give him up right now. James Shields, while available, doesn't make sense either as he'd be Tampa's Fowler equivalent, the player they're using to rebuild and reload their system with the next wave.
Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, we get a bit more concrete indication of what it would take from the Reds to pry Fowler from Colorado, as John Fay mentions one of their two top pitching prospects, Daniel Corcino or Tony Cingrani, would almost certainly have to be included as "part of the package." Given what the Rockies were looking for from Philadelphia and Atlanta according to Saunders, that fits, with Cingrani being closer to the majors (he made his debut in 2012.) While there's not a peep about interest in Fowler coming from the Philadelphia media market, that might not mean much as it would be typical of Ruben Amaro Jr. to keep a major transaction a closely held secret.
That the focus of a potential Fowler trade is heavier on the prospect side rather than the MLB side also fits with what Saunders says about the state of the Rockies pitching heading into 2013, that the organization is hoping for internal improvements as pitchers like Jorge De La Rosa, Juan Nicasio and Jhoulys Chacin get healthy. Chacin's been told by the team that he "could be the ace they need," and his most recent start in the Venezuelan Winter League finally started showing it, with a dominant nine K, four hit, seven inning performance. He needs to string together a few more starts like that to start making me feel more confident heading into next year.