Okay, that's the end of this off-season's dealing, right? As Andrew 2 noted yesterday, the turnover on Colorado's roster from 2011 to 2012 has been extremely high, with deals big and small throughout the last few months. However, I had been hesitant to say that the Rockies had improved the talent level of their roster to a level above the 2011 team until the Jeremy Guthrie trade went through on Monday.
Yes, the Marco Scutaro acquisition clearly improved the black hole at 2nd base and the signings of Michael Cuddyer and Casey Blake were certainly helpful to the line-up, but the fact was that Colorado had a bunch of question marks about who was going to be pitching solid innings for them in 2012. In fact, I saw this as Colorado's biggest deficiency coming into the off-season.
That's why the trade for Guthrie, a proven workhorse starter (who by most accounts also fits into the "intangibles" category Dan O'Dowd has coveted recently) that has been durable in a tough work environment is very important toward ensuring a higher win floor for Colorado in 2012. The Guthrie/Hammel/Lindstrom trade, which you can read more about here and here if you haven't already, is an interesting transaction for a number of reasons.
First, it's become very apparent that O'Dowd is building a "bridge" team in 2012, full of competent veterans on one year deals, and Guthrie is a prime example of this. The Rockies may very well want to keep Guthrie past this year, but I won't be holding my breath. Given the status of Colorado's pitching prospects, I am very much in favor of this strategy by O'Dowd.
Second, the Rockies are altering their salary allocation from the bullpen towards the rotation -- as Matt Lindstrom's $3.6million will be replaced with a low salary player that should be able to replace most if not all of his production (Zach Putnam, perhaps?) while Hammel's $4.75 million will be almost doubled by Guthrie's $8.2 million. In almost every case, devoting more money to a player that is going to impact the game more is a good decision (provided that the player is good).
Finally, Hammel and Guthrie are valued at a completely different rate by the two prominent sources of WAR -- Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs. According to B-Ref, Guthrie has been worth over 4 wins three times in the last five years and 8.9 rWAR over the last 3 years. By that account, Rockies fans should be expecting a 3 win pitcher for the price of $8.2 million, a pretty good deal. Then again, FanGraphs seesGuthrie's contributions much differently, rating his best season at 2.6 fWAR and only 5.8 fWAR in the last three years. So FanGraphs expects about a 2 win campaign for Guthrie.
Jason Hammel is viewed in the opposite light. FanGraphs shows him as twice being worth at least 3.9 wins to Colorado and 8.8 fWAR in the last three years while B-Ref says that Hammel's peak was last year as a 2 win pitcher and that his three year production was 5.5 fWAR. The difference is primarily due to the fact that Hammel has historically underperformed his xFIP (upon which fWAR is based) by a significant margin while Guthrie has outperformed it. I've traditionally favored rWAR when evaluating pitcher value, so I'm pleased as punch that Guthrie grades out so impressively in the metric.
It should be noted that either way it is fairly likely that Guthrie will at the least be a league average pitcher in 2012, and there's considerable value in having a league average pitcher solidly in your rotation for an entire season. It would be nice to have some other similar guys around him -- and Colorado is gambling that a couple of their myriad starting options do just that in 2012--but a lot of that depends on the performance of pitchers like Jhoulys Chacin, Juan Nicasio, and Jorge De La Rosa. If those guys prove to be solid rotation pieces and one of the kids like Drew Pomeranz and Alex White joins them, Colorado may have a respectable starting rotation late in the year.
Colorado is certainly older than they were in 2011, but they've clearly upgraded their line-up while accumulating a number of young pitching options with the potential to be rotation contributors in 2012. And now, with the Guthrie trade, they may have solidified the top of their rotation as well. It'll still probably be among the worst in the NL West in 2012, but the offense's improvement will help mitigate that significantly.
Grant Brisbee has two Rockies articles up, one at Baseball Nation and one in his native McCovey Chronicles. In the former he writes artfully about how difficult Dan O'Dowd's job as Rockies GM really is, while in the latter he reviews the Rockies' off-season. Both are enjoyable if not necessarily informative reads.
Troy Tulowitzki gets some love from Sweetspot's David Shoenfield as a guy in the conversation as the best player in baseball. I won't go that far yet, but I will say that Tulo might have the highest ceiling of any position player in baseball given his defensive utility.