The Ubaldo Jimenez trade of a year ago led to a basic restructure of the team that made it more unlikely that the Rockies would win the division in 2012. Keep in mind, as long as the top team in the division lacks clear separation in talent from the rest of the teams, every NL West team will be unlikely to win the title at the beginning of the year. It will always be a safer bet to pick the field than any one team. What the Ubaldo trade did was diminish an already unlikely occurrence. The Rockies were now in the position of having to bank on the emergence of pitchers from that trade and good health or positive injury recoveries from pitchers like Jorge De La Rosa and Juan Nicasio, and/or a breakthrough from Jhoulys Chacin. Instead, maybe one small positive step at the MLB level (Pomeranz) has taken place from the potential candidates for the rotation at the start of the year, and that step combined with the return of Jeff Francis has merely given the Rockies two starters that would have been battling for the fifth starter slot a couple of years ago, with various degradations of the grotesque from there.
The options for the Rockies front office for 2012 from the point of the Jimenez trade were to go in strictly with the youth on hand and expect the season to fall flat, or to pack the team with older acquired veterans to act as a temporary bridge to the youth and hope the veterans and kids coalesced into a dark-horse contender. The front office chose the latter route, and because of a couple of awful missteps in the personnel chosen for this role (Jamie Moyer as the team's lone FA starter, trading for Jeremy Guthrie, overpaying for Michael Cuddyer, not being ready to replace Todd Helton) have the exact same results they would have with the inexperienced youth, only at a higher salary, so now Dan O'Dowd and company are in the process of undoing that veteran bridge, cutting costs and pushing forward with the young players. They've traded Guthrie for the cheaper Jonathan Sanchez, and now Scutaro for the prospect Charlie Culberson and may make a couple more moves before the trade deadline this week.
I'm recapping this because I think that "cutting costs" context might be getting lost in complaints about the returns for Guthrie and Marco Scutaro and I expect it will for Rafael Betancourt or Ramon Hernandez as well, should the Rockies trade them. The player returns in these cases are entirely secondary to the monetary returns. That money saved on 2012 payroll will accumulate and become important as the team prepares for 2013 and beyond. As I was trying to allude to on Thursday, despite a few missteps such as the Cuddyer contract, the Monfort ownership has been surprisingly successful for the Rockies on the generating revenue, controlling payroll end of running the franchise, even as they have been pretty awful on the baseball end. I don't know if you can attribute this to the general manager, as Dan O'Dowd was part of the fiscal irresponsibility of the Hampton/Neagle era, although he's probably learned from then given that the only big contracts he gives out now are to position player superstars like Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. It's obviously a small solace right now, but should the baseball end of the Rockies process ever get fixed, this team should be capable of sustained success given their business acumen.
The important next step for the front office is to not waste that saved money on intangibles like Cuddyer's clubhouse character, but to instead invest it in actual on field production somehow.
Above I linked a Troy Renck update on the Rockies trade status, and he brings up Matt Reynolds and Jonathan Herrera as known to be available besides Betancourt and Hernandez. In their cases, given that they are relatively cheap in payroll cost and the Rockies are trading them out of a surplus at their respective positions, the prospect return becomes more important.
Carlos Gonzalez is aware of the growing process that the 2012 season has become for the Rockies. Cargo's measured perspective, as well as that of his agent, Scott Boras, is refreshing to read compared to fan reactions for the time being, which are a bit more concerned with the here and now.
Nicasio continues to push to return sometime in the fall, but it's been mostly a lost season for him. Also in that note, Jim Tracy may finally have an ideal 2nd hitter in Josh Rutledge. I say ideal because Rutledge fits both Jim Tracy's picture and is actually valuable in that slot.