Usually, the trade deadline is one of my favorite days of the year. Of course, in this particular year I didn't pay as much attention to it because I've got that Olympic fever. Still though, it remained on my radar throughout because it reveals some great psychological insight into how MLB teams feel about both their present and their future.
It's always interesting to see which teams are waving the white flag and which are really going for it. With the 2nd wild card in place, the former teams are slightly less prevalent than they used to be. Sellers have a bunch more leverage than ever, allowing them to get (in some cases) a heftier price than if they had traded the player in the off-season. As a clear seller by virtue of their terrible record, the Rockies were in a good place to take advantage of this fact. And yet, they basically did nothing at this year's deadline.
The only Rockies that changed teams were expensive veterans in the last years of their contracts, Jeremy Guthrie and Marco Scutaro. Those trades absolutely needed to be made if only for cost savings in a lost year, but there were plenty of missed opportunities for Colorado to actually get better (and younger) in 2013 and beyond by taking advantage of clubs that wanted to win now.
Look, I understand that Dan O'Dowd and the Rockies didn't exactly have a ton of valuable chips to work with. However, their inaction basically trumpeted the fact that, absent a couple of prospect promotions or minor league deals this off-season, this group of veterans was going to be intact next year. The group of veterans that has "led" Colorado to a 37-64 record. It's these little things that make me doubt the potential for success in the next couple years. The bridge to 2013 was made of faulty materials, but Colorado didn't take the chance to re-build a little bit.
If there really was interest in Ramon Hernandez, he should have been gone. He's an aging, somewhat expensive catcher who is having a bad year. This is exacerbated by the fact that his role next year will probably be catching about 50-60 games. If Colorado really needed a mentor for Wilin Rosario, it would have been simple to pick up a defense-first catcher (Hernandez has historically leaned the other way) on the cheap.
I also understand that the bullpen has been one of the bright spots for Colorado this year, and that the Rockies need a good bullpen more than other teams because the starting pitching has been atrocious and because of the 4 man rotation. However, the fact is that replacing bullpen arms is one of the easiest tasks a MLB GM has.
Just look at Colorado's bullpen right now. Only Rafael Betancourt (deadline trade) was a known MLB commodity when Colorado acquired him. Two pitchers were drafted, though only Rex Brothers was a blue chip prospect, while the remaining five pitchers were essentially picked straight off of the scrap heap.
Getting some value for a good but aging MLB reliever in Betancourt under contract at a decent rate through at least next year should have been a priority for Colorado. Good relief arms are still over-rated by most teams -- especially "proven closers" like Betancourt. That's a big missed opportunity -- and so was the chance to trade Matt Reynolds, who has been okay this year, but ultimately not that much better than replacement level.
Like I wrote before, relievers like Reynolds can be acquired very cheap by the Rockies -- and if they could have gotten something decent for him, they should have pulled the trigger. Then again, I should step back for a second. It's entirely possible that no team was willing to pay a good price for Hernandez, Betancourt, or Reynolds. The best thing I can say about this trade deadline is that Colorado didn't make any overtly bad moves. But Colorado had other trade chips that they were reluctant to cash in.
Foremost among these was Michael Cuddyer, a player who most people said was overpaid when he got here. So far, he's been a league average bat playing two positions where a league average bat is below average. That isn't worth $10.5 million per year over the next two for a team like the Rockies. Sure, Cuddyer could be a decent full-time replacement for Todd Helton in 2014, but that's the last year in his deal and Cuddyer will be 35. Next year he'll probably play as the de facto starter at 1st, but the point is that he's been about a league average hitter at Coors Field and he's in his decline phase.
Cuddyer is exactly the type of player (declining, limited defensive value, expensive) that O'Dowd should have been looking to trade, especially since the Rockies have a surplus of decent outfielders in the high minors. With or without Cuddyer, Colorado's offense would have been relatively fine over the next two years (great at home, poor on the road). Basically, in my opinion O'Dowd was unwilling to admit that he made a mistake in pursuing Cuddyer so hard in free agency. Colorado isn't going to improve their dreadful starting pitching through free agency, so they have to trade players like Cuddyer when they can.
Ultimately, it's hard to see this situation ending well. By this situation, I mean that Colorado was a 37-64 team at the trade deadline and nobody was willing to give up value for anybody on the roster. That's on the GM for either holding on too tightly to his trade chips or for assembling a terrible roster. It's a little bit of both for Mr. O'Dowd, and despite the wave of young players coming to the big leagues in the next two years, it's hard to have confidence in his ability to field contending teams within the near future.
Looks like Betancourt is happy to still be with Colorado. Well, what did you expect him to say -- I really wish that I had gotten out of here? Okay, so that's a little cynical. Colorado by all accounts has done a good job of convincing the players who play for them that this is a good environment. You know, despite all the losing.
In the good news department, Troy Tulowitzki took batting practice yesterday. Of course, the notes of the article also state that Christian Friedrich will be pushed back from his Thursday start to Sunday, possibly creating an opening for Alex White to return to the big club.
There was a lot of trade deadline activity -- let MLB SB Nation sort it out for you.