Yesterday Bryan wrote about Dan O'Dowd's interview with Dave Krieger, in which the Rockies GM disparaged potential trade chip Dexter Fowler. I of course agree with BK's take in that I'd like to see O'Dowd talking up players that would potentially be traded, but that's not what I'd like to write about today.
O'Dowd also made several other very interesting comments in the interview that I'd like to see if I can parse and see what they say about the plan for the 2014 Rockies and beyond. What follows are those statements and my commentary on them. Thanks to Dave Krieger for getting such a fantastic interview with O'Dowd!
On the off-season game plan
I think as an organization we feel like we've got a window of competitiveness with two of our best players and we were trying to figure out a way to impact those guys within our means as much as we possibly could in the positions where we felt like we could impact them.
This "window" has of course existed for the last several years and will theoretically be open until 2018, when Carlos Gonzalez's contract is up. In a very real sense, the window with this core is on the verge of closing, as Jorge De La Rosa and Michael Cuddyer have contracts that expire after 2014. As has been mentioned here numerous times, this core is good enough to contend if the support from the bench and bullpen is strong.
On Wilin Rosario's future as a catcher due to the Rockies looking for a full-time starter in free agency
I think you've got to catch an average of 130 pitches here a night, and that's not just physically but mentally, calling 130 pitches. So I think it was just a function of we could make one move and affect two different positions on the field. And notwithstanding, maybe get a defensive catcher that would be a little bit further along in his career, because it takes a long time to get good in that particular role. So we thought we might be able to help our pitching staff in that way, too, but I think it was more a function of giving him an opportunity to get more at-bats.
I think this is a well-reasoned idea that had a potential for being very interesting with the right player. I don't think Rosario will ever be a great catcher but he does still have the potential to be a decent one. I'd rather the Rockies look for an excellent receiver as a back-up for Rosario, because I'm just not sold on Rosario playing elsewhere on the diamond. Speaking of which...
On Wilin's future elsewhere on the diamond
We think Wilin's a really good athlete. We felt pretty comfortable that giving him enough time he could play right field. He's got a plus arm, he's a good enough athlete, he runs pretty well. Sure, it would have been a risk, but we're going to have to take some risks at times to get where we want to go, and that was one risk I think everybody was willing to take if we could find the right guy.
This sounds like an absolute disaster waiting to happen, but honestly is it that much worse than running Brad Hawpe or Cuddyer out there in right? I still don't agree with the overall strategy (it's too soon), but O'Dowd has had worse ideas.
On Juan Nicasio's future in the starting rotation
He hadn't pitched for two years. Got physically tired the second half of the year, especially his knee that he had surgery on. Didn't get a chance to train much last winter because of the knee surgery. He throws a lot of innings for us. No doubt he has to get better, but going out on the market, we're understanding the value of what he brings to our club.
When I talked to Walt Weiss about Nicasio this past September, he seemed less than convinced of Nicasio's slot in the rotation, but I think O'Dowd's got it right. Despite the lack of length Nicasio gave the Rockies last year, he's a mid to back-end rotation starter with the stuff to succeed at the big league level. For a team as starter-starved as the Rockies, he needs to be in the mix. Speaking of the starter mix...
On Christian Friedrich coming back from injury
Friedrich is having a great winter. Two years ago, we were really encouraged about him being a part of our rotation for last year, and then he had an injury-riddled season. We're really pleased by his progress physically right now...he's totally redone his delivery, which is what we helped him with. But until he gets into the live competition with a hitter in front of him and the adrenaline flowing, if he can maintain what he's doing within the course of the game, he's going to be OK.
Friedrich has been something of a forgotten man in the rotation derby since his back injury laid him low in 2013, but he showed he could be a major league contributor in 2012 - at least on the road, where he was 3-3 with a 3.77 ERA and held hitters to a .246/.321/.383 batting line. Just don't look at the home splits please. I like Friedrich as more of a bullpen swing man going forward, but it's worth seeing if he's got what it takes to stick in the rotation.
On the Drew Pomeranz situation
He's got to get over the hump at the major league level. He's got to show some more toughness and competitiveness and some better secondary pitches. He started to flash that out of the ‘pen when we used him for that last three weeks of the season. It was pretty special stuff in that role. Whether he translates that into the starting rotation . . .I think it's another example of a kid getting rushed, never really getting the time to fully develop at the minor league level and making sure that he had stuff to go to at the big league level when things didn't go right.
Pomeranz is obviously tantalizing given his pedigree and (still) high ceiling - and of course he's a key pitcher if Colorado wants to deliver a home-grown mid-rotation starter in 2014. I'm just not convinced that he'll ever get to that level. At least his bullpen stint showed us that he's got a floor of a decent MLB reliever.
On top pitching prospects Eddie Butler and Jonathan Gray
We want to make sure with (Eddie) Butler and (Jonathan) Gray. We know we have two big leaguers here. We just want to make sure that they get enough minor league innings to be able to react appropriately when things don't go right at the big league level, which is inevitable.
O'Dowd later mentioned that both pitchers will start the season in AA Tulsa, putting them on schedule for a potential mid-season call-up if they dominate the level. Butler and Gray are exciting options for the team, but as O'Dowd mentions above, it's more important that both pitchers are major league ready in terms of stuff and temperament before the team calls them up.
On the fallout of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade
I don't think Ubaldo would have pitched any better here under the circumstances, so I think we did the best that we could. Doing an autopsy on it, I think we know a little bit more about what we got that didn't work, but I think we were being offered very similar players from every other club that was involved in the process as you look at those names unfold now throughout their careers.
I don't think it would have changed the fact that Ubaldo had to be moved from our situation simply because of where it had gotten to. I feel bad that it had gotten to that point. I'm not sure why, to this day, that it did. But that's a choice he made.
There's a couple of really good nuggets here. One is that O'Dowd places a lot of blame for the situation on Ubaldo still - I don't think a return to the Rockies is in order. As for the trade return, O'Dowd makes it seem like none of the trade packages the Rockies were offered would have panned out much better than this one has. Speaking of...
On the since-traded Alex White
I think one of the things that we're really beginning to bear down and understand is that a quality major league starter has tremendous balance, rhythm and timing in their delivery. I think in Alex's case, he never really had that. He did a lot of things on effort and competitiveness, but it was very difficult for him to duplicate his delivery.
I think he would have ended up being a bullpen guy for us, probably a halfway-decent one, too, depending upon how he adapted to the role. But I think in that case as a kid that came with a lot of accolades, that was rushed to the big leagues, that never really figured out his delivery and how to pitch, I think he got overwhelmed at the big league level and then, predictably with that kind of delivery, he blew out.
In other words, the Rockies saw White as a rushed pitcher (who they themselves rushed, mind you) with a future in the bullpen, so they traded him for Wilton Lopez, an established reliever.
The first sentence is revealing to me in that this should have been something O'Dowd realized well before it got to Alex White in terms of evaluating big league pitching. After all, he's been on the job for over a decade.
On valuing intangibles
It's called the human analytics. I think human analytics are just as important as statistical analytics. Hard to measure it because there's no statistical formula for that, but really understanding what's inside a guy is actually more important than what comes out of a guy because that's the only way you know if you've got a winning player on your hands...I think it's really important in our development system that we address a lot of the issues that we are now addressing as it relates to creating that tougher player that understands how to play for his team rather than play for himself.
There's a (very) large part of me that thinks this is a load of mumbo jumbo. I'm a firm believer in the thought that winning begets chemistry more than the opposite. O'Dowd did mention that the LaTroy Hawkins signing was designed in part to improve this team's toughness. Looking for this out of a reliever is one thing, but it's different when talking about a star.
It's fair to say that you'll get more out of your players if they grind day in and day out for 162 games, but is that really more important than being really really good at baseball? Color me skeptical on this one.
On CarGo's future in center field if Fowler were to be traded
Center fielders are really hard to find. I don't think we'd find anybody that's got better than CarGo's skill set anywhere. Everything comes with risks, so I think you have to measure what you're getting back against that risk that you just mentioned before you actually did anything. As far as CarGo's skill set, he can play any position in the outfield, and he's had trouble staying healthy in left, too.
This gives me hope that the Rockies will actually optimize the use of CarGo in 2014 if Fowler were to be traded or to go down with an injury. No complaints here.
On the organization's recent performance
I don't think anybody in this organization is more disappointed in the way we've performed than me...It took us really a long time in '03, '04, '05 and '06 to create a window for '07, '08, '09 and '10...we're working real hard to create that window again right now and hopefully have it stay open a little bit longer than the last one...I think we could have been a lot better last year if Tulo didn't go down for that long a stretch of time, but I don't think we still would have been good enough to win.
I think we sit here today with a team that has the chance to win more games than we lose, but I think we've still got a ways to go before we can say we're going to win a World Series. A lot of things would have to go right for us, in our development of certain players and the maturation and improvement of players that we currently have at the big league level.
I think this is a fine assessment of where the Rockies are in terms of competitiveness - but there's not much of a plan hinted at here that will bring the Rockies back toward consistent playoff (and World Series) contention. We'll see if O'Dowd and company are able to address some of Colorado's weaknesses this off-season, but I'm not holding my breath re: playoff contention in 2014.
It's the beginning of Hall of Fame season and Larry Walker once again is on the ballot. I'll have a more in-depth look at the ballot as the election announcement draws nearer, but I'll just say that this ballot is loaded and will continue to get more loaded if the BBWAA doesn't start electing players.
Molson Coors sold its 14.5% stake in the team to an Arizona real estate developer recently, while the Denver Post is also shopping its 7.3% stake in the Rockies. No terms were mentioned, but it would be interesting to hear what they were if only so we could extrapolate the real value of the Rockies.
The Rockies added to their coaching staff yesterday with familiar face Eric Young Sr. taking over first base and baserunning responsibilities while Blake Doyle (who has no prior major league coaching experience) will be the hitting coach. Here's hoping that Colorado's running game will thrive under Young's tutelage.
Finally, this article (with comments from senior director of player development Jeff Bridich) describes Colorado's new player development structure. There's some really good nuggets in there if you're a prospect hound.