This is all hypothetical, of course, but based on the Rockies weaknesses in the second half this season and based on the performances of players that were traded by the July 31 non-waiver deadline, I tried to determine what the Rockies would have had to offer in order to build a truly competitive ballclub. With Yorvit Torrealba's post All-Star production, our catching situation was pretty well resolved, leaving five primary needs as far as I can tell:
- Another half-way decent starter
- Late inning reliever
- Offensive center-fielder
- A big bat off the bench/slugging rightfielder.
2. and 5. Rotation help plus bench bat/Right fielder: I'm going to go with our least pressing need first, because the biggest impact outfield bats that were acquired at the deadline were relative bargains. The Yankees got Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle for Matt Smith, C.J. Henry, Jesus Sanchez and Carlos Monasterios. The addition of Lidle would have also solidified the rotation, thus killing two birds with one stone.
Rockies Comparable Deal: Abreu and Lidle for Steve Colyer, Chris Nelson, Neil Wilson, and Yull Silano. I think most of us would agree this deal wouldn't have been hard to stomach at all. Brad Hawpe gets pushed to the bench for much of the time, but would force opponents to make tough decisions whenever he'd have been used as a pinch hitter. Lidle would take Kim or Fogg's place in the rotation and take the pressure off our top three. The biggest piece from the farm that we'd have given up, Nelson, is blocked by Tulo anyway. So far, in the what-might-have-been category, Dan O'Dowd isn't looking so good. Of course, this was the steal of the trade deadline, and going by the deal the Rangers had to make for Carlos Lee, it seems unlikely that anybody could have suspected a trade like this was available.
3. Late inning reliever There are three deals I'm looking at where "contending" teams picked up an effective late inning reliever who for us could have replaced Ray King or spelled Jose Mesa and who would have had enough veteran intangibles for Clint Hurdle to use in those situations. First, San Fran was misguided using Mike Stanton as a closer, but he would have been fine in a set-up only role, he cost them a top quality, low-level pitching prospect in Shairon Martis. Of course the Giants had too many holes to fill to make that one move meaningful in any way. Second, the Mets picked up Roberto Hernandez (and Oliver Perez) from the Pirates in exchange for Xavier Nady. Finally, the Brewers acquired Francisco Cordero as one of four parts traded to them in the Carlos Lee deal. That last one was part of a complicated transaction that I'm not going to offer an equivalent to, but Cordero was easily the best reliever changing hands by trade at the deadline, so I thought I'd bring it up anyway.
Comparable Rockies Deal: Brad Hawpe for Hernandez and probably somebody better than Perez, or Shane Lindsay for Stanton. I'd probably take the first one because I'm assuming that we'd then call up Baker to take Hawpe's place on the bench and the trade with the Pirates would net a better prospect than Perez since Hawpe's value to them would be higher than Nady's. Both these trades are rentals, by the way, as Stanton and Hernandez become free agents after the World Series.
4. Offensive Center-fielder: None traded. The entire league seemed to believe the costs to trade for a center-fielder this season were far too prohibitive to make it worthwhile. Without replacing our own center fielder, we might have been able to make a run, but I'm under the belief we would have needed to get an impact shortstop to do so. Let's see what that cost.
1. Shortstop The only impact shortstop to change hands was Julio Lugo, who went to Los Angeles from Tampa Bay in exchange for Joel Guzman and Sergio Pedroza. Lugo didn't click that well in LA, but his performance in Tampa Bay was certainly intriguing enough that you can see why the Dodgers would want him. Was it worth the price? I'll show the comparable Rockies deal, and you'll probably agree that it wasn't.
Comparable Rockies Deal: Lugo for Troy Tulowitzki and Seth Smith. I doubt that the Rays would have taken anything less than this. Maybe Chris Iannetta and Smith, but the point is that the comparable deal is for a prime prospect that was on the verge of MLB readiness as well as another prospect with a legit bat for a three to four month rental. 2007 would be less promising and we'd have a couple more gaping holes to fill this offseason without the flexibility of a deep system to offer in trade. I think by combining this deal with the Lidle/Abreu trade we'd have most likely of made it to the playoffs but we'd be similar to the Padres or Dodgers this season without much assurance of making it much further than the first round. If we included the relief work and did all three deals solidifying four weak spots, I think we'd be as competitive as any team in the NL, especially now that Pedro's down for the Mets, but the price would have been prohibitive.
In summary, this is what we would have given up:
Steve Colyer, Chris Nelson, Neil Wilson, Yull Silano, Brad Hawpe, Troy Tulowitzki and Seth Smith.
And this is what we would have gotten back:
Bobby Abreu, Cory Lidle, Roberto Hernandez, A-list Pirates prospect, Julio Lugo and a 2006 playoff appearance.
After our 2006 run, these are the holes we would need to fill in the offseason to keep it going:
Bottom of the rotation
Late inning relief
I guess we could try to commit Lugo to a long term contract to make up for the loss of Tulowitzki and Nelson, especially since we'd have exclusive negotiating rights for the duration of the season. Our current center-field hole would remain as well, and we'd have the exact same bottom of the rotation issues as we do now as Lidle is to be a free agent as well. The Yankkes assumed the remaining portion of Abreu's contract, meaning his $15 million owed in 2007 would hamper our efforts to sign any free agent center fielders or pitchers. The upside is that as soon as we're out of the race in 2007 we could trade him to the Yankees for a chunk of their farm.
My point though, is that this course is expensive and reckless when you have as many holes to fill as the Rockies did. Next season, we should have fewer holes and more ready prospects, so the story should be different.