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The Danger We Like to Call Vernon

or, At What Cost Baldelli?

With every mad spin deeper into the vortex of this black hole of an off-season, the path to competitiveness becomes more confusing. What we knew going into the Winter Meetings was that the Rockies were in an okay shape for contending in the NL West in 2007, with a talented lineup that could at least keep pace with our rivals and a rotation that with a little luck could sustain us well into the summer. Then the Dodgers had to go and sign Jason Schmidt and suddenly the footing we once had is a little less secure, and if some rumors are to be believed, things could get more shaky momentarily. The buzz that's floating around lately has the Dodgers seeing if they can send Brad Penny to the Blue Jays for Vernon Wells. Let me be blunt: this move would ruin our chances of competing in 2007 barring a curse of severe bad luck (injuries) inflicting LA.

But what are our options?

  1. Let them have him, give up on 2007. We trade away Jennings for a pitching prospect and another part and go from there. Targetting the middle, we stay in the middle.
  2. Pre-emptively strike for Wells first. Trade JJ, an everyday corner outfielder (Hawpe or Holliday) and a prospect to Toronto for one season of Vernon. At that point we have the best offense in the division hands down and have kept Wells from Los Angeles, but at what cost? Will a rotation of Cook, Francis, Kim, Fogg and Rivera/Bautista/Jimenez cover us even with that lineup? We should be scoring runs in droves, but how will we keep from getting scored on?
  3. Is there a third option other than sitting on our hands and hoping the Dodgers don't swing something like this? Maybe. We aren't the only team looking for a centerfielder, perhaps we can engineer a three way deal wherein we get Wells to a team like the Rangers, the Jays get a prospect of ours and a couple of Ranger players and we get a reliever or something.
  4. Or would it be wise to go after the other top tier center fielder being shopped around? Rocco Baldelli has been rumored to be available from the Devil Rays, so you'd figure he'd be the one to target given his age and contract status. What would he cost? Well, according to the most recent rumor, the Rays were close to a deal with Atlanta that would net them Yunel Escobar, Jarrod Saltalamacchia plus either Chuck James or perhaps Kyle Davies. Let's try and put that in perspective for the Rockies:

    Premier AA level shortstop prospect: Jonathan Herrera

    Top 40 Catching prospect: Chris Iannetta

    Young MLB ready pitching talent: The D-Rays would ask for Jeff Francis or maybe Ubaldo Jimenez.

Now see, to me this doesn't seem like an available option. Jimenez, Iannetta and Herrera -three players not even arbitration eligible- for one Rocco. Of course, the D-Rays think they can get Salty because McCann's blocking him with the Braves. Iannetta has no similar impediments so they'd probably ask us for Ian Stewart instead. It's still not worth it.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I'd rather keep the pressure on the Astros to get us Taveras in a Jennings deal at this point. I think fans are pointing too many fingers this offseason at the front office not doing enough to help the team without taking any sort of pragmatic view of the landscape. Dayton Moore is trading fast and spending money to help the Royals, and what does he have to show for it? Brian Bannister and Gil Meche. Whoopee. The Cubs have promised future expenses of well over $200 million this offseason to get Alfonso Soriano and a few blah fillers. Bill Bavasi was so desperate for a starter he traded for Horacio frickin' Ramirez. Clubs are actually interested in Russ Ortiz.

This winter if you're a GM, you better be prepared to live or die with what you have or cave in to the pressure from the clueless and spend recklessly. Be real people, we can't be barking up the same trees everybody else is (Vernon Wells, Rocco Baldelli) if we want a franchise that's modelled after the successful midlevel clubs like the Twins and A's.