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Sunday Rockpile: Looking for the forest

I've just been trying to figure out where O'Dowd wants to be headed with the Matt Holliday to St. Louis trade. I'm trying not to look at the individual trees and see more of the complete picture. Your 2009 Rockies lineup after a Holliday to the Cardinals trade as it's currently rumored:

  1. Ryan Spilborghs or Skip Schumaker CF
  2. Troy Tulowitzki SS
  3. Ian Stewart 3B
  4. Ryan Ludwick LF
  5. Brad Hawpe RF
  6. Chris Iannetta C
  7. Todd Helton 1B
  8. Jeff Baker or Clint Barmes 2B

When Yorvit subs for Iannetta, you drop him to the eighth slot. Helton and Stewart could be interchangeable depending on who has the better bat next season, and the same could be said for the middle infielders. This does not make the Rockies any better of a team in 2009 than if they kept Matt Holliday and just traded away Atkins and Taveras but it doesn't make them worse and it makes them a little less reliant on a single individual to carry the team. This is a high OBP, decent powered lineup, but defensively deficient. Let's skip ahead to 2010:

  1. Dexter Fowler CF
  2. Tulowitzki SS
  3. Stewart 3B
  4. Iannetta C
  5. Hawpe RF
  6. Ludwick or Spilborghs LF
  7. Helton 1B
  8. ??? 2B

The Rockies hopefully will be in position to trade the lesser of Spilly, Hawpe or Ludwick a year from now because of Fowler. The defensive hit we take in 2009 has a reversal. I dropped the left fielders in the lineup because they aren't getting any younger, but if they're better hitters than Iannetta at that point, the status quo works fine. Schumaker would be kept as the reserve for his better defensive versatility. Again, trading Holliday doesn't necessarily make this lineup any better than not trading him, but because they'll be able to split the risk of regression between two players rather than just one and the potential of a secondary trade return, there's a better chance that the team is better. Second base remains somewhat of a mystery. It could be Baker/Barmes again, it could be EY2, it could be Chris Nelson, or various other scenarios, don't get scared by the question marks; just because there's no clear succession in place doesn't mean we're in bad shape at that position.

So my main point is that a trade with St. Louis isn't going to be made to add value to the team, it's going to be made to try and eliminate risk and to cut payroll. The problem is that Ludwick is an inherently risky venture, so much so that this is why the Cardinals would be willing to trade him in the first place. The irony for the Rockies is that they are adding risk to the system in a trade that looks like it's designed to do the opposite.

The wildcard in this would be the cost savings, the other key part of the design of this trade. Does the team use the windfall for an upgrade elsewhere or do the Monforts pocket it? For the sake of argument let's say we turn the $10 million around and sign some free agent pitcher like Juan Cruz. It's just a name I'm tossing out there, pick your own sub $10 million FA if you don't like it. In that event the trade breaks down to the Rockies giving up Holliday and three draft picks, two 2010 picks (one supplemental, one either a first or second round pick) and a 2009 second round pick for Ludwick, Schumaker, Boggs and Cruz. In my scenario, while the principal parts to the Holliday trade are a wash or less, a secondary part like Cruz does help the team by replacing the kind of high leverage reliever we lose with Fuentes. Keeping Holliday would mean that the team would have to hope to add that reliever with an Atkins or Taveras trade, tying O'Dowd's hands further.

Alright, now let's layer those proposed moves in and see where O'Dowd's going with this. The rumors this week were Atkins for an outfielder and a starter. Why would we need another outfielder if we're already trading for one with Holliday? Well if it's as risky a bet as Ludwick, it's clear that Cuddyer or a similar outfielder would be an insurance policy. A deal of Taveras looks to be adding a little more stability to the bullpen. The 2009 team at that point would be deep and cheap. Not spectacular, but not out of the running in the NL West. 2010 would depend on how Fowler, Stewart and our young pitchers progress.

This trade is not a doomsday scenario, it's not a fire sale. It's just not a clear gain without additional movement, that's the only way it will really work, but there's reason to think the Rockies will be in a decent position to make those moves. While this Holliday trade isn't bringing back a hitter as good as he is, it is bringing back two that are better than Atkins and Taveras, so the overall talent level of the team could still be going up. In the end if I have to, I'll live with this trade, but I just think there must be something better out there.

Here's a link to Woody Paige for some knee-jerkiness and Monfort/O'Dowd criticism.