1 starting pitcher.
I find the argument that says we need to pick up two boils down to "We need one starter to replace Livan Hernandez because he's bad, and one to replace Jorge De La Rosa because he used to be bad." It's right on the first count, but fairly ridiculous on the second, as the same standard could be applied to the start of just about any pitcher's career to disqualify them from contention. The argument that "JDLR walks too many," is more valid, but if the Rockies are going to invest as much as they should in a starter to replace Livan, whatever any leftover funds (should there be any) are going to turn up isn't going to be pretty. One good, reliable pitcher should be all we need.
1 second baseman
1 lead-off hitter
There could be one answer to both these questions, and that would probably be the preference at this point. Our best on base percentage from a second baseman in 2008 is Clint Barmes at .321. Next best is Jeff Baker at .319. Either way making outs 68% of the time is a pretty terrible rate for somebody who will likely have to hit near the top of the order next season. Dexter Fowler, if he is to take over center (and he should) should be buried in a low pressure slot. Troy Tulowitzki, who needs to regain his confidence and form should probably bat seventh at least to start the season. So what's a solution?
I say move OBP machine Chris Iannetta up to the second slot. While not a true leadoff hitter, he's got decent wheels, and you'll be able to keep the more legitimate power threat of Ian Stewart lower in the order. This is why finding a second baseman that would be comfortable batting leadoff should be a top priority for the offseason. So let's talk about some options:
For convenience, I've crossed out a few that have seemingly proved unlikely to produce at the level we'd want in MLB play. Herrera might be able to sneak back into that conversation, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Wimberly doesn't feel likely to me either, but he has had a .358 OBP at Tulsa this season, which wouldn't be bad if we could somehow wave a magic wand and translate directly to the MLB without any loss. Unfortunately, the bump up two levels hurts enough that according to Baseball Prospectus' translated stats, that figure would have been .292 with the Rockies this season. Yuck.
Nelson? After a rough start to his year in Tulsa and a broken hamate bone his bat is finally heating up, but even with that his Tulsa numbers are so woeful that it leaves little confidence that he'll be ready for MLB play in 2009.
That brings us to Eric Young Jr, whose OBP numbers actually translate to be better than Barmes or Baker's right now (.330) and who should be capable of getting better as his own stroke returns from a broken hand this season. Add in prodigious speed and him taking on a role his father once held for the team both in the lineup and on the field becomes a very distinct possibility. But Rox Girl, you say, if we're not willing to put Fowler in the pressure of the lead-off slot right out of the minors, why would you put Young there? Let me just put this bluntly: because organizationally, Fowler's more important to protect. Without a high ceiling, players like Young, like Jayson Nix, like Ryan Spilborghs, actually, and like so many others they become the infantry of our system. If they succeed, they become heroes, if they fail, goats, but they aren't going to be afforded the same nurturing patience we afford the potential stars.
Like Nix last season, however, Young would be a crude, relatively unknown tool we'd be asking to fill a skilled and delicate task. I would think he would be an alternative of last resort, as a Plan B to hopefully rise and supplant the Barmes/Baker/Quintanilla trio we have sputtering along right now.
So if we can't find an inside man, where do we turn?
Brian Roberts - I'm not even sure how this would be possible, but for whatever reason, his name keeps on getting brought up on the Row. We have a need, so naturally we'll look at the best possible way to fill that need. Given what Seattle wound up giving up for Erik Bedard, and adding other moves the Orioles have made recently, it would likely be too painful for a prospect only trade. The only way I could see it working, given that we are the "buyers" would be if we offered Atkins for him straight up (they'd get two years of controlled service, we'd get one) and saw where it went from there.
I'm aware Atkins alone probably wouldn't get it done, and I imagine if we got to a point where the deal was Atkins plus Gomez or Nelson for Roberts, I'd pull the trigger, but I doubt O'Dowd would. What's more, I doubt that would still be enough to encourage the Orioles to make a trade, and where would we go from there? Chacin? Fowler? Dealbreakers. I just can't see how this one works out.
Are there other guys available via trade? The Cubs seem to have a lot of middle infielders, I guess that would be some place to look.
Orlando Hudson - Ha! Right. But no if we could afford it, great, like Roberts, it's just not going to happen
David Eckstein - Don't laugh, but Eckstein is a reasonable alternative. He signed a one year deal for Toronto worth $4.5 million. He's had an OBP over .350 for each of the last four seasons and at Coors Field that would play up. Limited to 72 games this season due to injury and 34 years old, his value should be deflated. He'd be a quality defender at second and has plenty of leadoff experience and veteraniness for our guy Hurdle. Really, I think this is an acceptable compromise for me between the All-Star we all want and the peg-legged minor league invite we're probably going to get.
This would make my semi realistic 2009 April starting lineup look like:
- David Eckstein, 2B
- Chris Iannetta, C
- Ian Stewart, 3B
- Matt Holliday, LF
- Brad Hawpe, 1B
- Ryan Spilborghs, RF
- Troy Tulowitzki, SS
- Dexter Fowler, CF
- Ubaldo Jimenez, P
I think I'd be just fine with taking that in this division.