According to the Denver Post's Troy Renck, the west coast Rockies have built a bit of an off season enclave in Las Vegas, where Troy Tulowitzki and Jason Giambi hold workouts, which for a second straight season will include top prospect Nolan Arenado and for a first season, Dexter Fowler.
Giambi's name has come up quite frequently as a player leader in Rockies news this winter, as he was also supposedly instrumental (along with Rafael Betancourt) in convincing catcher Ramon Hernandez to sign with the team. Here we see that his influence extends beyond mid-30's veterans to the player who seems likely to be the youngest to put on a Rockies uniform this year, Arenado.
The Rockies search for a high quality veteran pitcher might need the kind of boost Giambi provided in lobbying Hernandez to sign. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if there's a pitcher with that kind of charisma currently on the staff. As such, luring the Roy Oswalt's or Hiroki Kuroda's of the world seems more than a bit of a pipe dream. Not that he'd be a tremendous help on that front, but in part because of this aspect, I'm still hoping that the Rockies can bring back Kevin Millwood, and would actually prefer him over returns of longer tenured Rockies Aaron Cook or Jeff Francis as the stable emergency veteran reserve.
This also led me to think about the current young Rockies rotation and who the leader would emerge to be in a post Ubaldo world. Keep in mind that this might not be the same thing as the staff 'ace". Curt Schilling with the Diamondbacks and Red Sox was often second fiddle when it came to skill level of pitchers, but he was the leader and spokesperson of the staff. Juan Nicasio, someday, certainly seems to be heading that direction, seriously, coming back from a life/paralysis threatening broken neck as quickly as he has commands only respect. Alex White seems to have those leader qualities too, he's outspoken like Schilling and confident, even if the results on the mound have yet to bear out. My early favorites would be those two, in that order.
Red Sox beat reporter Nick Cafardo's one of the better rumor digger-uppers out there, and so his winter meetings preview should probably be an important primer of the coming rumor madness for withdrawal crazed baseball fans. He does have some things off, for instance, I know from local reports that the Reds are looking to trade for front-end starters like Jair Jurrjens or Gio Gonzalez rather than the back-end Cafardo suggests, so keep in mind that it's going to be difficult to be perfect with this sort of thing. Still it's a better primer than most. For Rockies fans, the somewhat realistic targets to keep an eye on:
Won't cost too much, but YMMV:
Carl Pavano: Denver Post writers focused on Pavano for two reasons, known Rockies interest and assumed ease of acquisition. The Twins do need a closer, Colorado has Huston Street and the salaries match, so in that sense there would seem to be a bit of a fit. But Cafardo notes that Pavano is the only reliable innings eater currently on Minnesota's staff. The Twins would need to acquire another starter or two before I believe he'll become a real possibility, at that point, be afraid.
Jeremy Guthrie: Right now, Guthrie seems one of the best "please not Pavano" alternatives as Baltimore has to cut payroll, they need a closer, and it seems they're finally ready to move on from Guthrie. It might cost the Rockies a prospect in addition to Street, however, and that's where this deal could get sticky. Btw, Cafardo says that Brian Matusz could also be made available. Matusz would go away from the veteran quality innings starter the team is purportedly looking for, and would just add to an already crowded group of young arms for the Rockies, but I seriously want it to happen anyway. Yes, we will have all your young pitching, MLB, resistance is futile.
Ricky Nolasco: This, sort of like the Pavano situation, would be dependent on the Marlins signing or acquiring another pitcher, but it seems a lot more likely than I thought it would be a few weeks ago. Early indications suggest that Nolasco's not likely to cost as much in trade as starters from Oakland, Tampa Bay, or Atlanta, but would provide a similar level of production. That said, in signing Heath Bell, they no longer need a closer, so using Street would be out of the question. Nolasco's actually emerging as a favorite of mine for that balance if it proves true.
Likely will cost too much:
Martin Prado - In asking for Arenado along with Seth Smith, the Braves are showing they've got sky high expectations for a versatile player that might have already peaked.
Jair Jurrjens - copy and paste from Prado
Tampa Bay pitchers - they're all cheap enough for the Rays to afford and the team has minor league options available for their replacements. This is not a good situation for potential buyers. As long as the Rockies make a fair offer and stick to it and avoid getting into a bidding war, we should be fine, but then we probably don't get a Rays pitcher, either.
Matt Garza - Theo Epstein seems to be demanding about as much as the Cubs traded away last season in exchange for Garza.
Oakland pitchers - Their price might go down later in the winter, so it's something to keep an eye on, but right now the A's are asking for packages as princely as Tampa Bay is.
White Sox pitching - Here's one more team seeming to ask for a king's ransom for pitchers like John Danks or Gavin Floyd. I figure one of these teams will actually get a sap to bite on an overpay deal, but come late January or early February a couple that don't might be a lot more reasonable in their demands. Fans should be warned that patience will be a key for the Rockies to upgrade their rotation via trade.
Not sure if it's worth it or not:
Should the Prado talks ultimately fall through, and right now it looks like they will, there are a couple utility 2B/3B types that I'm keeping an eye on that are known to be available, it's just a matter of getting the parts to line up.
Jed Lowrie - I don't know if the Rockies are interested, but the Red Sox have made Lowrie available and I don't think the oft-injured utility player will cost a lot in trade. We were talking about a Street/Lowrie swap in yesterday's Rockpile, but even that seems like it might be too high a bid. Lowrie's only provided 1.9 f-WAR over the last three seasons compared to Street's 3.1 and there doesn't seem to be a lot of buzz around the league for Lowrie at the moment. Without that, though, it's hard to get a feel for what the Red Sox are really after for him.
Jason Bartlett - Again, I haven't seen the Rockies connected to Bartlett at all, but I know the Padres offered Orlando Hudson in exchange for Ian Stewart to counter the Rockies offer of Headley for Stewart. Both team offers were kind of ridiculous, but Bartlett for Stewart makes some sense to me if the Padres ate the $1.5 million buyout of his 2013 option. The Rockies would get a quality defender for second or third (Bartlett hasn't played either for awhile, but he should adjust well from short) at $5.5 million for one season. It might seem like a lot, and I'm guessing the Rockies would look for more money, but the only one season thing is important and Bartlett should rebound strongly at the plate if he leaves PETCO.
Rox Girl's pipe dream:
The Rockies trade for Jon Danks and Martin Prado, and yet somehow avoid dealing any of their top six prospects in the process.
The Rockies pipe dream:
They trade Seth Smith and a lesser prospect for Prado, sign Kuroda, trade Street for Pavano and Stewart for Tyler Colvin and Blake Dewitt.
Rox Girl's bit more pragmatic hopes that the Rockies would never do anyway, so it might as well be another pipe dream:
The Rockies trade Huston Street to Boston for Jed Lowrie and Ian Stewart to the Cubs for Colvin. Once Kenny Williams has come off his initial demands a little, they package Smith, Chad Bettis and Joseph Gardner to the White Sox for Danks.
The Rockies send Street plus a low level prospect to Baltimore for Guthrie and Stewart to San Diego for Bartlett.
The Rockies will eventually trade Street for Pavano and Stewart for Colvin. They will also sign Kevin Millwood and Jerry Hairston Jr., so hey, there's that.