Over the weekend I had the opportunity to interview Geoff Young, a writer for Baseball Prospectus (the website) who focuses on the NL and AL Western divisions and a contributor to Baseball Prospectus 2013 (the book), the premier guide to the 2013 MLB season. Geoff is the founder of Duck Snorts, a prominent Padres blog, and he's the writer of the Rockies, Padres, and Reds chapters in the book. In this portion of the interview, we discuss what the Rockies could have done differently this offseason.
Jeff Aberle: The Rockies basically did nothing this off-season, when you think about it. They hired Walt Weiss as their manager, which we'll get back to, they made the trade for Wheeler that I mentioned earlier for Matt Reynolds, and they traded Alex White for Wilton Lopez essentially. I'd like to focus on that last move first. The White trade was basically an admission that hey, we're valuing relievers more than a guy who is a potential starter - a guy who has been a good reliever over someone who might be a good starter.
Considering the fact that Rockies relievers threw more innings than anybody else last year, do you think that's a good decision?
Geoff Young: I wouldn't have traded White for Lopez, no. I'm not even convinced that White is that good and I got the impression that Coors wasn't a real good fit for him despite his reputation as a groundball pitcher. With that being said, coming off the season the Rockies did and taking a realistic look at what comes ahead in 2013, I would have given White more of a chance to show that he couldn't do it, or that he could. I just don't understand bringing Lopez in, not that he's a bad reliever. It's just that if I'm the Rockies it's just not a priority for me at this point.
JA: Priorities are a major topic for the fans at Purple Row - many of them, myself included, don't think that the front office has the right priorities in certain cases. For instance, the majority of us wanted to get Michael Cuddyer out of town. I mean, a lot of us didn't want to sign him in the first place, but once the Rockies did, we thought this offseason would be a good time to cut our losses.
One of the trade proposals was - and you know how trade proposals are on blogs - trading him to the Tigers, who are more of a win-now club for a guy like (Rick) Porcello. But then we hear out of Dan O'Dowd and Bill Geivett that they weren't really listening on Cuddyer. Which really is confusing, don't you think?
GY: I've read and heard a lot of good things about him (Cuddyer) in terms of clubhouse presence, which isn't necessarily the kinds of things fans of a rebuilding team want to hear about. The Cuddyer signing didn't make sense to me at the time - it seemed like a strange fit. I'm sure he's a great guy, but he's not going to make a difference to the team now, at least not a difference in terms of wins, and he's not going to make a difference in the future, so I don't see a lot of value provided there except clubhouse presence.
JA: It's a $10.5 million clubhouse presence, that's the problem.
GY: Well said. We used to complain that the Padres kept around Geoff Blum for that reason, but he was only ever making about $750,000 a year...and $10 million is a lot more costly. It's not how I would have allocated my resources.
JA: Let's talk about that. Say you're the Rockies' GM right after they just had their worst season in franchise history, 64-98. What sort of strategy might you have taken into this offseason?
GY: Well, moving Cuddyer would have been high on my list of priorities. What else...gosh, you could have maybe shopped one of the relievers - I don't know how much of a market there would have been. I wouldn't have traded for another reliever...but honestly I don't see a lot of room for making moves there. Long-term you think you're set at 3B if (Nolan) Arenado pans out the way we think he will...
JA: It's a tough spot. The Rockies have a couple of good assets, but they're the kind of assets that are signed long-term and/or cost controlled that we want to keep around. Our deficiency is obviously starting pitching - but we actually have a lot of interesting young starting pitchers, we just don't know what to do with them right now.
GY: That's the thing. (Drew) Pomeranz could be interesting, (Christian) Friedrich could be interesting, (Juan) Nicasio if he's healthy could be interesting. If Chacin could put two half seasons that are good together he'd be interesting...unfortunately, we don't really know what we have in any of them. That's why I say the Rockies really don't have a chance to contend this year. It's tough to go into a season knowing that, but at the same time it should make your priorities a little bit clearer going into the season.
You can't tell your players, "don't try and win games", but if you go in with the attitude of "nobody's really counting on us" - the Padres did this in 2010 - "we're just throwing a bunch of guys out there, they're playing hard - they're playing for their job in 2014". Sometimes good things happen when you do that.
At the very least you come away at the end of the season with some answers about things that are definite answers right now. At the conclusion of 2013 I can go into 2014 going, "I know what Pomeranz is, I know what (Wilin) Rosario is, maybe I have an idea of what Arenado is". If you could just answer a couple of those questions...that would be my chief priority for the season.
Tune back tomorrow for Part 5, which will discuss more Rockies' position players, Walt Weiss, and BP's 2013 outlook for the Rockies.