As was expected, the Rockies made no moves at the Trade Deadline whatsoever. It was unrealistic to expect a trade today involving Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez, but it would have been reasonable and prudent to move guys like Jorge De La Rosa and LaTroy Hawkins, among others.
The reason, according to the party line from the Rockies' front office, is that the team thinks it can be a contender in 2015 and were reluctant to make moves unless they contributed to that contention plan next season. I'll give the Rockies this, that was a perfectly reasonable stance to have at the outset of the 2014 season.
As the 2014 season dawned, I expected the Rockies to be about a .500 team. give or take a few games, and set themselves up for a 2015 season in which they were contenders for at least a Wild Card spot.
Coming into the season, the Rockies looked to have a solid foursome of De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Brett Anderson and Tyler Chatwood in their rotation and really only needed one of Juan Nicasio, Jordan Lyles or Franklin Morales to be a competent fifth starter. Add to that what looked to be a solid bullpen bolstered by the additions of Hawkins and Boone Logan and the Rockies seemed to have a fairly competent pitching staff.
On the offensive side of things, the Rockies were looking for Wilin Rosario to break out in his third big league season, a return to form for Justin Morneau and solid seasons from Tulowitzki and Nolan Arenado on the left side of the infield. In the outfield, they had two All-Stars at the corner spots and needed just one of four candidates to step up in center field.
Six, even four, months ago, the Rockies looked like a team with a solid core that could contend fairly soon. However, a lot has happened in the last few months, almost none of it good for the Rockies.
Of the four pitchers the Rockies were counting on to anchor the rotation, only De La Rosa has managed to avoid serious injury. Anderson missed three months with a broken finger and Chacin and Chatwood made just 15 combined starts before being shut down for 2014 and likely all of 2015.
That in and of itself is paradigm shifting, Chacin and Chatwood were two young righties the Rockies were counting on to be cornerstones of the rotation for the next several years, and now they've essentially lost two full seasons from each of them. Given the nature of the injuries, a frayed rotator cuff for Chacin and a second Tommy John surgery for Chatwood, it is certainly questionable whether either of them ever return to form.
At the back end of the rotation, Nicasio pitched two solid months before forgetting how to get people out, Lyles broke his hand after a dozen solid starts and Morales is, well, Morales.
So, instead of entering 2015 with Lyles as maybe the Rockies' No. 5 starter, they will instead likely be looking at him as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter depending on if the team re-signs De La Rosa and/or Anderson.
Unless the Rockies improbably add a starter in free agency this winter, they are likely looking at a rotation of De La Rosa, Anderson (if they re-sign), Lyles, Tyler Matzek and some combination of Jon Gray, Eddie Butler, Tyler Anderson or a Morales-type fifth starter. That is not a contending rotation, unless Butler or Gray comes up and is an impact player right away, which you can't possibly count on happening. It might happen, but relying on it is a fool's errand.
The bullpen has also been a mess. Hawkins has been solid, but has only had 18 save opportunities in 108 games, mainly because Tommy Kahnle and Adam Ottavino have been the only other two Rockies relievers with ERAs below 4.50. In just a few months, the bullpen has gone from a strength to being in need of a complete overhaul.
Offensively, instead of breaking out, Rosario has completely collapsed, putting up career lows in essentially every offensive category and has not improved significantly defensively. It's to the point where it is fair to question whether Rosario is a viable starting catcher in the long term, much less a potential star.
On the bright side, the Rockies have seen the return to form they were hoping for from Morneau, who is having his best season since 2010. However, his infield counterparts Arenado and Tulowitzki have both missed significant time with injuries, with Arenado missing six weeks with a broken finger and Tulo currently on the DL with a hip injury.
More concerning is the rumblings that Tulowitzki is sick of losing and angling for a trade out of Colorado. The Rockies have said Tulo will have to demand a trade in order for one to happen, but if they are even considering moving him, the Rockies cannot keep up the charade that they plan to contend in 2015. I'm sure the assertion that the team plans to contend next season is in part to attempt to placate their star shortstop, but, as they say, actions speak louder than words and there has been no action to date.
As for the Rockies' two solid corner outfielders, both Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer have been hurt this year and Cuddyer's contract expires at the end of 2014, and it would be unwise for the Rockies to spend significant money to bring back someone who in 2015 will be 36 years old and coming off a serious shoulder injury. The emergence of Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon have helped to alleviate the outfield issues, but if Cuddyer and Drew Stubbs, who also has an expiring contract, leave, it leaves the Rockies with a very left-handed and somewhat inexperienced outfield.
While there was a scenario in which the Rockies would look like a contender going into 2015, in reality they face significant issues throughout the pitching staff, behind the plate, in the outfield and, if they trade Tulowitzki, at shortstop. That is the portrait of a team that is much closer to an all-out re-build than contention. Unfortunately, the front office seems unable or unwilling to see that, a fact that has held them back from taking advantage of the sellers' market at the trade deadline and improving their team for the future.