On December 8, 2011, Troy Renck published an article detailing a trade that sent Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers to the Chicago Cubs for Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu. What most consider an under-the-radar trade, turned out to be a big win for former GM Dan O’Dowd and the Rockies.
Renck, who covered the Rockies for the Denver Post at the time, was able to hear directly from O’Dowd himself regarding the trade. O’Dowd’s reasoning for the trade was simple: "We're continuing to look for the right pieces." O’Dowd did find the right piece. He found the piece to a seemingly unsolvable puzzle at second base.
Before we look at what the Rockies received, let’s take a look at what they gave up.
In 2005, Ian Stewart was ranked fourth on Baseball America’s prospect list just behind Delmon Young, Felix Hernandez, and Joe Mauer. After an up and down career in the minors, occasionally making a few major league appearances, he finally received the everyday job at third base in July of 2008, when Garrett Atkins moved to first base after an injury to Todd Helton. Stewart hit the ground running and raked his way to an NL Rookie of the Month award. The Rockies thought they had found their third baseman of the future.
Unfortunately, Stewart struggled heavily in 2011 and found himself up and down between the Rockies and the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. After a .156 batting average over 126 at bats, the Rockies decided it was time to part ways which led to his trade to the Chicago Cubs. Stewart last saw major league action in 2014 for the Angels, and is currently playing in Triple A for the Washington Nationals.
Casey Weathers, who was traded alongside Stewart, was the eighth pick in the 2007 amateur draft. Weathers spent time in Asheville and Modesto as a relief pitcher during 2007 and hit a bump in the road when he fell victim to Tommy John surgery in 2008. Weathers returned hoping find his way to the big league roster, but he never made an appearance with the Rockies and was sent packing to Chicago. Weathers, now in his age 30 season, is currently pitching in the High-A Carolina league as a member of Cleveland's system.
What did the Rockies get out of this four player trade?
Tyler Colvin was the 13th overall pick for the Chicago Cubs in 2006. Colvin broke out with the MLB club in 2010, hitting .254 with 20 home runs over 135 games. Colvin was unable to replicate his offensive production the following year, as he hit .150 over 222 at bats, which eventually led to his trade to Denver.
Colvin, like most hitters, thrived in Coors Field. In his first year with the Rockies he had a slash line of .338/.380/.652; he hit nine triples and 11 home runs in his games in Denver. Colvin struggled on the road, with an OPS of just .687. But after a 2 fWAR season, the Rockies seemed to have found a serviceable outfielder to go along with Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez.
Just like his second year in Chicago, Colvin struggled in his second season with Colorado, and he eventually found himself outrighted from the Rockies’ roster after an up and down year between Colorado Springs and the MLB club.
The other player the Rockies received was infielder DJ LeMahieu. LeMahieu was a second round pick in the 2009 draft by the Chicago Cubs. At first glance, LeMahieu looked like he would be a solid utility infielder for the Rockies. After spending some time in Colorado Springs, LeMahieu made the call up to the Rockies and finished the season with the big league club after an injury to utility infielder Jonathan Herrera. LeMahieu hit .297 over 247 at bats that season for the Rockies. LeMahieu started out 2013 at Triple-A Colorado Springs, as Josh Rutledge was given the Opening Day second base job. After Rutledge failed to meet the Rockies' expecations, LeMahieu took over the role as the starting second baseman and never looked back. LeMahieu hit .280 over 404 at bats and provided stellar defense not seen from the Rockies since Clint Barmes was the regular starting second baseman.
LeMahieu was the starting second baseman in 2014 and provided decent offense from the eight spot. But the thing that sets LeMahieu apart is his defense. LeMahieu took home his first Gold Glove award in 2014.
For the second year in a row, LeMahieu was the Rockies Opening Day second baseman, and is currently off to a scorching hot start in 2015, having 18 hits over the first ten games.
Taking a look at this trade from a sabermetric perspective, the players the Rockies acquired in this trade provided an fWAR of 3.1, compared to a total of 0.1 for the Cubs. Even just giving this trade the eye test, the Rockies won this trade by a longshot. They traded a prospect bust and poor minor league relief pitcher for a Gold Glove second baseman and didn’t lose much from Colvin who provided a solid year of offense in the Rockies lineup. Regardless of how you view Dan O’Dowd, you’ve got to give him props for this trade.