February 21, 2013
A Rocky Rotation
The trade market came alive, if only briefly, on Wednesday, when the Red Sox acquired Mike Carp from the Mariners for a player to be named later or cash. Those hoping for more Hot Stove action might now want to turn their eyes toward Colorado, where general manager Dan O’Dowd is understandably discontent with his current rotation.
Rockies could seek starting pitcher via trade
The greatest source of optimism for fans is that the team’s top two projected starters, left-hander Jorge De La Rosa and right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, are healthy entering camp. De La Rosa missed all but the last two weeks of the 2012 season, after undergoing Tommy John surgery on June 3, 2011, and Chacin spent 111 games on the disabled list with inflammation in his throwing shoulder last year. The 31-year-old De La Rosa was a three-win pitcher in 2009—the only 30-plus-start campaign of his career—and Chacin has shown flashes of the stuff that made him the organization’s fourth-best prospect entering the 2010 season, amid bouts with arm trouble and inconsistency. Neither is a sure thing, but the bar has been set so low that even a 1.5-win effort from both of them could go a long way toward boosting the Rockies’ win total.
Beyond that, Weiss and the Rockies can currently do little more than hope for a breakout season from Drew Pomeranz and/or Juan Nicasio. The latter made a miraculous recovery from a skull fracture suffered when a line drive struck his head in August 2011, only to require season-ending microfracture knee surgery last summer. Fifth starter Jeff Francis, who returned on a $1.5 million hitch after coming back to Denver when the Reds released him last June, has not been the same since he went under the knife to repair a torn labrum four years ago.
Put all of that together, and O’Dowd’s 11th-hour search for rotation help is logical, albeit also challenging. The veteran GM focused on ground-ball pitchers earlier this offseason, bringing Chris Volstad into the fold as a non-roster invitee, and a reliable sinkerballer might still be at the top of his wish list. With Troy Tulowitzki now fully recovered from the groin injury that cost him 113 games last year, the Rockies should enjoy a significant improvement in infield defense, a weakness that contributed to their pitchers’ demise. Colorado ranked 28th in the majors in ground-ball defensive efficiency last year, allowing opposing batters a .254 average on rollers and bouncers, and Josh Rutledge (-3.8 FRAA) and Jordan Pacheco (-7.9 FRAA) were the biggest culprits.
Incidentally, Pacheco might one of the chips that O’Dowd has placed on the table in his search. The 27-year-old hit .309 in 505 plate appearances last year, albeit with little over-the-fence power. An infielder, turned catcher, turned infielder, it’s easy to forgive Pacheco for struggling with the glove, but without an improved defensive profile, he lacks the credentials for an everyday job. As Rosenthal pointed out, the Rockies have a plethora of catchers at Salt River Fields, and either Pacheco or Ramon Hernandez—who is owed $3.2 million in 2013 and thus is the preferred trade candidate—could be on the move.