Jussel: Fake GMs: Time to fix the Rockies
Let’s play general manager. We are running the show with the Colorado Rockies.
The Rox are more than halfway through the season at the All-Star break, 96 games into 162. They are 46-50 and only 4½ games behind National League West leader Arizona and two behind the charging Los Angeles Dodgers, nothing a long winning streak wouldn’t cure and not bad considering last season’s dismal 98 losses.
There is a clamor to go out and buy more pitching or another middle-of-the-order bat. Yet, for every pitcher or hitter gained, significant talent must be lost.
That’s our challenge as general manager: Buy talent, sell talent or sit still?
As GM, we need to figure out if we can win the West. The NL Central, with St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati all running far ahead of the rest of the NL pack, has made a wild-card berth a lost cause.
Arizona is leading the West thanks to its pitching, and because they play the way manager Kirk Gibson played — balls out!
The Dodgers started terribly, but they have put together a super month to get back in the hunt. They have aces stacked upon aces and, thanks to the emergence of rookie outfielder Yasiel Puig, a nasty lineup. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez is also now healthy.
As Rox GM, I have to decide if our boys can catch and pass Arizona and the Dodgers.
Can we catch them with what we have? Short answer: probably not.
The Rockies do have a superb batting order, with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki again healthy and hitting between Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer. Those three give the team its mojo.
They also have three starting pitchers that are on par with most teams in contention: Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa and Tyler Chatwood.
Their relief corps is solid if it isn’t overtaxed, which it was going into the break.
And the defense is outstanding as long as the regulars, mostly meaning center fielder Dexter Fowler, is on the field.
So what does this club need to contend with the D-backs and Dodgers? At least one more innings-eating starter.
To get that, we have to trade away a veteran, meaning Cuddyer or Fowler, the only two assets that would garner a pitcher of impact.
Cuddyer is affordable and has one more season on his contract. He is also one of the top 25 offensive threats in the majors despite missing a dozen games with a neck injury. Check your fantasy baseball stats and you will find Cuddyer ranking somewhere between Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday in terms of effectiveness. Not bad company.
And, oh yes, he should be moved to first base on a full-time basis next season since the Rox have no other big league-ready first base prospects on the horizon, not unless you’re thinking Kiel Roling, the 26-year-old Central High School product, will be a starter next season after playing Double-A ball the last couple of years.
I keep Cuddyer.
As for Fowler, all he does is give you a threat in the leadoff spot and patrol center field as no other in baseball can do.
I keep Fowler as well.
If you don’t trade a veteran, you are talking trading prospects — lots of them.
Names mentioned recently include shortstop Trevor Story, outfielders David Dahl and Kyle Parker and pitchers Eddie Butler and Tyler Anderson. Of those, Story, because of the presence of Tulo, would be expendable now, as would be Parker or Dahl because only one outfield slot should open up in the next few years with CarGo and Fowler still young.
Still, these players are your future. You want to give up two or three of them for the likes of Yovani Gallardo of the Brewers, Ervin Santana of the Royals or Phil Hughes of the Yankees? (You think the current regime will go out and pay for a top-level starter like Cliff Lee, Matt Garza or Bud Norris?)
Again, I think not.
What I think, as GM, is that maybe I can package a veteran or two, like closer Rafael Betancourt (hello, Rex Brothers), utility man Jonathan Herrera, second baseman/shortstop Josh Rutledge and a prospect mentioned above (Story) for a first baseman from Seattle like Justin Smoak, who is just starting to become a force at the plate, and relief pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen.
That would add punch to the order without losing a regular and add another power arm to the relief corps.
Then we hope Juan Nicasio finds consistency on the hill and young lefty starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz gets a clue.
All that being done, the Rox might have a chance to hang around this season without mortgaging the future.
Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor (think Dark Ages) and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there were one.