OK, let's make something clear: I'm only reporting these trade rumors so more intelligent people than I can ridicule them. Let's not encourage Dan O'Dowd to actually go out and make any of these deals. The general attitude most of the serious Rockies fans I spoke to at the ballgame last night held was that the team is a year ahead of schedule, and it would be foolish to trade anyone besides the obviously blocked likes of Ryan Shealy and Jeff Baker in an attempt to make this year's squad marginally better. I haven't even seen yet the trade rumor that would accomplish even that. Most of the guys with whom Colorado has been named in connection would make the team worse, just considering where they'd play and whose time they'd be taking over. This is not even bothering to calculate what we might have to give up in trade to acquire them.
Let's start here: the Rockies are indeed looking to add some talent for this year. At least Clint Hurdle says so, and you would think that he of all people would know. Two of Hurdle's quotes in this Denver Post piece are worth repeating. You decide whether they are contradictory or not. First: "If we are going to look for somebody, it will probably be along the lines of an experienced player. We are not looking for a stopgap guy or a specialist by any means." Then: "We are not going to sacrifice future impact players that can take this organization further forward, for somebody who can help us a little bit now. Anybody we get has got to make the club better."
Right. The one name that has been mentioned that had any interest for me at all, indeed the only name that didn't send me into an outright panic that the Rockies might actually give up talent in exchange for, was Carl Crawford. That's almost certainly not going to happen. A lot of teams are after Crawford, and the price is too high for (apparently) all of them thus far. They want two can't-miss pitchers. Sounds like a case of meet the new boss, same as the old boss in Tampa Bay, where the old regime was legendary for wildly unrealistic trade demands. Doesn't it? Well, there are mitigating factors in this case. Crawford is under contract at supremely affordable rates through 2008, then has about market-level club options for the two years thereafter. Making an unnecessary trade for no reason other than trying to prove you're more competent than Chuck LaMar would be silly. Especially when I imagine just managing to wear matching socks every day does the trick just as well. Aside from the fact that Tampa doesn't really have to trade Crawford and probably shouldn't, there's another specific problem that Carl presents to the Rockies. He doesn't want to play centerfield. He wants to play left, and the Rockies already have an All-Star playing left field. Forcing guys to play unfamiliar positions isn't always a bad thing -- Alfonso Soriano certainly seems to have adjusted -- but given the gains the Rockies' pitching staff have forged backed by increased confidence in the team's overall defensive performance, it seems to me like that's one applecart that Colorado needn't upset. The prohibitively high price of doing business with the Satanfish seems to preemptively moot the point anyhow.
Now, the next group of guys is available real cheap, because their current teams are aching to be rid of them. Have you ever heard it said that you get what you pay for? You get what you pay for. The scariest name, in the sense that it's one the Rockies could certainly feel realistic about listing on their roster seeing as it's already haunted it in the distant past, is Juan Pierre. Pierre is having a terrible season for the terrible Cubs, and his upside is...what exactly? No power, no walks, a high batting average? Pretty much the same as Cory Sullivan, who's younger, cheaper, and miles better defensively. I'm not yet convinced that the Rockies couldn't solve their "problem" in center by merely employing a creative platoon of guys they've already in the system, Sullivan plus Jorge Piedra and Ryan Spilborghs. If that seems too complex, just moving Sullivan out of the two hole would probably help his confidence a bit. Being asked to bunt each every and time a runner gets on base ahead of you has to grind down a guy after a spell.
There are basically three positions where you're willing to trade offense for defense -- short, center, and catcher. If you're putting guys who can't hit in all three of those spots, however, you run in trouble. This is why shortstops who can hit, centerfielders who can hit, and catchers who can hit are premium investments. This is why the Rockies have been so patient with Clint Barmes. As of right now, Colorado has some time and some wiggle room to let Sullivan and Barmes show improvement. They're already seeing better production from their catchers since the Torrealba/Closser pairing supplanted the nightmarish Ardoin/Ojeda duo. It's harder to see how they could get better at shortstop using guys in the system. It's not Troy Tulowitzki's time yet. Omar Quintanilla is probably never going to hit. I suppose as a last gasp you could try Jamey Carroll at short and see if Luis Gonzalez can get it going at second, but it's too early for such drastic measures. The Carroll thing is so obviously a weird quirk of baseball fate that it seems like it would be a fool move to do anything to disrupt it.
Here's another really scary name: Mike Lieberthal. The Phillies' longtime catcher hasn't been good since 2003 but has soldiered on thanks to a poorly-considered long term contract. You know, I'm not going to waste a lot of time talking about Lieberthal because he used to be one of my favorite players. He's old, he's hurt, at this juncture of his career he's no better than Closser or Torrealba. Probably worse, because you know Clint Hurdle would insist on playing him all the time rather than riding the relatively hot hand as he has done with the Rockies' current no-name catching corps. He is absolutely not worth trading even a Yankees-level prospect to get. Getting guys for no other reason other than that they used to be vaguely famous is something I really thought this organization had grown past.
What else have you heard? Send me your rumors and I'll pick 'em apart. No game today, so what else am I going to do?