Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Upon Further Reflection: I Still Hate This Deal
2006-12-12 22:23
by Mark T.R. Donohue

By general blogger acclaim the Rockies "won" the Jason Jennings trade, and when you break down the contract years attached to the players involved, I guess that's broadly true. Jennings might well sign an extension in Houston, but judging by the way his agent hardballed Colorado, he won't come cheaply. As things now stand his contract is up at the end of 2007. None of the guys the Rockies got have even reached arbitration. 2007 will be Willy Taveras's third full year in the majors, Taylor Buchholz's second, and Jason Hirsh's first. (For the first and probably last time, we'll mention that Miguel Asencio was technically included in this deal. If he has any impact for Houston or anyone else in the majors next season, I owe you a Coke.)

But I think that the Jennings trade means more to the Rockies than the sum total of the performance of all the players involved over the lengths of their current contracts. 2007 is a big year for Colorado. Charlie Monfort has already announced that Clint Hurdle and Dan O'Dowd's jobs are on the line if the team does not show improvement. The NL West looks set to go through one more relatively weak season before Los Angeles and Arizona's young talent kicks into high gear. With Jennings on board, a reasonable argument could have been constructed for Colorado snaking a division title. Not a likely argument, maybe, but a reasonable one. You just start by supposing that the pitching rotation would be as good as it was in 2006. Since it would likely have been the same five guys (Jennings, Byung-Hyun Kim, Aaron Cook, Jeff Francis, and Josh Fogg), that wouldn't be so crazy. Fogg and Kim might be due for a little regression, but Cook and Francis are young enough to still be on the upswing. And Jennings you would expect to be consistently good, as he has been for his entire healthy Rockies career. Then you hope the offense gets a lot better and the bullpen doesn't tank down the stretch like it did last year. It's a lot to ask, but it's not completely implausible.

Jennings had a VORP of 50.8 last year, the highest on the Rockies' pitching staff and indeed one of the highest in the majors. A lot of his value comes from the high number of innings he will log, but don't believe all these dismissive reports about his being "only" a third or fourth starter. Which rotations are these that have three better starters than Jason Jennings? The Rockies are going to have a very difficult time replacing Jennings. Jason Hirsh is a big-deal prospect, but he's not going to be a 50 VORP player in his first full year in the bigs. Besides, there is absolutely no telling whether Hirsh will be one of the multitude of pitchers who simply can't make the adjustment to Coors Field. Buchholz, whose best pitch is his curve, is an even likelier candidate for Mike Hampton syndrome.

The Rockies aren't going to win next year with their Cook-Francis-Kim-Hirsh-probably Fogg rotation. Maybe they'll win, I dunno, 78 games. The team isn't going to grip the imagination of the greater Denver area, and once again, 74 of 81 home games will be played in front of 30,000 empty seats. By the time Jason Hirsh develops into something (assuming he ever does), Aaron Cook will be leaving and Matt Holliday and Brian Fuentes will be distant memories.

If the Rockies don't win, they can't pay to keep the players they develop. If they won't pay to keep the players they develop, they won't win. And around we go again. It's very disturbing to me that Jason Jennings, unquestionably the most successful pitcher the Colorado organization has ever developed, didn't wish to stay and Colorado couldn't or wouldn't go the extra mile to retain him. What does Jennings' desire to leave say about the state of the Rockies franchise? Maybe this is an isolated incident of a guy who was just determined to get out. Maybe it's not the harbinger of a new, even more frustrating era of Rockies baseball where instead of just not having any good players we can't keep the good players we do have.

Look at what the A's did with Barry Zito. They knew he was leaving. They kept him, and they got further in the playoffs than they had since 1990. The draft picks they're going to get when Zito signs somewhere else probably won't provide as good a haul as Taveras/Buchholz/Hirsh, but then again, they got to the ALCS. That's pretty good. That'll sell some '07 season tickets, plus the tickets they already got to sell for the playoffs, plus it probably didn't hurt with the planning for that new stadium they're building. (Yes, in Fremont, but that's something to make fun of at a later date.) It's no sure thing that hanging on to Jennings would have punched the Rockies' dance card for the 2007 postseason, but it's a much surer thing that sending him out of town ensures the Rockies will once again be also-rans. The Jennings trade might be a good business decision, but baseball is about more than business. As a Rockies fan, my heart is sinking that I'm in for a couple more years of waiting for...what exactly?

2006-12-13 01:52:35
1.   Yu-Hsing Chen
Mark, think the Rockies will resign Tsao? or is it very likely taht other teams get to him first
2006-12-13 02:18:33
2.   Mark T.R. Donohue
I assume the reason that Chin-Hui Tsao was non-tendered is that the Rockies needed space on the 40-man roster. If that's the case, that means his Colorado career is over. Too bad, anyone who saw him pitch in person knows his stuff is electric. He might be better suited to a bigger ballpark, however. I wish him the best.
2006-12-13 04:20:23
3.   Vishal
[2] IS there a bigger ballpark, technically?
2006-12-13 06:40:22
4.   Hythloday
I think you contradict yourself in the last paragraph, but I think your best argument is about the As and Zito. You make a strong argument for it being a bad business decision.

I'm a Dodgers fan, but live in Denver and go to a fair number of games.

They can raise ticket prices and trade away talent close to free agency because it says so in GMing for Dummies (sure to drive down attendance) or they can make a stab at contention and raise ticket prices (possibly generating more interest in the team).

2006-12-13 12:47:37
5.   Mark T.R. Donohue
It's a bad sign indeed when I find myself in complete agreement with Woody Paige.

2006-12-15 11:54:50
6.   Kels
Any thoughts on this Denver Post article?
2006-12-15 14:28:51
7.   Mark T.R. Donohue
6 What is there to say about it? GM's always say they might have a lot more moves up their sleeves. It's how they maintain their GM mystique. I like Rocco Baldelli a lot better than Taveras, but Tampa needs pitching and Colorado doesn't have any more pitchers to trade.
2006-12-17 00:22:51
8.   sanchez101
5. Ouch

It seems that your whole attitude regarding this trade rests on the premise that the Rockies could've contended this year. With Tulowitzki a rookie, and some good talent on the farm in the upper minors, the Rockies are on the long-term upswing. They should be better in 2008 than in 2007, and better in 2009 than in 2008. But next year, I'm not sure I see Colorado as close to contention as you do, even if they had Jennings.

The core of the next really good Rockies team (first?) will be, roughly, Francis/ Tulo/ Stewart/ Atkins/ Fuentes/ Holliday and hopefully even Todd Helton. Jennings could've been part of that group, but other than Fuentes and Holliday all of those players are in their early-20's, and the best ones at that. It seems to me that the peak of this team will be towards the turn of the decade, when Hirsh will (ideally) be at his peak and making millions less than a past-his-prime Jennings.

You seem to cling to this idea that the Rockies could accomplish something like contention next season. The NL West isn't going to be a cake walk forever, as a matter of fact the division was pretty competative. Sure they didn't have a sexy title contender, but they did get the Wild Card last year. The NL West might be the weakest division in the NL, although I would think the Central is weaker, but what is the point of winning a weak division and getting bounced from the first round of the playoffs?

In my opinion, 2007 will be ruled by the Dodgers, Padres and Arizona. It is more possible that one of those teams faulter than the Rockies suprisingly winning the division. In other words, the Rockies are/were more likely to turn in a 4th place finish than anything remotely meaningfull. All this was true before the trade. The owner is claiming the team needs to 'improve', big deal. Owners, unless the team has had the kind of success the Rockies have never had, always claim the team will/should/has to improve. Otherwise, its tough to sell season tickets, which is what owners are primarly interested in.

You're a fan, and you want to be excited about 2007. Trading your ace for a rookie doesn't get you excited about 2007, nor should it. But the Rockies future does not lie in 2007, in lies in 2008-201?. Hirsh will help you then, Jennings wouldn't have even been wearing a Rockies uniform in any of those years.

How silly would it look when Jennings left after last season, and the Rockies were left with glaring holes in the rotation while the team had some championship-caliber talent elsewhere, because they could've made incremental improvement in 2006?

2006-12-17 00:39:58
9.   sanchez101
Two more points I forgot to mention (although 8 was long enough):

-"If the Rockies don't win, they can't pay to keep the players they develop."
I can believe this would be true for pitchers, I almost assume it will be true. What pitcher would want to post 5 ERA's when they know they could pitch just as well and post a 4+, or in the right team, 3+ ERA? But, wouldn't the opposite be true of hitters? ... Meaning the Rockies should trade their near-FA pitchers for young, ML-ready starting pitchers.

-The 2006 Rockies ARE NOT the 2005 A's. The 2006 Rockies won 76 games in the 'easy' league. The 2005 A's won 88 games in the 'hard' league, enough to finish first in the NL West last year. Going from ~75 wins (interesting, but painfully mediocre) to achieving the playoffs (ie, ~90 wins, even in the NL West) takes much more than your making it seem. The Rockies aren't going to stumble into a 15-win improvement, and probably weren't even if Jennings were to stay. Bottom line: the Rockies are far from a team that whould think as a win-now mode. Trading Jennings is one step back-two steps forward move. Ya, it'll suck in 2007, but you should be hoping for rewards when the core talent is ready to win, not before.

2006-12-17 02:14:12
10.   ralfthewiseandpowerful
We as fans need to quit drinking the Kool-Aid coming out of Coors Field. We need to quit buying their tickets, their merch' . We to need to quit blogging and calling talk-shows. We need to quit caring and quit helping the Rockies stay profitable. Then the crappy-ass owners will sell and one day, we will be free.
2006-12-17 16:39:13
11.   Mark T.R. Donohue
8 "what is the point of winning a weak division and getting bounced from the first round of the playoffs?"

The Cardinals won a weak division with 83 wins last season.

They won the World Series.

2006-12-17 22:07:28
12.   das411
Winning a weak division and picking up all of the $$ that comes with it is definitely a worthy goal.

But what makes you think the NL West will be weak in 2007?

2006-12-18 15:42:01
13.   Kels
Ray King = Gone.


2006-12-26 19:32:05
14.   Hallux Valgus
to 8 and 9:
my irritation comes from a general belief that the Rx will NOT be better in subsequent years, especially if O'Dowd is still around. He continues to say that Colorado needs to build from within, and then he trades homegrown talent for other clubs' unknowns. Who's to say he won't trade Atkins or Holiday or anyone else as soon as he deems them too expensive? He's now got a track record of not trying to win, but rather trying to field a team on the cheap.

yo usay we need to wait for our core talent, but Jennings was part of that core talent, and now he's not. No small market team will ever win by serving as a farm system for bigger revenue clubs. Period.

Comment status: comments have been closed. Baseball Toaster is now out of business.