Rockies Dump Street

The Colorado Rockies have been active in the trade market in addition to monitoring free agents so far this winter. The club made another trade Wednesday at the Winter Meetings, shipping right-handed reliever Huston Street and most of his salary to the San Diego Padres for a player to be named later.  

Street, 28, fills a need for the Padres after losing closer Heath Bell to the Miami Marlins last week. After getting out-pitched by Rafael Betancourt (2.89 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 10.5 K/9) last season and with the Rockies looking to free up payroll to add another starter, Street became expendable. The Padres will pay Street $7 million of the $7.5 million that he's due for the 2012 season while the Rockies will cover the remaining $500,000 and could be on the hook for another $500,000 should the Padres exercise his 2013 option for $9 million. The player to be named later is unknown at this time, but doesn't figure to be a prominent prospect. 

Despite his hefty price tag, Street will be a good fit in San Diego. Street wasn't as good as Betancourt for the Rockies last year, but he wasn't far from his average production. Street posted a 8.49 K/9 in '11 compared to 8.56 the year before. He cut his walks to 1.39 BB/9, which is a lot better than his career 2.29 BB/9. The primary blemish on his '11 season were the home runs Street surrendered. His HR/9 was 1.54, which was almost double his career rate of 0.83, thanks to a career-high in HR/FB% of 14.5, which was a lot higher than his career rate of 8.1%. Assuming his home run rate normalizes after the change of scenery, he could take off as the Padres closer. 

Sure, a big money closer is nonessential for a team that isn't fit to contend, but at least this move proves that the Padres know which ballpark they play half of their games in. Street couldn't give up 25 home runs in Petco Park next year even if he tried, though that still won't make him worth the full $7 million to the Padres. 

On the other side of the coin, it's hard to say that the Rockies know which park they play in given the additions of Kevin Slowey and Tyler Chatwood in the last week. Chatwood is a young pitcher with a good arm and not yet worth giving up on, but his curveball, his second best pitch, simply won't break the same way in Coors Field. Slowey just throws way too many hittable strikes to survive in Coors, since 2008 he's allowed 68 home runs in 466 innings pitched with Minnesota. 

Every pitcher would be better off if they avoided Coors Field for their entire careers. That's a given and it tasks the Rockies with a unique twist in how they build a pitching staff in the National League. In the American League, teams target pitchers with power stuff and the ability to turn over deeper lineups, but in the National League it's easier for pitchers to have success without top of the line stuff. Now, the Rockies have had success with back-end type starters in the past, but those pitchers tended to be ground ball pitchers (like Aaron Cook) and not extreme fly ball pitchers like Slowey. 

It's unclear what the Rockies plan is at the moment as they have acquired starting pitching depth recently and apparently freed up Street's money with an eye towards buying another starter. We'll just have to wait and see what they do next as the Street trade is merely a salary dump, but it's also likely the precursor to something bigger. 

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