Time for Rockies to move forward

To say that the Colorado Rockies are going through a tough year would be a gross understatement. The major league club enters Thursday in complete shambles having lost 16 of their last 20 games since Alex White and Christian Friedrich won back to back starts on June 3-4.

The Rockies are 18 games under .500 and 14 games back in the NL West, which is still winnable for the Giants and Diamondbacks after slow starts. The Rockies pitching has obviously been the main problem as they rank dead last in team ERA+ (87) and WHIP (1.61) in the National League. 

Wednesday night the Rockies called upon lefty Edwar Cabrera to make his MLB debut. Cabrera led the minor leagues in strikeouts last year pitching at Single-A levels. He was 23-years-old, an advanced age for the level. This year at Double-A Tulsa, Cabrera was very effective (0.89 WHIP) and was still striking batters out (21.7% K%) though not at the same rate as before. He was also benefitting from a .196 BABIP allowed, saving his ERA from his much more representative of his performance 4.31 FIP. 

The biggest problem for Cabrera based on his minor league numbers was that he's a little too hittable for the big leagues right now as he has allowed 15 home runs in 98 Double-A innings. This was quite apparent during his debut as Cabrera surrendered three home runs to Washington Nationals hitters in just 2.1 innings. 

After the game, Jim Tracy said it would be discussed internally before the club decides if Cabrera will make his next start in the big leagues. I'm purely speculating, but I think it's safe to assume that Cabrera will be going back to the minor leagues. He's clearly not ready for the majors, which honestly anyone could've looked at his numbers and concluded as much before he joined the circus in Colorado last night. 

Jeremy Guthrie pitched four innings out of the bullpen last night after Cabrera's departure. If the Rockies do send Cabrera back down, they could move Guthrie back to the rotation if only as an attempt to boost his dwindling trade value.

They could also recall the organization's top pitching prospect Drew Pomeranz, but one would have to assume at this point that Pomeranz would've already been recalled if the Rockies wanted to go that route. The openings have obviously been there as the Rockies continue to send unsure rookies and veterans off the scrap heap to the mound night after night. 

That brings me to my larger point, which is that this major league season for the Rockies has become a mere formality. The Rockies are out of it and with a full month before the trade deadline, it's time to take inventory. What do they need? Pitching, obviously. What can they get rid of? Well, let's see. 

Marco Scutaro is on a one year deal, the only problem with trading him is that he hasn't played nearly well enough (82 OPS+ and shaky defense) to get something worthwhile back.

General Manager Dan O'Dowd said yesterday in a conference call that teams have been calling him about Michael Cuddyer. Still, he's unlikely to be dealt as the Rockies value him more highly than other clubs do, which is a nice way of saying they overpaid for Cuddyer. He's a 33-year-old corner outfielder with a .310 OBP and little defensive value, if that isn't the guy this team should trade I don't know who is. 

Cuddyer is certainly a player who could help a contending club, but he isn't going to be the savior for the Rockies. He's a league average bat (97 OPS+, so almost league average) in his decline phase and the Rockies guaranteed him $31.5MM just a few months ago. 

If there was ever a series of moves that showed a front office that had know clue about what they were doing, it was the Rockies this past offseason. They made easily the worst trade of the offseason swapping Jason Hammel, who has a 3.26 ERA in the AL, for Guthrie. They acquired some of the most extreme fly ball pitchers in the game in Kevin Slowey, Guillermo Moscoso, and Tyler Chatwood. They came to their senses and dealt Slowey shortly thereafter, but giving up outfielder Seth Smith (128 OPS+) for Moscoso and Josh Outman has to be the second worst trade of the offseason.  

These moves showed that the Rockies didn't anticipate to be in the bottom half of the league this year. In order to justify signing a veteran for big money like Cuddyer, you have to be a contender. This team is obviously not even close. The Rockies have the third lowest winning percentage in baseball better than only the Padres and Cubs. The pitching has been horrific, but it's still the case of a bad team that Jim Tracy is making worse. The Rockies pythagorean record is four games better than their actual record and everyday that Tracy gets to keep his job the slog to possibly the number one pick in the 2013 draft continues. 

Last night, Tracy made one of his worst tactical moves, no matter how irrelevant it was. I had already turned off the game by the time this actually happened, but in the fifth inning after a leadoff single with the Rockies trailing by eight runs Tracy asked Dexter Fowler to sacrifice bunt. Fowler, it should be noted, is in the midst of his best season in baseball (133 OPS+, leading the league in triples) and is a franchise building block for this organization going forward. The fact that Tracy is letting players like Cuddyer and Tyler Colvin challenge Fowler for playing time shows you how completely out of sorts this organization is. A sacrifice bunt in that situation is nonsensical if it's your number eight hitter doing the bunting, but with your second best hitter? That should be a fireable offense. 

That's the even greater point here: this madness won't stop until Tracy and O'Dowd get canned, which hopefully will be sometime shortly after the season ends. That's really the only way for this organization to move forward. 

Move forward, they will. Talking to some people around the game recently, the idea of rebuilding the Rockies has come up. Although opinions on this matter differ, I'm not one who thinks the organization is in need of a complete facelift. In fact, the Rockies actually have a pretty decent core of players. 

Pitching is going to be a challenge, but assuming Juan Nicasio and Jhoulys Chacin comeback strong next year it shouldn't be impossible to put together a staff. Jorge De La Rosa has been shutdown for the season, but he could conceivably be back next year too. Drew Pomeranz is still young with little service time and still projects as a number two starter. Christian Friedrich has the rest of this year and the offseason to work on his control. He could be a legitimate back of the rotation guy by then. Alex White will probably have to move to the bullpen because of his lack of secondary pitches. Tyler Anderson and Edwar Cabrera could be ready to eat up some back of the rotation innings next year or the year after. As long as we're talking about the future, Tyler Matzek and Chad Bettis could also break through in the coming years. 

Anyway, the pitching will be a challenge, but it pretty much always will be at Coors Field. The reason for real hope in the Rockies future is their offensive core. The Rockies have the kind of good young talent that will ensure a productive offense for years to come. Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez are both 26. Troy Tulowitzki is 27. Josh Rutledge is 23 and could be the Rockies everyday second basemen next year. Nolan Arenado is 21 and could be the Rockies everyday third basemen next year. Wilin Rosario is 23 and despite my distaste for his poor plate approach and OBP, it looks like he's going to hit enough for a catcher (91 OPS+ with a .271 OBP). 

Now, just look at all that up the middle talent. The Rockies have their bases covered on offense going forward. This could be a dynamic group offensively and defensively soon. CarGo and Fowler in the outfield gives them two outfielders with plus range. Right now, neither Tulo or Arenado are in Colorado, but a year from now we could be watching a whole lot of arm strength and power on the left side of the infield. 

Sorting out the pitching, which largely depends on health, will be tough but with the young arms in the pipeline and a very early draft pick next year the Rockies aren't as far off as you might think.

Complete rebuild? I just don't see that. The Rockies need to clean house and reload around their core of young players.

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