Rockies plan to boost pitching talent
Potential offseason additions likely to come via trade route
DENVER -- The Rockies are determined to go into 2009 with increased pitching talent.
How they get there will be the biggest story to follow during a Hot Stove season in which the Rockies intend to participate.
Usually, the Rockies have been content with making minor moves, either for back-of-the rotation starters, reserves or relievers. That will likely continue to be true this offseason in free agency. But this time, they want to make a splash in the trade market.
With left fielder Matt Holliday and center fielder Willy Taveras definitely on the trading block and third baseman Garrett Atkins available in the right deal, the Rockies are looking to go the trade route. Any deals will keep the payroll from increasing and rid problematic salaries. But they have to do more than that.
Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said as the regular season ended that the club needs a pitcher capable of dominating any game, and that hasn't changed. The reports regarding possible deals center on pitchers who fit that description from a talent standpoint, even if they don't have track records.
Some rumors have centered on the Angels' Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana, although any report mentioning their names seems to say the Angels would not make such a deal. The Red Sox's Clay Buchholz and the Rays' Andy Sonnanstine and Edwin Jackson represent the most-accomplished names rumored to be headed to Colorado in trades. But whether it's those three or Phillies prospects Carlos Carrasco and J.A. Happ, the Twins' Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey, the Indians' Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers, or the White Sox Lance Broadway, the Rockies are more interested in ability than the service time that leads to big paychecks.
The Rockies, remember, made it to the World Series in 2007 with a staff led by Aaron Cook, Jeff Francis and, toward the end, Ubaldo Jimenez. If they pitch at their best -- Francis will have to recover from an inconsistent and shoulder pain-plagued 2008 -- and the Rockies get something from Franklin Morales, who struggled, and Jason Hirsh, who battled a shoulder injury, they may be in good shape.
The other question is how the Rockies replace what they possibly lose, especially in Holliday and Atkins. Some of the trade rumors mention the Rockies receiving the Cardinals' Ryan Ludwick, the Rays' Carl Crawford and the Phillies' Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth. Of the players currently in the Rockies' fold, the big winners could be Ian Stewart, a former No. 1 pick who could take over at third, and outfielder Ryan Spilborghs, who has played well in part-time roles and looks to move into the lineup. The Rockies are touting prospect Seth Smith as a possible starter, but if they acquire an outfield bat, they can work Smith into the lineup slowly.
As for free agency, it could start with the Rockies trying to retain their own players, specifically left-handed pitcher Glendon Rusch, who can work in starting and relief roles, and outfielder Scott Podsednik. If the money is right, the Rockies could revert to their old plan of seeking a big league starter who wants to rebuild his value on a one-year contract. Former Dodgers stalwart Brad Penny fits that description.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.