Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Into the Sunset
Photo by Chris Schneider © The Rocky Mountain News
Matty, we're going to miss you. But you sealed your fate when you signed on with Scott Boras. I'm not suggesting the 4-year $72 million contract extension (through 2013) you turned down last spring represented full market value. But when you sign on with Boras, you sign on to 100% hit your free agency, and not agree to any contract that buys out any free agent years prior to hitting the opon market. If you'll recall, your current deal only runs through arbitration years.
So when you picked up Boras a couple years ago, you had to know the ship was leaving the harbor, with regard to you staying with the Rockies. That's the part that makes me sad, that you pretty much decided two years ago that you would be leaving the club, even before leading us to the playoffs on your chin.
Here in Denver, most of the low-info types are having the predictable reactions on the Denver newspaper messageboards -- fire Dealin' Dan now! fire the Monforts!!!! we'll never go to another game!!!!
To you guys, I say, fine, better seats for me next year. Holliday getting traded became an eventual fait accompli two years ago, and to that end, what we got for what is essentially a one-year rental, is a pretty decent haul, with the chance to be even better. Carlos Gonzales is a stud with true All-Star potential. Above average speed, outstanding defense, and will hit for more power as he matures. He was a bit overmatched this year in his big league debut, but he was only 22. My only concern is sa lack of plate discipline, but that doesn't seem to hurt Vlad Guerrero, and I see similarities in the two players.
Huston Street? Well, we may spin him in a deal with Garret Atkins or Willie Taveras, for a real quality young pitcher (and by that, I mean a lot better than Greg Smith, the third piece in the Holliday deal). The Rockies may also keep Atkins for one more year, which would be my preference, depending on whether they make a move to sign Orlando Hudson or not. If they don't sign Hudson, I'm comfortable trying Ian Stewart at 2nd, and still leaving us with flexibility we need in the infield corners, given the inflexibility in Todd Helton's back.
As for Greg Smith, I'm not that familiar with him, except that I see he's a soft-tossing lefty who suffered the worst run support in the American League last year (contributing to his win-loss record, which is a meaningless stat in so many way), but that he walks too many hitters without striking out enough. He's probably a reasonable #4 or #5 starter, but if he can pitch to more groundballs and less walks, he may improve. He looks to be an innings-eater, but just had bone chips removed from his elbow. The Rockies have several young options for the bottom of the rotation, but they haven't proven themselves yet.
In a reasonably perfect world, we try to spin off some combination Garret Atkins and either Greg Smith or Huston Street for a better quality young starter (say, Kevin Slowey or Nick Blackburn), and then make free agent runs at Juan Cruz (as closer) and Orlando Hudson (at 2nd base). I'm also okay with plugging Street into our closer role for next year, given Brian Fuentes' imminent departure for $12m a year to the Mets.
If, in the end, it's effectively a trade of Matt Holliday and Garret Atkins, for Carlos Gonzales, Nick Blackburn, and one of Smith/Street, I'll actually be more than pleased. Ian Stewart is more than ready to take over the hot corner, and while it's unlikely to replace Holliday's production in full, Gonzales should be a big improvement over Taveras, and a combination of Ryan Spillborghs/Seth Smith will do a credible job in left -- at least until Dexter Fowler is truly ready, and Gonzales slides over to left or right field (I see Hawpe as Helton's eventual replacement at 1st base...)
I'm not going to make any excuses for the Monfort's, I think they're clearly in the bottom rung of major league owners, and I really wish they'd sell the team to someone like Mark Cuban. But I also recognize how badly they were burned by long term deals in the past for Todd Helton, Mike Hampton, and Denny Neagle. Signing a player to a 6- or 8-year guaranteed deal taking them into their late 30s is simply poor risk management. The Rockies said they would go higher on a per year basis for Holliday, but they weren't going to meet Boras' demands for a contract that runs through 2015, by which time Holliday would be two years older than Todd Helton is today.
I'm sad the parties couldn't meet in the middle, but again, Matt Holliday hoisted up that sail the day he signed on with Scott Boras.