Last week’s trade with the Indians for right-handed eighth-inning guy Rafael Betancourt brought the Rockies close to a bullpen that can be considered a strength. Despite his struggles in Monday night’s 7-3 loss to the Mets, Juan Rincon is more suited for a role other than primary setup guy. Rookie Matt Daley has more room for error.
But there’s still the case of the missing lefty.
Franklin Morales is all the Rockies have from the left side. He is electric, but he also has some growing to do. His pitch sequence before giving up a grand slam to the Mets’ Fernando Tatis was an example of a guy learning on the job. But that might have been a good spot for a more experienced pitcher. (Of course, it could’ve been just one of those things that happen: Tatis has a .219 average against lefty pitchers.)
It would be nice, though, to have one more guy with a history of matching up with key left-handed hitters who can also handle the righty pinch-hitter. Some of the relievers have problems with lefties.
Lefties hit .260 with nine walks agaisnt 10 strikeouts against Daley. They hit .250 but with six walks agianst five strikeouts against Rincon. From a batting average perspective, the best option is Josh Fogg, who has held them to a .185 average. But the Rockies have used him sparingly because he is a long reliever on a staff that has its starters going deep in games.
The Orioles’ George Sherrill has been floated as an option, but it’s unlikely the Rockies could give up the pacakage the Orioles want. The Denver Post citing other clubs executives, point to the Orioles’ Mark Hendrickson and the Nationals’ Joe Beimel as possibilities. The paper noted the Rockies have gone after both in the past.
The ultimate for the Rockies would be to land one of them or another useful lefty by parting with a prospect, rather than disturbing the roster. They have to think long and hard before giving up outfielder Ryan Spilborghs, who is a strong clubhouse presence and more importantly has a history of providing exactly what the club needs offensively and defensively. Third baseman Garrett Atkins has been speculated about since the end of last season and lost his job to Ian Stewart during an ealry slump. But the at-bats have cleaned up to the point that he is a stategic weapon for manager Jim Tracy.
The Rockies have a late-innings reliever in right-hander Rafael Betancourt, whom they acquired from the Indians on Thursday for Class-A right-hander Connor Graham. Betancourt gives the Rockies an experienced arm for, potentially, the eighth inning as primary setup man for closer Huston Street.
With the Rockies leading the National League Wild Card race by 1 1/2 games over the Giants, who come to Coors Field on Friday, and with Rockies righty Manuel Corpas undergoing arthrtscopic surgery on his throwing elbow on Friday, the move became necessary. The Rockies also called up their top pitching prospect, Jhoulys Chacin, from Double-A Tulsa, for a right-handed middle role.
The Indians, who had no intention of picking up a $5.4 million option on Betancourt for 2011, add Graham, a Bowling Green, Ohio, native who has a 93 mph fastball.
His team is the subject of much trade talk in advance of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, but Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said he has “zero sense” as to whether or not the Indians will get a deal done.
“We’re extremely busy and active right now,” Shapiro said.
The two names on the lips of fans and writers alike are Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez. The Indians hold affordable options on both cornerstone players for 2010, and trading either or both of them before the ’10 season would be a tough sell to the fan base. But the Indians have to be open-minded about all serious offers for the Cy Young winner and the switch-hitting catcher because of the potential returns they could bring in.
That being said, if the Indians are active in the trade department this summer, it appears more likely that guys like Carl Pavano or Jamey Carroll — both of whom are eligible for free agency at season’s end — would be shopped. Reliever Rafael Betancourt can also be had, as the Indians aren’t likely to exercise his $5.4 million option for next season. The Tribe would listen to offers for closer Kerry Wood, but the $10.5 million he’s owed next year makes it doubtful that such offers exist.
Third baseman Jhonny Peralta and first baseman Ryan Garko could be deemed expendable by the Tribe, but those names, as well as those of Lee and Martinez, might be names to watch moreso in the offseason than at the deadline.
As far as how the deadline will shake out, Shapiro said the non-waiver component is perhaps less meaningful this year than in years past. Given the financial constraints holding back many teams right now, he expects the trades of very few players being blocked by the waiver system.
“This year, the [non-waiver] deadline is going to be far less relevant,” Shapiro said. “[The market] will probably be active all the way through August.”
What are the Indians searching for in the trade market? That’s easy. It’s pitching, pitching and more pitching.
— Anthony Castrovince