Unbeknownst to many baseball fans and highway architects alike, Oakland Athletics' general manager Billy Beane and Rockies' GM Dan O'Dowd went into the offseason with blueprints for a major project that could only be defined as "ambitious."
The plan? A pipeline that runs directly from McAfee Coliseum in Oakland, Calif. to Coors Field in Denver.
This proposed pipeline would transport not only automobiles, freight, and the occasional roadkill raccoon, but Major League Baseball players traveling between the two cities and teams behind the historic enterprise.
Alan Embree drew the short straw and took the initial trek from Cali to Colorado. Once Alan arrived safely in the Mile High City, both organizations knew their paved path was safe.
Then came the Matt Holliday deal, a 3-for-1 swap that sent relief pitcher Huston Street, starting pitcher Greg Smith, and hot-shot outfield prospect Carlos Gonzalez to the Rockies in exchange for the superstar slugger.
You thought they were done? Oh, no. The two trade-happy GMs had one more deal up their respective sleeves, finalizing a trade that sent reserve outfielder Matt Murton to Colorado for minor league speed demon Corey Wimberly.
The Rockies dealt from a position of strength within their minor league system. Wimberly was a solid young player and he led the Texas League in stolen bases. He could play a myriad of positions, but he also was stuck behind Clint Barmes and Ian Stewart at the Major League level and Eric Young Jr. and Chris Nelson in the minors.
Murton, a career .312 hitter against left-handed pitching, could form a productive platoon with Seth Smith, a career .314 hitter against righties. With Murton coming into the fold, he fills out the 40-man roster, but also adds to the slew of outfielders vying for a starting spot in 2009.
With Brad Hawpe fully entrenched in right field, there are now eight candidates for the other two positions. Ryan Spilborghs presumably has the upper hand in center with prospects Dexter Fowler and Gonzalez giving him stiff competition. Veteran Scott Podsednik was also invited to Spring Training as a non-roster player after hitting .253 in 93 games with the Rockies in 2008.
In left, Smith will have every opportunity to win the job in the spring, but if he falters in the Arizona sun, Gonzalez, Murton, and non-roster invitee Dan Ortmeier will push him for playing time.
In an effort to get Stewart consistent repetitions, he will also be put into the outfield mix to keep his thunderstick in the starting nine.
That is assuming, of course, that no more players will be making the trip down the Oakland-Denver pipeline between now and Feb. 17, when position players report to camp.
At this rate, it's anybody's guess.
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