Dan O’Dowd is quietly building a long-term contender in Denver.
Without making a major splash this offseason, O’Dowd has re-signed more of his prized young talent, inking Huston Street, Rafael Betancourt, and Chris Iannetta to multi-year deals.
He has jettisoned pieces that he could afford to lose in third baseman Garrett Atkins and catcher Yorvit Torrealba.
He has even taken a couple of low-risk gambles on former stars in Paul Lo Duca and Jay Payton.
But while all of these moves make sense, it’s hard to call this offseason a roaring success for Rockies fans.
With last season ending in a frustrating NLDS loss to the eventual NL Champion Philadelphia Phillies, Rockies fans saw a team that was close to title contention.
The team looked inexperienced and untested at times, but it was clear to those watching that the team had many of its pieces in place to make a run. The question going into the offseason was this: What else did the Rockies need?
From a purely baseball standpoint, the answer is clear. Colorado needs one more middle-of-the-order bat, and it needs to come from the right side.
Facing a left-handed pitcher, the Rockies project to have only four starters hitting from the right-hand side of the plate in Chris Iannetta, Clint Barmes, Dexter Fowler (a switch hitter), and Troy Tulowitzki. Of those, only Tulowitzki is considered a consistent power presence.
The rest of the order will likely be taken up with the likes of Todd Helton, Brad Hawpe, Carlos Gonzalez, and Ian Stewart, players that, while talented, can struggle at times against left-handed pitching.
Much of Colorado’s lineup is set for the coming year, so a move at this point is unlikely. With the departures of Atkins and Torrealba, the only position where a change might be made is second base, where Barmes still has not done enough to solidify his spot.
The Rockies might consider trade for a player like Florida’s Dan Uggla, a power hitting second baseman who could fit nicely behind Helton in the Rockies’ five-hole. O’Dowd is said to have discussed a potential move with Florida, but nothing has yet come to fruition.
Both would be interesting fits in Colorado, because each could hit second in the lineup, being high contact, above average speed guys.
Faced with intimidating lineups in Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Los Angeles, the Rockies may yet make a move this offseason to fortify the middle of the order. Such a move would likely put fans at ease but would seem out of line with many of O’Dowd’s transactions.
Whatever happens, expect the Rockies to stay in contention for much of the 2010 season. How far the team goes, however, may depend on how willing O’Dowd is in committing resources to a final piece of the puzzle.