Colorado Rockies at the MLB Trade Deadline: Part Two, Starting Pitching

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Colorado Rockies at the MLB Trade Deadline: Part Two, Starting Pitching
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This is the second of three articles looking at the Rockies at the trade deadline. The first one was on the bullpen, and the next will be position players/offense. This article will look at starting pitching.

The Rockies have been rumored to be looking at starting pitching at the trade deadline. Just to hear the Rockies as potential buyers is somewhat surprising.

Let’s look at the Rockies current rotation listed in order of ERA/2010 performance:

Ubaldo Jimenez : Has anyone not heard of Ubaldo’s amazing season? Ubaldo is the Rockies ace. He’s not going anywhere. However, he’s only had one quality start in his last six starts. I’ve heard some inside rumblings that Ubaldo is suffering from “tired arm” from his workload this season. Don’t be shocked if he needs to go on the DL for 15 days to rest.

Jason Hammel: Did you think at the beginning of the season Hammel would be a No. 2? Hammel has been the biggest surprise in the Rockies rotation. He has put up numbers of 7-6, 4.34 ERA, with a .277 Batting Average Against in 17 games started.

Hammel has had eight quality starts over his last 10 games, putting up a record of 5-3 with 4.34 ERA. His stuff is not that of a No. 2 pitcher, but he’s young and still on the upside, and could be a solid middle of the rotation player

Jeff Francis: Jeff is coming off a terrible shoulder injury that kept him out all of 2009. He’s been up and down this season—mostly down—but as of late, he’s been a little better, with two quality starts in this last road trip.

It was a terrible road trip, but you can’t blame the guy once known as “Jeff Franchise.” Jeff will be a free agent after this season. The Rockies do have an option year for next year for $7 million, but it's doubtful they'll pick that up.

Aaron Cook: Cook has been consistently inconsistent this season. A 4.78 ERA and a .282 BAA belies the fact that Cook has had only three quality starts in his last seven times to take the bump. Last week was a snapshot of Cooks year.

Against Cincinnati, he went seven innings, scattering six hits and giving up no runs. His next start on Friday and Cook couldn’t get out of the fifth inning, getting chased giving up five runs on nine hits and three walks.

Cook's season would be acceptable if he were the No. 5 starter. But, Cook is one of the highest paid Rockies on the team, making $9 million this year, and has one more year on his contract when he will make $9.2 million in 2011 plus a $.5 million buyout. If traded, Cook’s salary goes up $1 million a year.

Jorge De La Rosa: If Hammel has been the biggest surprise, George of the Rose has been the biggest disappointment.

De La Rosa has only made seven starts this year while spending time on the DL with a torn tendon in his index finger of his pitching hand. Since coming back from injury JDLR has had three starts, and the first two were particularly offal, giving up seven runs in 4.1 innings in his first game off the DL, then following that up with 3.1 innings and another seven runs.

However, there was a glimmer of hope. In his latest outing, he had a quality start, going six innings and only giving up two runs and striking out eight against the Marlins. Jorge De La Rosa will also be a free agent after this season. I think the Rockies would like to re-sign him, but the injury throws his value on the open market into question.

Jhoulys Chacin: Chacin was called up to fill in for Jorge De La Rosa. As a starter he was solid, with the second best ERA as a starter for the team with 3.38. He was moved to the bullpen to make room for JDLR's return, and Chacin was terrible in that role with a 6.32 ERA in the month of July.

That got him sent back to AAA, where he’ll go back to the rotation and prepare to be a rotation replacement in case of injuries. Chacin is a top pitching prospect, and should be a regular in the rotation in 2011, but he’s a rookie and rookie pitchers are inconsistent.

The rumors concerning the Rockies starting pitching are they want a quality starting pitcher. What I’ve heard from my sources at the Rockies and also out in the Internet rumor mill world, is the Rockies want a No. 2 type pitcher or better. Along those lines, the Rockies have been linked to a few of the biggest names for starting pitchers available in Dan Haren and Ted Lilly.

Dan Haren is strikeout pitcher, with at times overpowering stuff. He has 141 Ks on the year so far. But he has a 4.60 ERA and a .285 BAA. That’s not much of an improvement over Francis or Cook, and worse than Chacin. It’s nice to have had the Rockies associated with Haren though, before he was traded to the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles

Another name out there associated with the Rockies is Ted Lilly. Lilly is sinker-ball pitcher with the Cubs and for the most part sinker-ballers have good success in Coors Field. His record is only 3-8 this year, but that’s not a good stat anyways. His ERA is .388 with WHIP of 1.12. Lilly would be rental as he’s a free agent after the season.

Now, I had a source that told me the Rox were looking at Ben Sheets before his injury. Sheets had been getting better as the season has gone along, with seven quality starts in his last 10 starts going back to the end of May.

Sheets will be free agent after the season. However, he is now on the DL with an elbow injury, and is expected to miss a good chunk of time. Sheets has been a walking injury report over his career, and his latest setback doesn’t help his injury-prone reputation.

Are there pitchers out there who might be better than Cook or Francis? Yes. Would the Rockies be able to give up enough in prospects to get them?  Again, yes. The Rockies have depth in a lot of positions to trade from in their minor league system.

Any move to upgrade over Cook or Francis will also, I assume, include Cook or Francis going back to the other team to free up a rotation spot. Cook’s salary and another year on his contract coupled with his performance leaves him un-tradeable. So we are really talking about upgrading Francis. And it’s Francis who just had the best week of pitching of all the starters.

Not So Bold Prediction : The Rockies won’t add a starter at the trade deadline. There are not many starting pitchers on the level the Rockies are wanting, and because of that their price in trade and contract will be too steep. I doubt if the Rockies will be able or willing to pay. The Rockies do have a major league level pitcher in Chacin in AAA in case of injury, so they do have depth.

However, expect the Rockies to be players in the offseason for a quality starting pitcher. If Helton retires and thus frees up salary, the Rockies could in for some top pitchers.

This article also featured on The Rockies Reporter.

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