Colorado Rockies: Is Cuddyer the Chip to Put Them over the Top?

Christopher BenvieCorrespondent IIDecember 18, 2011

Colorado Rockies: Is Cuddyer the Chip to Put Them over the Top?

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    I will admit it, when I first heard about the Colorado Rockies signing Michael Cuddyer for three years and $31.5 million, I was a bit confused and surprised by the move.

    Back in August, when the Rockies traded away arguably the greatest pitcher in the team's history, Ubaldo Jimenez, my reading of the tea leaves was not telling me that it was to "to make our team better in the very near future," as general manager Dan O'Dowd had stated, but rather to shed themselves of the contract and save money.

    Clearly, I was wrong.

    The signing of Michael Cuddyer has made me want to reassess the chips that were traded to Colorado and look at the team's composition for the 2012 season. Was trading Jimenez really the fastest way to be better in a more timely manner?

    Maybe, just maybe.  Let's have a look.

First Thing's First: What the Rockies Gave Up

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    As I stated, Jimenez might have been one of, if not the greatest pitcher the Rockies organization had ever seen and it was difficult to see him go. However, since joining the Cleveland Indians, his numbers have not been that great.  

    Perhaps it has to do with switching leagues or perhaps O'Dowd knew something that the rest of us did not, but Jimenez's ERA went up from 4.46 in 21 games for the Rockies in the NL to 5.10 in 11 games for the AL Indians.

    His 1.374 WHIP increased as well against AL batters, rising to 1.454.

    Of course, there is no way of knowing at this point if Jimenez will shake off this mediocre start in the American League and prove himself to be the pitcher the Indians believed they were getting.

    After all, he is out of the league's most hitter-friendly ballpark and one would surmise that that alone should result in better overall statistics.

Drew Pomeranz: A Player That Had an Immediate Place on the Team

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    Drew Pomeranz came over to the Rockies and was instantly put into the rotation. The 23-year-old has a big frame and is an imposing lefty on the mound.

    His mechanics may be called into question by some, but I feel that these are minor things that can be worked out. Pomeranz has tremendous upside.

    In 2011, he ended up pitching in four games for the Rockies, earning a 2-1 record with a 5.40 ERA and 1.309 WHIP in 18.1 innings pitched. While those numbers may not sound very impressive, I feel obligated to remind you that this was only his first taste of big-league hitting and he wasn't much worse than Jimenez's 4.46 ERA and 1.374 WHIP for Colorado.

    With a full spring training under his belt and working with pitching coach Bob Apodaca, I feel that Pomeranz will prove to be a great acquisition.

Alex White: Another Tall Righty Added to the Mix

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    Alex White was another player that found himself immediately playing for the big club, but I hold reservations about his progress.

    While also 23 years of age, I feel that White is a bit behind Pomeranz as a big league pitcher. While the righty does offer an imposing figure on the mound, his mechanics leave something to be desired.

    White does have good arm strength, capable of throwing his fastball between 92-95 MPH and he complements that pitch with a smooth sinking fastball that should, in time, allow him to be a good ground ball pitcher for the Rockies.

    My problem is his command. His ERA in seven games for the Rockies was an abysmal 8.42 with a WHIP of 1.761. This is not an uncommon complaint for White.  

    His career ERA in the majors is 7.01 with a WHIP of 1.695. In my opinion, White should spend some quality time in Colorado Springs during the first half of the season and work on his control.

    If that can be managed and his ERA/WHIP brought down to earth, bringing him up late in the season could help the Rockies make it deep into fall ball.

Joe Gardner: Third Pitcher Received in the Deal

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    Joe Gardner is a double-A pitcher that the Rockies received in the deal as well. According to MLB Prospect Portal:

    Gardner primarily throws a hard two-seam fastball and a sinker in the low 90s which helps him generate a ton of ground balls. He's working on a changeup and occasionally spins a breaking ball but at this point hitters are able to pick it up early enough that they aren't often fooled by it. His two-seamer has outstanding movement and sometimes runs right out of the zone, but he can bury it on the hands of right-handed batters.

    His numbers in the minor leagues are not half bad at all, posting an ERA of 3.49 with a WHIP of 1.274 in two seasons. While also only 23 years old, Gardner clearly needs a little bit of triple-A ball experience before being called up.

    I don't think it will be far-fetched to see him up with the big club late in the season, or become trade bait down the road to fill other gaps.

Matt McBride: Utility Man

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    Matt McBride has been used primarily as a utility player in the minors. The 26-year-old may very well find himself doing the same for the big club, but I honestly do not see any immediate need for him.

    While he was sent to Colorado as part of the deal, in my opinion he will have no significant impact on the Major League club.

    If in a bind, McBride does offer a career .281 BA, .344 OBP, .465 SLG and .809 OPS in six seasons in the minors. He has experience catching, playing first base, left field, right field and in the clutch could be utilized as a designated hitter in inter-league games.

Will Cuddyer Be Playing Left or Right?

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    With Seth Smith likely being sent back down the the minors (while unlikely considering his numbers), becoming trade bait or playing the role of fourth outfielder for the big squad, the question I have then is where exactly do the Rockies intend on playing Cuddyer?

    Historically, he is a right fielder and has played some first base, which can benefit Todd Helton when in need of a day off. Then again, it seems as though Cuddyer has played a bit of every position when called upon to do so.

    However, he has only played a total of nine games in left, while playing 670 in right.  I believe the Rockies will move Carlos Gonzalez to left field permanently and utilize Cuddyer in the position he is most comfortable.

    As far as the batting order goes, Cuddyer will not be able to give you the same production that Matt Holliday once did (.319 BA, .386 OBP, .552 SLG, .938 OPS for the Rox), but he will likely increase his career .272 BA, .343 OBP, .451 SLG, .794 OPS playing in Coors Field.

    In short, while I was short-sighted with my evaluation of the Jimenez deal, luckily the Rockies brass was not and they've acquired just the piece to put them back where they should be: playing in October.