The Colorado Rockies are never going to go after big name free agents. They will never be in a bidding war with the Yankees and Red Sox for the highest priced players.
Those days are over.
After the failed signings of Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle, whom the Rockies spent nearly $175 million on in 2001, the franchise shifted gears and decided to build from within.
That decision has paid off in two playoff appearances in three years, and one National League pennant.
While the method has proven to be effective, there are still holes in the theory.
The problem is that as the farm system develops players, the Major League squad must look outside the organization to fill the holes in which the young players are not ready to assume.
That means that the Rockies must fill some of their largest holes with other organizations cast-offs. In 2007 the team found themselves in the World Series despite having a fifth starter carousel that included Rodrigo Lopez, Mark Redman, Ramon Ortiz, and even Elmer Dessens.
The Rockies won in ’07 due to young players like Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales coming up from the minors and playing at levels that were far above what anyone could have expected from the rookies.
In ’07, the Rockies got lucky. 2008 was not so kind. GM Dan O’Dowd went back to the scrap heap to fill his rotation, bringing in veterans Kip Wells and Josh Towers. Wells had led the National League in losses the previous season in St. Louis, but had experienced success in the past, which led the Rockies to take a flier on him. Towers was coming off an injury-plagued ’07 and was looking for a chance. He got it with the Rockies.
Wells struggled all the way through Spring Training, but still found himself on the Opening Day roster. After rain washed away the first four innings of the opener, the righty found himself starting in what would be the opening game. He won a well pitched game.
Unfortunately for Wells that would be the last of his good pitching. After posting a 5.27 ERA in 15 games, the Rockies were done with Wells and released him.
Towers never made it to the big league squad. He struggled all season long in Triple-A Colorado Springs, posting an ERA above seven.
In 2009 Dan O’Dowd showed his shrewdness, acquiring five time 10 game winner Jason Marquis from the Cubs. The move paid off with veteran leadership and a career high 15 wins to cap off an All-Star appearances for the Long Island native.
With the 2010 season around the corner, the Rockies are still looking for pitching depth to provide their youngsters some room for error. They lost Marquis to free agency and are relying on Jeff Francis to come back strong after missing ’09 with a torn labrum.
With free agent pitchers quickly finding homes for the 2010 season, there is one shining name still on the market. A name that is extremely decorated with awards and accolades, a name that will one day be enshrined in Cooperstown.
That name? Pedro Martinez.
The Dominican righty was impressive in his brief stint with the Phillies. He went 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA in 44-2/3 innings pitched. He looked like the Pedro Martinez from the early part of the decade.
While questions loom large over whether Martinez could be effective for an entire season, there is no reason to think that there is no gas left in Martinez’s tank.
Five years ago, the asking price would have been far too high for the Rockies, but the asking price is significantly less right now. It may be low enough for Colorado to take a chance and if it does not pan out, for them to simply part ways.
It is not unreasonable to think that Martinez could be had for around $5 million. That may be a stretch for the Rockies, but would be a better investment than paying half of that amount to someone who does not possess the resume of Martinez.
The move might work for everyone involved. Martinez is the boyhood hero of Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez, and reportedly calls Jimenez after watching his starts and gives him pitching advice. With Martinez in the dugout, Jimenez can have another knowledgeable voice to help the young righty become even better.
While the move probably will never happen, it is one that might be smart for the Rockies to consider, especially considering the lack of depth in this off season’s pitching market.