Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Colorado Rockies active at Winter Meetings, deal Street to Padres

The Colorado Rockies are quietly rebuilding their roster in Dallas at the annual baseball winter meetings.

With all of the hype around what the newly-named Miami Marlins are doing, particularly signing Jose Reyes to an absurd amount of money and trying to lure Albert Pujols with an even more absurd amount of money, the Rockies have seemed quiet. However, the club is doing anything but standing pat.

If Dan O'Dowd believed that Jim Tracy wasn't the issue, and Jim Tracy believed that none of his coaches were the issue, then they are backing up their beliefs this week.

Instead of re-tooling the coaching staff, the Rockies are quietly changing a clubhouse mindset that most believe became too comfortable, too okay with losing.

The other issue that became glaringly obvious in 2011 is that the Rockies are not as deep as they thought they were. that is particularly true when it comes to starting pitching. It was so apparent that the club was in a position that they were almost forced to deal former ace Ubaldo Jimenez, just to have additional options.

With a clubhouse that became too content, and a lack of starting pitching depth, the Rockies are trying to kill two birds with one stone. Last week they shipped Chris Iannetta to the Angels for Tyler Chatwood, a 21-year old starting pitcher who has the potential to be a back-end starter, or a late-inning reliever. They also traded a player-to-be-named-later for Kevin Slowey from the Minnesota Twins, a rebound candidate who went winless in 2011, but was a double-digit winning the previous three seasons.

Earlier in the offseason they parted ways with O'Dowd's biggest mistake from a year ago, trading Ty Wigginton to the Phillies for nothing more than salary relief.

It was well known that the Rockies were doing their best to trade Huston Street, especially considering that he had been supplanted by Rafael Betancourt as the closer, and the future is looking closer than ever with Rex Brothers proving that he has the ability to get the job done at the big league level.

With Street owed $7.5 million going into 2012, most thought that the Rockies would have to eat a large chunk of his salary. However, O'Dowd worked out a deal with the division-rival Padres, who were willing to absorb almost all of Street's contract.

The salary relief puts the Rockies in a great position to go make a move to fill a hole. Signs point to them making a run at Michael Cuddyer from Minnesota, or taking a chance at Cody Ross to fill some holes.

Guys like Cuddyer and Ross are clear examples of the Rockies wanting to change the mindset in the clubhouse. Both of those guys are grinders. They are both guys who want to win at all costs.

With Iannetta and Wigginton gone, and Seth Smith and Ian Stewart squarely on the trading block, the Rockies objective is clear. All of four of those players are similar type of players. They all play hard, but their enthusiasm is not clear. They may be passionate for the game, but when there are too many quiet type of players on the field, it becomes infectious and almost lulls a team to sleep.

Not everyone needs to be like Troy Tulowitzki. In fact, 25 guys like Tulowitzki might be worse than 25 guys who are the opposite. However, there needs to be a good mix, and the Rockies clearly haven't had that over the past two seasons. Players can be quiet, but their desire to win needs to be evident. Todd Helton is the best example of that. No one questions his desire to win. It oozes from his pores.

The Rockies are in the process of rebuilding the talent on their roster, but more importantly, they are in the process of rebuilding the mindset in the clubhouse.

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