Last week, I focused my top 10 list on reasons why the Ubaldo trade was a good idea. I was playing devil’s advocate, because at the moment I still think it was a bad idea. Maybe a couple years from now it will turn out not to be, but I’ve yet to be convinced. Here are some reasons why.
10. That Was Our Ace! Our Ace!!
Regardless of the good that may or may not come from this trade, I still can’t make peace with the fact that this organization traded away the only legitimate ace it’s ever produced. For those of us who have been Rockies fans since the very beginning, this feels like a grievous betrayal. We had glimmers of hope with guys like Jason Jennings and even Aaron Cook, but neither of them ever had the potential Ubaldo has. And then there were the failed experiments where we tried to buy an ace, like Mike Hampton. After all that, Ubaldo was such a breath of fresh air. He had a better first half than I ever thought a Rockie could have in 2010, and now he’s gone. Who knows how long it will take to truly replace him?
9. His Team-Friendly Contract
Ubaldo really isn’t making that much money over the next couple seasons: $7 million between 2011 and 2012. He was much cheaper for us to keep around than he was for the Indians to acquire him. Sure, he had his issues this year, but it really seemed like he was working those out. He had some killer starts in the last few months. Without him, our rotation is crippled. The rebuilding process could take years, and could get expensive. It would have been nice to have at least one affordable, solid guy in the mix to help hold it all together.
8. Ubaldo Was Happy
There is no indication that Ubaldo wanted to go anywhere. Of course, once he was traded he talked about how he was excited to be playing for a contender, but he never publicly said that before the fact. If he didn’t think the Rockies could contend, he kept that to himself. Any time he was asked, he made it clear that he loved playing in Colorado. In the past, whenever the organization has made a high-profile move like this, it’s been to ship off someone who was visibly unhappy. Much as I love Matt Holliday, it was a little bit of a “good riddance” feeling to see him go after his whining. I don’t have any of that towards Ubaldo. He was a joyful player no matter the circumstances. I really think he would have been glad to stay in Denver as long as we wanted him there. It’s a shame that the management’s wanting ran out so soon.
Jorge De La Rosa’s Tommy John surgery seemed to signal the beginning of the end for the 2011 Rockies. After a too-good-to-be-true April, the Rox were mired in a horribly disappointing May, and when DLR came out of a game against the Diamondbacks on the 24th, it was like a harbinger of death on the horizon. Sure enough, while his recovery has been smooth, we’ll be lucky to have him back by the beginning of 2012. The Rockies began 2011 with a solid front end to their rotation in Ubaldo, DLR, and Jhoulys Chacin. Now we’re down to Chacin, and he’s way too young to be carrying that weight. He has had some fantastic outings this season, and his ceiling seems like it’s very high, but he’s too inexperienced to be an ace yet. We’ve gone from a play-off-ready rotation to a bunch of kids who need a lot of hand-holding. The tables have turned, and the front office helped to turn them.
6. It Sent a Strange Message to the Other Players
Dan O’Dowd didn’t come out and say this, but it seems clear that at least part of the point of this trade was to send a wake-up call to the rest of the team. They have not been performing at all this season as a group, and the organization seems to think it’s appropriate to tell everyone that if they don’t fix what’s broken, they’ll get shipped off to another team. I would much rather they had found a way to get everyone to pull together and work together. Teamwork has been so sorely lacking this season, and the way to remedy that isn’t to punish people. That just makes everybody focus more on their own individual performances to make sure they aren’t the next to go, and the result is an even more fragmented, poorly playing team. Great. Good job O’Dowd.
5. It Made Tulo Be a Complete Jerk
Troy Tulowitzki’s reaction to the trade the night that it happened was that Ubaldo hadn’t pitched up to expectations this season, and that this is what happens when that’s the case. Of course Ubaldo didn’t live up to expectations, but no one has, and that includes Tulo. What a mean, heartless thing to say. This is the guy who positions himself as the leader in the clubhouse. I adore him for the most part, but that was a misstep. It’s not his place to comment on someone else’s performance like that, especially since it’s not like the team has been winning like crazy except when Ubaldo was on the mound. To me this reinforces the message that the front office may or may not have been trying to send, and it makes Tulo look like a jerk. He has a long way to go if he thinks that’s leadership.
4. Our Pitchers Just Got a Lot Less Experienced
Here’s a stat for you. If Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, the crown jewels of this trade for the Rockies, join the rotation in 2012, and the other three starters are Chacin, Juan Nicasio, and Esmil Rogers, the combined major-league experience of these 5 is 510 innings pitched (as of today, August 16th). Most major-league rotations have upwards of 5,000 innings pitched. This is a very young, very green bunch. Of course, the hope is that DLR will be able to come back next season and/or Jason Hammel will figure his stuff out, which would help the experience quota considerably. But the fact remains that this is a team of the future, not the present. Which leads me to …
3. The Front Office Threw in the Towel
I realize that the trade deadline is about teams deciding if they can contend or not and buying or selling accordingly. It’s completely acceptable for O’Dowd and company to look around and say, hmm, this season isn’t going to happen. Let’s cut our losses and try to plan for the future. But this season started out looking like it might be the best in team history. To be in the final stretch and have things so completely broken down is really hard. Maybe, MAYBE this trade was too good to pass up. But is the loss of morale really worth it? Is O’Dowd’s lack of belief in what this team can accomplish in 2011 an acceptable price to pay for what they MIGHT do in 2012 or 2013? At the moment, it feels like it isn’t.
2. It Was Handled Terribly
No Rockies fan will ever forget Ubaldo’s final start in a Colorado uniform. Less than an hour before the trade was finalized, he was trotted out to the mound at Petco Park as Esmil Rogers warmed in the bullpen behind him. It was so unfeeling of the management to send him out like that. They should have scratched him and kept him in the dugout until the deal was done. He gave up 4 runs in the one inning he pitched. It was embarrassing and painful for the fans. It said a lot about how the organization views their players. I was so ashamed to be a Rockies fan on that day. It will be a long time before I forget that.
1. The Rotation of the Future
This was also my number one reason for why the trade was a good idea. That’s because the success of the trade stands or falls on how things work out with White and Pomeranz. They could come to Denver and suddenly forget how to pitch. White has started out well at Tulsa, but Coors Field is a completely different stage. Pomeranz hasn’t thrown one pitch for a team in the Rockies organization yet because he is a “player to be named later” that wasn’t named officially until today. There is a big blob of unknown over these guy’s heads. It seems just as likely that they’ll crumble completely than that they’ll succeed wildly. If they do crumble, the Rockies could take ten years to fully recover from this trade. O’Dowd never will. As a fan, I don’t know if that’s a gamble I am willing to make.