The next installment in our series of conversations with writers for other teams within the division features me, Hayden, and Scott Allen of Venom Strikes.
Michelle: With the Diamondbacks rotation shaping up the way it is for 2012, does any other team in the NL West even stand a chance? Or do you still see weaknesses that could be taken advantage of?
Scott – Venom Strikes
The Dbacks rotation is shaping up to possibly be one of the best in not just the NL but all of baseball. Some have ranked it already as one of the best and they haven’t even solidified the fifth spot yet. With Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Trevor Cahill, and Josh Collmenter set in the first four spots, there are a number of candidates for that fifth spot. It could come down to first round pick Trevor Bauer or up and coming Tyler Skaggs, the number one prospect in the organization. Also rumors the Dbacks could be looking at Bartolo Colon. I wouldn’t say it is a forgone conclusion though that the predictions of the being the best will be realized. They still have to go out and prove it on the field. Kennedy was the only consistent starter of the group last season but all of them had multiple great outings.
Hayden: The 2011 Diamondbacks took almost everybody by surprise by winning the division, especially since they finished last in 2010 and many of the names on the roster were “no-name” players. How much do you worry about regression in 2012? Are there specific players you think are at risk to have a letdown year?
Scott – Venom Strikes
There is always a chance of regression after a 94-win season no matter who is on your team. It’s tough to win that many year after year. Your schedule also has to balance out well. I really didn’t see any team other than Colorado improving themselves in the off-season to this point, so I still see it playing out close to what 2011 saw. Right now, I still see it as a three-team race in 2012 between the Dbacks, Giants, and Rockies. The Dodgers have made little noise and I think the Padres actually have gotten worse. As for letdowns, there is the chance of that too, but you have to remember no one really took the league by storm offensively. Justin Upton should be better, so should Chris Young. In the pitching department, that’s where I could see letdowns. Ian Kennedy will have to work harder at repeating his 2011 feats. So will Daniel Hudson and everyone now knows about Josh Collmenter, so he will not sneak up on anyone.
Scott: What do you think about the pickup of Michael Cuddyer? I’m kind of surprised about the money they spent to get him. Do you think he’s worth it and what do you expect from him?
Michelle – Rox Pile
No doubt, Cuddyer was expensive. The Rockies are asking a lot of him by giving him that kind of money, because it was the better part of what they had to use this offseason. I think Dan O’Dowd played his cards right, though. He shed a lot of dead weight in players that were either underperforming or superfluous to the organization, and he used that payroll space to get Cuddyer. It’s a bit of a new direction for the Rockies, a team that usually expects its homegrown players to deliver and seems not to know what to do when they don’t. Several disappointing draft picks are now out of the system and have been replenished by trades with the Indians and Angels. Cuddyer represents a more immediate solution to the team’s problems. He can play every day and he provides good offensive protection. Those two things were lacking in the lineup in 2011. Whether he will be worth it is hard to say. I don’t expect the Rockies to contend in 2012, so if they don’t, I won’t be blaming it on Cuddyer. On the other hand, I expect them to be a great deal stronger as a team by 2013, and he needs to be a significant part of that in order to make the deal a good one for us. Regardless of what he brings to the team, I like what O’Dowd has done this offseason, and I hope it means greater long-term success in Denver.
Hayden – Rox Pile
Before the 2011 season the Rockies knew they needed more pop in the lineup, especially from the right side of the plate. It seemed like they had everything else they needed to contend and that a big bat would fill one of the final holes on the roster. Unfortunately they tried cost-efficient stopgap solutions like Ty Wigginton and Jose Lopez with negative results, leaving themselves with the same holes on offense this winter. This year, that problem is compounded by the fact that the starting rotation is a mess (among other problems from the miserable 2011 campaign).
When you consider it in those terms you cannot help but wonder if they are one year too late on a player like Cuddyer. Overpaying last offseason would have felt right because we thought the Rockies were poised to win the division. That is a stark contrast from where expectations are now, ranging from those who think they are possible contenders in 2012 to those who think they are in full rebuilding mode. If they are relevant this year the Cuddyer signing will look great. If they are truly rebuilding, it is a big contract that might hinder that process. Ultimately I like the signing because of the consistency it brings to the team. I hope that a stable presence like Cuddyer, when paired with Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton, will help some of their young talent level out their inconsistencies over the course of the season.