Remembering the best move of the Dan O’Dowd era

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Dan O’Dowd is no longer in charge of the Colorado Rockies’ front office. Here’s a look back at the best move of his tenure. 

The Dan O’Dowd era has finally, mercifully, come to an end, and you probably already know that the Rockies sorely needed a change in management. O’Dowd is not, shall we say, the most loved Denver sports figure, for obvious reasons: aside from the magical run in 2007, the Rockies had very little success during his very long tenure as the team’s GM.

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But when you are a GM of a team for 15 years, you’re bound to make a few good moves, even if only by luck. Since there’s enough negative stuff swirling around the O’Dowd firing, I’ve decided to bring up what I think was the best move O’Dowd ever made: the Carlos Gonzalez trade, which, ironically, was with the Oakland Athletics, who don’t often lose trades.

The trade, if you don’t remember it, was starting pitcher Greg Smith, reliever Huston Street, and outfield prospect Carlos Gonzalez for Matt Holliday. It came in November of 2008, and while the Rockies had been shopping Holliday, he wasn’t originally supposed to go to the Athletics. In fact, in the days leading up to the trade, most people though Holliday would end up in Boston or New York.

Instead, Oakland nabbed him, and, to his credit, O’Dowd got a starter he thought could pitch well in Coors, a closer to take over for free agent Brian Fuentes, and a top outfield prospect who could turn into an everyday starter. Even at the time, it seemed like a pretty good trade from the Rockies’ standpoint, as they were set to lose Holliday after 2009 and seemed to get three promising young players for the star outfielder.

Let’s start out with the part of the trade that didn’t work out: Greg Smith. Smith, who was coming off a year with a 4.16 ERA for Oakland, started only eight games for the Rockies. Those eight games were an unmitigated disaster: a 6.23 ERA in 39 innings with eight homers allowed and a 31:24 K:BB ratio. So, as usual, the starting pitcher in the trade didn’t pan out in Denver. The other two players in the trade, Huston Street and Carlos Gonzalez, were huge successes.

Street was 24 years old at the time of the trade and already had 94 saves along with a 2.88 career ERA. He had three good (albeit oft-injured) years as Colorado’s closer, posting a 3.50 ERA and 84 saves. Given how tough it is to find good, consistent pitchers who can pitch in Coors, three years of Street might have been worth a single year of Holliday. That, of course, is not all the Rockies got in this trade, though.

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It’s important, funny, and scary all at the same time to note that the Rockies almost got Ryan Sweeney instead of Carlos Gonzalez in this trade. In 2008, they were seen as similar talents, with Sweeney having the advantage of MLB experience and Gonzalez serving as the higher-upside guy. In 2008, Gonzalez had struggled to a .634 OPS in his first taste of the major leagues, while Sweeney had a .733 OPS.

To his credit, O’Dowd chose Gonzalez over Sweeney, and the rest is history. His OPS in the past six years is an even .900, and although he has injury issues galore, I think you’d struggle to find a Rockies fan who doesn’t love CarGo.

As for Matt Holliday, he didn’t even spend a full year on the Athletics before being traded for Clayton Mortensen, Shane Peterson, and Brett Wallace. It’s clear that the Athletics got the short end of the stick here. We always knew Holliday was a good hitter, so it’s no surprise to see that he’s posted a .884 OPS since the start of 2009. But the Rockies were never likely to re-sign their star outfielder after 2009, so it was important for them to get as much as they could for them after the 2008 season.

So while you can and should blame Dan O’Dowd for a lot of things, the Matt Holliday trade is not one of those things. O’Dowd might not have gotten a lot right, but he definitely nailed this trade.

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