Rockies Trade Josh Rutledge, Acquire Jairo Diaz


The Rockies couldn’t get Jon Lester, so they went for Jairo Diaz instead.

The other day I speculated whether Jeff Bridich would be willing to make a big move during this week’s winter meetings, his first as the new Rockies general manager. Ultimately, I doubted that he would, given the Rockies’ general reticence about things like that and the shallow coffers owner Dick Monfort provides. But I hoped that Bridich would do something. The Rockies were horrifyingly silent at the midseason trade deadline, a silence that spoke volumes about the front office’s belief in this team: the talent is there; we just need to stay healthy. I don’t think that’s true. From a pitching standpoint, there are far too many glaring weaknesses for this to be a contending team, even if they do stay healthy.

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Luckily, Bridich has said as much himself, and seems to understand that his primary responsibility right now is getting pitchers. Last night, he traded infielder Josh Rutledge to the Los Angeles Angels for relief pitcher Jairo Diaz.

So let’s start with what the Rockies lose. The short answer is not much. Rutledge never really found his way at the plate or in the field. Last season, he was good for -0.9 WAR. He’s not really very good at hitting for power, getting on base, or stealing bases. He also saved -9 defensive runs in 515 innings at short, 16 less than his colleague Troy Tulowitzki did in 739 innings at same. Tulo is the best fielding shortstop of his generation, so no one’s asking Rutledge to be that good. But it would be nice if he at least broke even, and he never has.

Furthermore, DJ LeMahieu is now a Gold Glover and an easy choice for starting second baseman, even though he is a highly unproductive hitter. He’s in a lineup of great bats, and tight infield defense is important for the Rockies given the size of their outfield. Rutledge is, at best, a Tulo backup, and even though Tulo will inevitably go down with an injury at some point every season, we have other choices within the system, such as Rafael Ynoa.

What the Rockies gain in Diaz is an unproven pitcher with a high upside. Patrick Saunders summarizes his skills here, and his K/BB ratio as well as his velocity are encouraging. His home runs per nine have fluctuated over the years, and I don’t trust that he’s enough of a groundballer to succeed at Coors, but not many patterns have emerged in recent years in terms of predicting pitcher success there. And if he keeps missing bats as often as he has been, it won’t matter as much where the ball goes when he doesn’t. Therefore, if only because the price for Diaz was right, I’m more than willing to give him a fair chance.

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