The 2011 Winter Meetings are behind us now, and while the Colorado Rockies did not add a large piece to their damaged puzzle, they did subtract two of their least popular players while adding some depth and freeing up enough cash to make themselves a player for Michael Cuddyer or a key starting pitcher.
Here's a quick review.
-- Claimed Jamie Hoffman off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers
Hoffman is your typical AAAA player. He's a pretty good defender from all accounts, but at age 27 has yet to take a step forward offensively. He'll compete for a bench job in spring training. His odds of making (in the Ryan Spilborghs role) will depend on who else the Rockies add in the coming weeks.
-- Acquired RHP Kevin Slowey from Minnesota Twins for minor league pitcher Daniel Turpen
If you're looking at Slowey's numbers from 2011 (0-8, 6.67), you're cringing right now. They're not pretty. At all. But it has to be noted that Slowey was inexplicably sent to the bullpen to begin the season, and then dealt with shoulder and abdominal issues. When he returned in August he was put back in the rotation but never could get on track.
In other words, it was a lost season. In the four seasons prior, he was actually a very solid back of the rotation guy, so he's not a total bum or a ridiculous reach. That said, he's a flyball pitcher that won't get many strikeouts. In Coors Field, that could be a disaster. Then again, he doesn't walk many. That's always a plus.
Basically, he's a crapshoot. He could end up being the pitching version of Jose Lopez, or he could be the 2009-2010 version of Jason Hammel (which means he's really helpful). For the price of only a marginal prospect, it's not a bad gamble.
-- Huston Street traded to the San Diego Padres for a Player To Be Named Later
Bittersweet trade. I'm going to miss Huston. He's a lot better than he was given credit for, and I'm not excited about giving a division rival a legit closer. On the other side of the coin, San Diego is a non-factor. and the Rockies have a few options to step in for Street, including Rafael Betancourt who did a fantastic job at the end of 2011.
But the most important thing here is the $7.5 million the Rockies have freed up. It really doesn't matter who they ultimately receive in return (it'll be a nobody), it's how they spend the money. So we should be able to form a decent opinion on this deal soon because I expect that money to be spent relatively soon.
-- Traded Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Tyler Colvin and infielder D.J. LeMahieu
The celebration is on in Colorado as Ian Stewart is headed to the Windy City (which some will say is about to get windier because of Stewart's swing). Am I as happy about Stewart as everyone else? Well... yes and no.
Yes: Because he obviously needed a change of scenery. Keeping him in Colorado would have been counterproductive to everybody.
No: Because he's a damn good defender and I still believe he'll be an offensive force when he makes the proper adjustments.
The deal definitely makes me nervous. It's the type of trade Theo Epstein has had work out for him in the past (David Ortiz), so he knows how to pluck underachieving talent from impatient teams. But again, it's not likely things would have improved here, so it's an understandable move.
What the Rockies get in return in Tyler Colvin is another 26-year-old former first rounder that fell on his face last season. Yes, Colvin was about the only position player in the league who was worse than Ian. But that also makes him a bounce back candidate with the change of scenery. He has some decent home run pop and could become a doubles machine at Coors Field. Also of interest for Colorado is his ability to play the corner outfield and first base. He's valuable in the regard, but needs to hit to matter.
Also coming to Colorado is second base prospect D.J. LeMahieu. LeMahieu, 23, should battle for playing time at second base right away, but most ultimately view him as a utility player that could log time at third as well. At 6'4"/205 pounds, he doesn't possess much power, which is fine, but has hit for a high average (.317) in the minors. How that translates is to be determined.
Right now all you can really say about this trade is it's a classic wait-and-see for both sides. I do favor the Cubs side slightly because Stewart has the highest upside (and he's the best defender), but it could just as easily work out favorably for Colorado, favorably for both teams, or become a throwaway deal for both. It's that wide open, and for that reason it's gamble worth taking for both sides, though both will hold their breath hoping the other doesn't come out smelling like roses.