Rockies weighing their approach to Trade Deadline
Addressing bullpen, bench could be on clubs' checklist if they're buyers
DENVER -- Sunday's game against the Brewers in which the Rockies gave up two leads but ultimately prevailed pretty much summed up their season so far.
It was easy to dream of a precise trade that could jump-start the team when the Rockies came from behind to take a lead in the late innings. Then reliever Matt Belisle, normally a reliable piece of an iffy bullpen that is the area most likely to be boosted by a deal, surrendered the lead when he served up a homer to Yuniesky Betancourt.
An offense that should be potent but had been stagnant lately came through with a Michael Cuddyer RBI double and a Nolan Arenado RBI single in the bottom of the eighth for the second comeback of the 6-5 victory.
So here sit the Rockies. They came out of the All-Star break two games out of first place in the National League West, hoping to make up ground during a 10-game homestand against the Cubs, Marlins and Brewers. But by dropping three of four to the Marlins, who have the Majors' second-worst record, they needed Sunday's win to break even. It leaves them six out in the NL West, which isn't great, but is it good enough to dream?
The final answer could come in Atlanta, where the Rockies will play a four-game set starting on Monday, and where they traditionally struggle (24-56 all-time).
"Things can change in a hurry," Rockies senior director of Major League operations Bill Geivett said during the homestand. "So we will see."
The Rockies are still waiting, and hoping to add rather than subtract before Wednesday's 2 p.m. MT non-waiver Trade Deadline.
The feeling going into the second half was that the Rockies needed to shore up the back of their rotation. That situation is less dire because of the improvement of right-hander Juan Nicasio, who has two scoreless seven-inning appearances and another in which he gave up one run over five innings since returning from a demotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs. Left-hander Jorge De La Rosa and right-handers Jhoulys Chacon and Tyler Chatwood have given the Rockies a surprisingly strong front of the rotation.
In fact, if the Rockies struggle in Atlanta and determine they're out of the race, expect them to listen to calls about De La Rosa, who is 10-5 with a 2.97 ERA in 21 starts entering his Monday outing. De La Rosa's contract has an $11 million club option for 2013, which makes it attractive to other organizations. If the Rockies concentrate on building for the future, dealing De La Rosa could bring in players to jumpstart that process.
There's still a hole at the back of the Rockies' rotation, where lefty Drew Pomeranz went 0-4 with an 8.10 ERA in four starts before being placed on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis. Former Mets right-hander Collin McHugh gave up six runs and nine hits over five innings on Saturday in his Rockies debut. But the asking price for starting pitching makes it more likely that the Rockies will address the bullpen if they choose to push forward.
If a rotation move isn't made, the Rockies depend on a healthy return from veteran Roy Oswalt, who joined the team in June, struggled for three starts, then seemed to be showing improvement in his fourth outing before suffering a left hamstring injury. Oswalt will throw a bullpen session on Tuesday in Atlanta.
The relief corps operates best when closer Rafael Betancourt is healthy, but he is on the disabled list for the second time this season. Betancourt missed most of June with a right groin strain, and had to undergo an appendectomy just after the All-Star break. Betancourt is healing, but it's unclear when he'll return.
The Rockies made one bullpen-related deal just before the break, for former Cardinals right-hander Mitchell Boggs. But he had pitched just twice in the Majors and had not been given a role when the Rockies decided on Saturday to send him to Colorado Springs because of depth issues. Former ace Jeff Francis is trying his hand at bullpen work.
The club has had difficulty finding relievers to get the ball to Belisle and lefty Rex Brothers -- the acting closer -- in Betancourt's absence. A stalwart reliever could be an important piece of the puzzle. Because starters are held at around 100 pitches, the Rockies need to be dependable in middle relief.
The Rockies aren't likely to address what they believe is a strong set of regular position players. They are confident that the group will produce, even though they turned inexplicably cold after the break, after sending their Nos. 3-5 hitters -- left fielder Carlos Gonzalez, Tulowitzki and Cuddyer -- to the All-Star Game.
The club has said that even if it is a seller, it will not trade Cuddyer, who is due $10.5 million next season, the final year of his contract. With veteran first baseman Todd Helton not expected to return after playing out his contract this year, Cuddyer will likely play first as the team grooms another potential right-handed-hitting outfielder/first baseman -- 2010 first-round Draft pick Kyle Parker.
The Rockies continue with one of the least-productive benches in baseball. They traded with the Royals before the break for right-handed-hitting first baseman/outfielder Xavier Nady, and are expected to promote him from Triple-A Colorado Springs soon.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.