N.L. West Preview: Rockies Seek Veteran Leadership

Joe LaTengo | Updated Mar 27, 2012

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Dan O’Dowd is one of the longest-serving general managers in the majors. At one point, he even was able to assemble a team that threatened to advance to the playoffs. But the youngsters O’Dowd had given to manager Jim Tracy have mostly given way to some more established players, and time will tell if the shift in philosophy will work at Coors Field.

The Action: O’Dowd was extremely busy on the trade market, making several deals which focused mostly on pitching. He began in November by dealing catcher Chris Iannetta to the Angels for young starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood. He then sent 3B Ian Stewart to the Cubs along with pitcher Casey Weathers for 2B D.J. LeMahieu and outfielder Tyler Colvin.

In December, O’Dowd moved longtime closer Huston Street to the Padres for lefthander Nick Schmidt; he also got San Diego to accept responsibility for paying Street’s salary. Former Twins starter Kevin Slowey stayed less than two months before being dealt in January to the Cleveland Indians for pitching prospect Zach Putnam, then Clayton Mortensen was sent to the Red Sox for infielder Marco Scutaro, and outfielder Seth Smith went to Oakland for righthander Guillermo Moscoso and lefty Josh Outman.

O’Dowd made some splashes in free agency, too, attracting longtime Twin Michael Cuddyer with a three-year, $31.5-million deal. He didn’t stop there, making one of the most talked-about signings of the off-season when he got veteran Jamie Moyer to agree to a one-year deal. Former Dodger Casey Blake signed up to play third base.

UPDATE: After this preview was posted, the Rockies released Casey Blake and are looking at a number of options to fill the gap at third base.

It’s A Lock: Troy Tulowitzki is an All-World shortstop and Carlos Gonzalez is an elite outfielder. They’re solid in the field and at the bat, and any team would love to have those building blocks.

Todd Helton has been turning on the power this spring; while it’s unlikely to translate into the regular season, he will maintain first base with some authority. Cuddyer should provide a good glove and a dependable bat either in right field or in the infield, while Scutaro will be counted on to be the everyday second baseman. Catcher Ramon Hernandez should be rock-solid behind the plate, but he won’t be able to replace Iannetta’s bat.

Hedge Your Bets: He’s probably getting tired of the “ageless” banner hung around his neck, but there’s no denying that at 49 Moyer is one of the oldest starting pitchers ever to play in the major leagues. That’s just one of the caveats here: no one can really escape the ravages of time for very long, and he’s also coming back from Tommy John surgery. Regardless of the feel-good story, anyone who is expecting more than a handful of wins from Moyer is probably kidding themselves.

Many feared for Juan Nicasio’s life after he was struck in the head by a batted ball last season, so he’s done well to earn a shot at the starting rotation along with Jeremy Guthrie, Jhoulys Chacin, Drew Pomeranz, Moscoso and Chatwood. Unfortunately, this is a pitching staff that doesn’t have a No. 1 (or a No. 2) starter, and the fact that Moyer has a chance at a job is a telling sign. It’s the same story in the bullpen: Rafael Betancourt should probably be the eighth-inning guy instead of the closer, and other than Matt Belisle there simply isn’t much depth here. Dexter Fowler remains an enigma in center field.

The Payoff: In the MLB futures betting, Colorado is ranked just ahead of Los Angeles for the divisional title, while both are well back in World Series consideration.

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