O’Dowd on trading Jimenez: It wasn’t a time to be timid
Inand , acquired in the deal for , the Colorado Rockies believe they have acquired two elite young pitchers who can be mainstays in their rotation — and soon. True, left-hander Pomeranz has yet to pitch above the Double-A level, where he has made three starts, the same number White has made in the big leagues.
However, general manager Dan O’Dowd said White, who turns 23 on Aug. 29 and is about to begin a rehab assignment following a finger injury, and Pomeranz, 22, who will join the Rockies organization after he finishes a mandatory one year in the Indians organization on Aug. 15, could be pitching in the Rockies rotation in September. And O’Dowd said Joe Gardner, whom the Rockies will shift to the bullpen, could move quickly as a reliever.
“We’ve had some draft issues as it relates to some of the pitching and those holes have started to show up a little bit now,” general manager Dan O’Dowd said. “And if we want to stay and maintain our competitiveness with an opportunity to win, every year, we had to be bold. It wasn’t a time to be timid.
“So as difficult as it might have been to pull the trigger (on trading Jimenez), I think it would have been more difficult not to do it and put our franchise in the position of facing some kind of major rebuilding process in the near future.”
In a conference call with local media members, O’Dowd said, “If we were 10 games up and not 10 games back, (this) still would have been a difficult deal to pass up.” He called the trade “a reloading deal” rather than “a rebuilding deal.”
When pondering whether to trade Jimenez, O’Dowd drew on some advice from Hank Peters, his mentor in the game and the general manager of the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians when O’Dowd was working in those organizations early in his career.
“Hank Peters always taught me I think you do something sooner rather than later,” O’Dowd said, “because when you wait until later, you’re going to end up getting nothing.”
The cumulative effect of pitching at Coors Field, which has resulted in injuries to the likes of, and even Pedro Astacio near the end of his run with the Rockies, was something O’Dowd said factored into the decision to trade Jimenez, 27.
“We weighed that a lot,” O’Dowd said.
Ultimately, O’Dowd opted to trade Jimenez to the Indians on Saturday. In return, the Rockies received White, who was scheduled to begin his rehab assignment from a finger injury Saturday and will be in Denver on Monday, Gardner, who had been starting at Cleveland’s Double-A Akron affiliate but will pitch out of the bullpen at Double-A Tulsa, catcher-first baseman Matt McBride, who will also report to Tulsa, and left-hander Pomeranz, shrouded as a player to be named later until Aug. 17, one year after he signed his first professional contract.
Because the latter can’t officially be included in the deal until Aug. 17, one year after he was drafted, he is officially a player to be named later at this point. How Pomeranz and White, both potential front-of-the-rotation starters, perform will determine whether this is a successful deal for the Rockies.
“When we went into this, we looked at this as an opportunity to strengthen our ballclub both in the short term and the long term,” O’Dowd said. “We weren’t looking for deep projections. We felt like we accomplished our goals. Obviously with young players, you never know. We feel like we added a few guys back that have a chance to be top of the rotation or very close to that type starters.”
The Rockies have those needs because of their barren drafts in 2006, 2007 and probably 2008. In 2006, their first five picks were pitcher, outfielder David Christensen, pitcher Keith Weiser, pitcher Craig Baker and infielder Helder Velazquez. Reynolds has been up and down with Rockies, including three stints this season. The only other player from the 2006 draft to reach the majors is catcher , a seventh-round pick playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In 2007, the Rockies took pitcher, outfielder Brian Rike, catcher Lars Davis, pitcher Isaiah Froneberger and pitcher Connor Graham with their first five picks. None have played in the majors, although Graham yielded reliever in a trade with Cleveland in July 2009.
The only players from the 2007 draft to reach the majors are relievers, who appeared in one game for the Rockies this season and was traded to Oakland in the deal for second baseman , and . Pitcher Parker Frazier (eighth round) and catcher (ninth), both drafted in 2007 appear to have a chance to play in the majors.
In 2008, the Rockies top picks were pitcher, outfielder , pitcher Aaron Weatherford, pitcher Ethan Hollingsworth and unsigned third baseman Chris Dominguez. Blackmon reached the Rockies in early June but broke his left foot on July 7. Hollingsworth was traded to Oakland over the winter for pitcher .
Friedrich could pitch in the big leagues, more likely as a back-of-the-rotation type, as could Dan Houston, whom the Rockies took in the seventh round in 2008. Both are at Tulsa, with Houston a recent arrival after beginning the season at high Class A Modesto. Also at Tulsa is infielder(24th round), a grinder who could end up as a utility type in the majors.
O’Dowd said the Rockies considered two other deals for Jimenez that might have addressed the team’s need to acquire a bat.
“Those deals might have been a little deeper and they had some positions players (coming) back that would have been impactful players,” O’Dowd said. “But I’ve made deals in the past when I’ve gotten quantity. I’m not a big believer in quantity anymore.
“I think we’re a big believer in quality, impactful quality. No deal out there gave us more impactful quality than what this deal has a chance to do. Obviously, time has to tell but (it) has a chance to be an impactful deal. The other deals may have affected more needs, but they would not have given us the impactful quality that this one did.”
Because Pomeranz can’t be officially traded for two weeks, he will remain with Double-A Akron but not pitch in games. O’Dowd didn’t refer to Pomeranz by name because he couldn’t at this point but said in such instances the acquiring club can send in scouts to see how a player in this “hypothetical situation” is doing until the trade is completed.
O’Dowd didn’t go far as to say Gardner, 23, will be as effective as Sergio Romo of the San Francisco Giants (who is 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA in 49 games with a fiendish 51/4 strikeout to walk ratio) but said Gardner has a “very similar arm action and body type and late sink and cut action to his ball.” Gardner made 19 starts for Akron but will be moved to the bullpen at Tulsa, which the Rockies feel can facilitate his rise to the majors.
“We think the velocity’s going to jump a little bit,” O’Dowd said. “We had him up to the mid-90s anyway. This kid has a very good arm, very good sink, very unorthodox arm action. When we looked at him, we saw a bullpen guy.”
McBride’s position is his bat, but O’Dowd said, “we’re going to work real hard to make sure he can play a functional position.” He has played catcher, first base and the outfield. McBride, 26, comes on the recommendation of professional scout Ty Coslow, who did a lot of work on this deal.
“When you get down to a fourth player in the deal, it’s always a gut-feeling guy for the scout,” O’Dowd said. “We had exhausted a lot of different names with them, and we got down to talking to Ty. And Ty has a good gut feeling on this guy, so we’ll see how it pans out.”
On Friday, McBride suffered an eye injury that could have been of far greater concern. He was doing a flip drill in the indoor batting cage, O’Dowd said, and a ball he hit into the screen bounced back and hit him in the eye, causing swelling on his eyelid. McBride went out that night and hit a double, and O’Dowd said while McBride will be “down for a little bit,” the injury isn’t serious.
O’Dowd said he didn’t think the Rockies could have made a better deal had they waited until the offseason to trade Jimenez. And as a player gets closer to free agency, O’Dowd said, his return diminishes. The Rockies had Jimenez, 27, under control through 2014 for $17.95 million. Because he was traded, Jimenez can void an $8 million club option for 2014 and become a free agent after the 2013 season. By then, the Rockies should know whether it’s thumbs up or thumbs down on the one-for-four trade.
“This deal will be judged upon not the last two players in the deal,” O’Dowd said, “but it’ll be judged upon Mr. White and the player to be named later.”