Clint Hurdle Out as Rockies Manager

The Denver Post is reporting that the Rockies have fired Clint Hurdle.  While I truly like Clint as a person and have had a couple of very positive interactions with him, it had become clear that he had lost the locker room and that his presence, along with the daily will-he-or-won’t-he be fired discussion, was hurting the ballclub.  Hurdle will always be remembered fondly for the 21 Days in Rocktober 2007, the Rockies’ first and only World Series appearance. While the mess that is the 2009 Rockies is clearly not entirely his fault, the reality is that his presence had become a detriment to the team at this point.

I truly like Hurdle as a person and wish him well in his next venture.  I have had two very positive interactions with him, first on Rockies Photo Day 2008 (pictured above) and second at Spring Training 2009.  In both cases, he made sure that everyone who wanted a picture with him, or an autograph from him, left satisfied, even when it meant taking more time than he should have.  This is not a common trait in sports today, and leaves me with a great amount of respect for the man.

I also believe that this is only the first step in a needed housecleaning in the Rockies organization, and I’m not enamored with the report that Jim Tracy will be taking over as interim manager.  I believe that General Manager Dan O’Dowd and Pitching Coach Bob Apodaca should follow Hurdle out the door.  My criticism of O’Dowd is that he tends to overvalue his own players, declining to trade from places of abundance (outfield prospects)  for places of need (second base, pitching).  This was evidences by the fact that the Rockies were the only team in baseball to field a starting lineup on Opening Day that consisted of entirely homegrown players.  My criticism of Apodaca is that the young pitchers that he has been entrusted with developing either fail to improve, or regress under his care.  For a team committed to building from within, this is unacceptable.

I’m an eternal Rockies optimist, and this season has been very disappointing.  At the beginning of this season, I thought that this team had the best pitching staff the Rockies had ever assembled and a lineup that should have had us in contention in the National League West.  As I write this, we’re 18-28, in last place, and 14 games out of first place.  We’re playing meaningless games already and we haven’t made it out of May yet.  This team has shown no heart (no wins when tied or trailing after 7 innings), has remarkable penchant for giving up runs with 2 outs, and has truly abysmal clutch hitting.  Without the bright spot that is Todd Helton returning to his form of 5 years ago, this team would be in even worse shape.  It’s really too bad, but I’ve come to the conclusion that this roster needs a major overhaul and that we should be major sellers as the trade deadline approaches.

I think the Rockies need to look to move a number of players with an eye on contending in 2011.  I think the current core to build around is Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Iannetta, Dexter Fowler, Troy Tulowitzki, and possibly Ian Stewart.  Beyond that, effectively everyone is fair game.  My trade recommendations are as follows:

  • Brad Hawpe - RF - I hate to say this one because he is one of my favorite Rockies, but Hawpe, is 30, is having an All-Star campaign and would clearly bring back one of the best returns of any of the current Rockies in trade.  We also have a ready replacement in Colorado Springs in Carlos Gonzalez, one of the key pieces of the Matt Holliday trade.
  • Huston Street - RHP - One of the key pieces in the Matt Holliday trade, he hasn’t given up a run in nearly a month.  This would be another sell high move to a contender in need of bullpen help at the deadline.
  • Aaron Cook - RHP - Cook was an All-Star in 2008 and is an innings-eating sinker-baller who would be very valuable to a contender in need of starting pitching.  Cook is 30 now and is likely as good as he ever will be, making it less likely that he will be a major contributor on the next contending Rockies team.  This being said, the offer would still have to be very good to move Cook at this point for the same reason.
  • Jason Marquis - RHP - Marquis is in the final year of a 3-year, $20 million contract.  He is a veteran innings-eater and has been the Rockies’ most consistent starter so far.  He is 31 and his profile is very similar to Aaron Cook.  Marquis should bring a good return from a contender looking for pitching around the deadline.
  • Ryan Spilborghs - LF/CF - Spilly is miscast as a starting outfielder, but would be valuable 4th outfielder with some pop on a contender.  Spilborghs is also almost 30, so he is likely as good as he will ever be and is contributing to the logjam in the Rockies outfield.
  • Garrett Atkins - 3B/1B - Atkins has declined steadily since 2007 and is hitting under .200 as I write this.  He has been one of the team leaders in RBI over the last 3-4 years, but has been particularly atrocious with runners in scoring position this year.  Atkins is in his last year of arbitration eligibility and is likely in line for another raise despite his poor performance this year.  Atkins is also blocking Ian Stewart at third base.  Atkins should be traded to a team like the Mets or Cardinals that needs a first or thir baseman due to injury, but his value is not what it would have been a year ago.
  • Clint Barmes - 2B - Miscast as a starting second baseman, Barmes is a free-swinging utility man with some power.  As a 30 year old, what you see with Barmes is likely what you will get.  He is the type of piece that is largely interchangeable with some of the minor league options, like Eric Young, Jr., that we already have at a lower pay grade.  Barmes could easily be traded for the proverbial player to be named later just to clear salary space with almost no measurable impact on wins or losses.
  • Omar Quintanilla - INF - Q is the epitome of a glove guy.  Almost entirely used as a late-inning defensive replacement, Quintanilla is simply taking up bench space (19 AB in 46 G in 2009) and should either be traded or released at this point.

So what happens after all of these moves?  Well this team needs to build towards 2011.  We need to find out if Ian Stewart can be an every day third baseman.  These trades should bring in some higher level pitching prospects, a second baseman, a potential replacement for Todd Helton after his contract expires in 2011, and then effectively the best overall prospects at any position that we can get.  I envision our 2010 Opening Day lineup looking something like:

  • C - Chris Iannetta
  • 1B - Todd Helton
  • 2B - Acquired in one of the aforementioned trades or free agency
  • SS - Troy Tulowitski
  • 3B - Ian Stewart
  • RF - Carlos Gonzalez
  • CF - Dexter Fowler
  • LF - Seth Smith/Matt Murton or acquired in trade or free agency

and the pitching rotation would look like:

  • Ubaldo Jimenez
  • Jorge de la Rosa
  • Franklin Morales
  • Two of:
    • Jason Hammel
    • Greg Reynolds
    • Greg Smith
    • Jhoulys Chacin
    • Brandon Hynick
    • Jason Hirsh

I think this is a team that should be .500 or so next year with an eye on being a serious force for 2011-2014. 

As you can see, I think that rebuilding the Rockies is far from a simple task, but some pieces are in place for a very quick return to contention if the right moves are made.  Firing Clint Hurdle will not fix everything, but was a needed step in the right direction.  Hurdle is truly one of the good guys and I wish him all the best in his next endeavor.

Until next time: Go Rockies!