Rox could look to swap vets to add more youth
Hernandez, Betancourt among players who could be of interest to contenders
DENVER -- The Rockies spent the offseason acquiring veterans in hopes of quickening the process of winning. After reaching midseason tied for the second-worst record in the Majors, Colorado may see if it can speed the development by dealing some veterans before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Rockies veterans' names were featured in trade reports before the first half ended. Right-hander Jeremy Guthrie was a reported early-season target of the Blue Jays, but those talks came and went. As the first half came to a close, reports said the Tigers were interested in Marco Scutaro.
The hottest reports surrounded the Mets' possible pursuit of catcher Ramon Hernandez, although Hernandez has yet to return from the disabled list. One of the stories mentioned the potential deal could be expanded to include left-handed reliever Matt Reynolds. However, Rockies officials insisted no deal was imminent. Rookie catcher Wilin Rosario's development and the solid work of backup Wil Nieves makes Hernandez expendable.
Closer Rafael Betancourt could become prominent in trade reports. The Rockies have made left-handed second-year man Rex Brothers their eighth-inning setup man and could slide him into the ninth inning as a trial if they deal Betancourt. Pinch-hitter and backup first baseman Jason Giambi also could be of interest to contending teams, either before the Deadline or in a waiver deal. In waiver deals, a player who is on the new club's roster before Sept. 1 is eligible for postseason play.
Interestingly, it's not as if players subject to the reports are in a particular hurry to leave. Injuries and inexperience to the pitching staff were the biggest reason for the poor early record.
"I want to be a part of this here, but you don't know what's going on beyond all this. I wish I knew," said Scutaro, who had pedestrian numbers early in the season, but moved to No. 2 in the order and built to a .277 average and .330 on-base percentage by the All-Star break. "You prepare to win, and when it doesn't happen, it's frustrating.
"On the other hand, we've had some injuries with our pitchers. But I think we have very good talent and we're going the right way here. In the future, this team is going to be good."
The Rockies aren't expected to make a blockbuster deal like the one they pulled off last year, when they sent former ace pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to the Indians for left-hander Drew Pomeranz, right-handers Alex White and Joe Gardner, and utility man Matt McBride. Pomeranz and White were former first-round Draft picks.
Reports of talks with the Mets about Hernandez -- in the first year of a two-year, $6.4 million deal -- speculated on multiposition infielder Justin Turner being a Rockies target, as well as a list of mid-level pitching and outfield prospects.
There were media musings during the first half of the season centered on All-Star left fielder Carlos Gonzalez, but ownership has said he will not be dealt. Gonzalez is in the second year of a seven-year, $80 million contract. He and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who is in the second year of a deal that will pay him $157.75 million through 2020, are considered the heart of the Rockies' lineup for years to come. Tulowitzki has missed much of this season with a left groin injury.
Another veteran the Rockies are unlikely to move is outfielder/first baseman Michael Cuddyer because of the a three-year, $31 million contract he signed during the offseason. The amount of time and money remaining on the contract would make dealing him problematic.
Where it could become interesting is if teams pursue right-handed reliever Matt Belisle, who has been reliable and productive for three straight seasons and could help a contending club. However, Belisle is considered an influential leader of a bullpen that figures to be young, and the Rockies value him highly.
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.