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News » Colorado Rockies Inside Pitch 2008-11-16

Colorado Rockies Inside Pitch 2008-11-16

Colorado Rockies Inside Pitch 2008-11-16
Faced with the possibility of losing left fielder Matt Holliday as a free agent after next season and unable to sign him to a long-term deal, the Rockies traded Holliday to the A's for outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, right-handed reliever Huston Street and left-hander Greg Smith.

The Rockies offered Holliday a four-year, $72 million contract in spring training with a fifth-year, $12.5 player option. The deal was also believed to include an opt-out clause.

Holliday, who turns 29 in January, wanted a longer deal and no-trade provisions. Holliday is represented by Scott Boras, and rather than keep him for one year on the faint chance they could sign him, the Rockies decided to trade Holliday and do it before the free agent market solidified. General manager Dan O'Dowd said the Rockies had to "get back to focusing on the team. This wasn't an issue that was going to go away. It wasn't Matty's fault."

The key player for the Rockies is Gonzalez, 23, a potential five-tool player. O'Dowd said he's ready to play in the big leagues defensively right now but not offensively.

In 85 games with the A's this year, including 66 starts in center field and 10 in right field, Gonzalez hit .242 with four homers, 26 RBIs and 81 strikeouts in 302 at-bats. He was sent back to Class AAA in late August.

"With his type of swing, he shouldn't be striking out as much," O'Dowd said. "He's still a very, very young player. We feel he needs more time (to develop) and more at-bats and won't hesitate to do that."

All of which suggests, Gonzalez, who is currently playing winter ball in his native Venezuela, could open the 2009 season at Class AAA Colorado Springs. He played at that level this year, batting .283 with four homers and 28 RBIs while getting 173 at-bats for Class AAA Sacramento.

The Rockies like what they saw of Gonzalez in center field but project him to end up in right field because of his arm and what they hope will be a power bat. Also, the Rockies have a future center fielder coming in Dexter Fowler, who should start 2009 with Colorado Springs.

Street, 25, lost his closing job in August to Brad Ziegler while going 7-5 with a 3.73 ERA. He had 18 saves in 25 chances over 63 games. Street, who dealt with groin and hip injuries during the season, went 5-0 with a 1.37 ERA in his final 17 games. He has been told he will have a chance to close for the Rockies along with right-hander Manuel Corpas, who began last season in that role. Corpas lost the job in late April to left-hander Brian Fuentes, a free agent the Rockies are likely to lose but stand ready to offer arbitration to if he's still on the market.

After acquiring Street, speculation arose the Rockies would soon trade him to a club seeking a closer. He was given no promises by O'Dowd and manager Clint Hurdle, other than he's on the Rockies now and could remain so.

"I'm not saying we wouldn't move Huston or anybody else," O'Dowd said, "but right now I plan on him being with us."

Smith, who turns 25 next month, is a fourth or fifth starter, nothing more. In his first season in the majors, he went 9-16 with a 4.16 ERA in 190 1/3 innings while making 32 starts. O'Dowd said the fact Smith finished with a sub-4.50 ERA in the American League and logged 190 innings were a good "first step," but his fastball command must improve. Smith issued far too many walks (87), particularly for a pitcher who must locate and change speeds to succeed because his stuff is so-so.

Smith will compete for a spot at the back of the rotation with right-handers Jason Hirsh and Greg Reynolds and left-hander Franklin Morales if the latter's mechanics and delivery issues are sound. They were a mess last year but seem to have improved first in Instructional League and now in winter ball in Venezuela.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: November 16, 2008

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