In early July, I wrote down all of the reasons why the Rockies weren't going to trade Ubaldo Jimenez. This is because I am a moron. But when looking at Ubaldo's contract, and where the Rockies were in the contending/rebuilding cycle, I figured all of the chatter about a possible trade was just that: chatter. Writers gonna write. Just as Felix Hernandez wasn't traded because writers thought other teams had better uses for him, so was Ubaldo going to stay in Colorado.
The prospects that the Rockies got are mighty fine prospects. There's no question that they're highly regarded. The Indians had to play a lot of bad baseball to get draft picks good enough to secure Alex White and Drew Pomeranz, and the team took of that bad baseball and leveraged it into two-and-a-half seasons of Ubaldo Jimenez. It was a bold move on all sides. If everything plays out as it should, the Rockies should have 12 seasons of controllable, cheap, and ace-level pitching now, and all they had to give up were a couple of seasons of Ubaldo.
You know, if all that young pitching develops as it should.
Yep, healthy, effective, and no surprises.
There are reasons for the trade that we might not be privy to. It's a little simplistic to think the Rockies have a secret dossier with "TORN LABRUM" stamped on it, but perhaps Ubaldo's velocity drop has them concerned about his durability. Maybe the whispers were true about him pouting because he didn't get the same kind of mega-extension that Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki received. Maybe.
But for whatever reason the Rockies might think that Ubaldo is risky for the next three years, it's nothing compared to how risky it's going to be without him. He's good now. White and Pomeranz might be good next year, three years from now, or never. They could fall into a Joba Chamberlain-sized pothole. They could each come up and dazzle right away, like Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum did. And the Rockies are built for now. They've locked up Gonzalez and Tulowitzi for a billion years, but they're good now for sure. Maybe Tulo ages like Derek Jeter, maybe he ages like Nomar Garciaparra -- what the Rockies now is that he's Troy F. Tulowitzki right now.
Separating Ubaldo from that equation is risky, even before allowing for the mercurial nature of young pitchers. He wasn't the ace that he appeared to be in the first half of 2010, but he was an extremely effective and cheap pitcher in Coors Field, which is the secret formula the team has been looking for as long as the franchise has existed.
Everyone knows the cliché, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." But all metaphors aren't created equal. Sometimes you're on a desert island, the bird in the hand is a choleric parakeet with a case of the bities, and you have the chance to trade him for two delicious turkeys in the bush. In that situation, you don't think twice.
Different teams have different situations, and sometimes that player in the hand doesn't do a lick of good for them in the short-term. For the Rockies, though, the metaphor is completely apt. They had an effective and valuable pitcher for the next three-plus years. They might have turned that into two effective and valuable pitchers with this trade, or they might have a couple of sacks filled with pyrite.
The Indians are seen as the risky ones in a lot of the post-Ubaldo discussion, moving fantastic prospects for a short-term boost. But don't minimize the risk the Rockies are taking. It was a team built to win the NL West this year, and it wouldn't have been crazy to see them make moves in the offseason that would have made them favorites again. Without Ubaldo, though, the finish line was moved back a little bit. It could work out.
But, man, what a risk.