Rockies Add More Chum To Their Rotation Bucket

The Rockies offseason of marginalizing their homegrown players continued unabated this afternoon, when they dealt Seth Smith to the A’s for pitchers Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman, neither of whom are likely to be a good fit for the club long-term. What it does give the Rockies is more fresh fish to add to their starting rotation competition.

Last season, 131 pitchers threw at least 120 innings in the Majors. One-hundred and thirty of them had a GB/FB of at least 0.67. Moscoso was the 131st, checking in with a league-lowing total of 0.48. His Minor League numbers show that this wasn’t a fluke either:

Year GO/AO
2005 0.80
2006 1.11
2007 0.77
2008 0.64
2009 0.66
2010 0.75
2011 0.49

It would be one thing if Moscoso had some major plus in his game that balanced the scales, as fellow fly-ball pitcher Kevin Slowey does with his exemplary K/BB ratio. But that isn’t the case for Moscoso. Moscoso has decent control — his 2.67 BB/9 was better than league average last season. But his K/9 is so far below league average — as Eno Sarris notes over at RotoGraphs, his K/9 was 23-worst in that same 131 pitcher group — that the effect is lost. Moscoso is likely to attract some oohs and ahs for his 3.38 ERA last season, but his 5.02 xFIP was the worst out of the 131 pitcher sample (it should also be noted that recent Rockies acquisition Tyler Chatwood had the second-worst).

By comparison, Josh Outman looks like the second coming of Aaron Cook, but truth be told, Outman is a fly-ball pitcher as well. And while Outman’s split samples are small — 58.1 innings in Oakland, 93 innings on the road for his career — it’s fairly clear that the Coliseum helped suppress his home run output. Outman possesses the same subpar K/9 that Moscoso does, but he combines it with a similarly below-average walk rate.

Neither pitcher has much big-league experience, so you would think there is room for them to change and adapt to their new environment, but neither is exactly young. Moscoso will be in his age-28 season this year, and Outman will be in his age-27 season. Most — if not all — pitchers who are going to be successful in the Show have more than 150 Major League innings under their belt by the time they hit 27.

What they do provide however, is additional flexibility for the Rockies heading into Spring Training. I half-joked this afternoon on Twitter that the Rockies now have enough rotation candidates to make a reality show of the competition for the last three-four spots in the rotation. Here are the candidates for the rotation as of right now:

Jhoulys Chacin
– Jorge De La Rosa
– Tyler Chatwood
Christian Friedrich
Jason Hammel
– Guillermo Moscoso
Juan Nicasio
– Josh Outman
Drew Pomeranz
Esmil Rogers
– Kevin Slowey
Alex White

If you wanted to get really crazy, you could throw Clayton Mortensen into the mix as well, and Troy Renck believes the team may not be done either. Looking at the list, about the only thing that seems guaranteed is that Chacin will be in the rotation. Hammel and Nicasio would also seem to be strong candidates to earn roles, but Hammel was demoted to the bullpen for a brief time last season and the team is likely to take it slow with Nicasio as he blazes a faster-than-expected comeback trail. De La Rosa is also virtually guaranteed a starting job, but he may not be ready until June, which complicates matters.

While De La Rosa and Nicasio may be handled gingerly, a conservative estimate would have them both in the rotation, along with Chacin, by July. Even if you subscribe to the notion that Chatwood, Pomeranz and White need a full season of Triple-A ball, that still leaves Friedrich, Hammel, Moscoso, Outman, Rogers and Slowey, plus the mystery free agent, to fill just two rotation slots. Take Moscoso and Outman out of that equation, and you still have four pitchers for two spots without even including Chatwood, Pomeranz and White, and it’s a decent bet that one of those three will be ready to contribute at some point this season.

And while one or two of the pitchers who don’t make the rotation may move to the bullpen, this isn’t a “well the losers can make an impact in the bullpen” kind of thing. With Rafael Betancourt, Rex Brothers, Matt Belisle, Matt Lindstrom and Matt Reynolds all being solid bullpen contributors, the only pitchers the Rockies are going to need in the ‘pen will be mop-up men, and they can be found in your farm system or in the free-talent pool.

With nine pitchers set to compete for a five rotation spots in Spring Training, plus Jorge De La Rosa coming back in midseason, the Rockies were already testing the time-honored notion that you can never have too much pitching. And since Moscoso and Outman don’t figure to be appreciably better than anyone already on the roster outside of perhaps Esmil Rogers, this trade essentially amounts to trading Seth Smith — a player whose .360 career wOBA does have value — for nothing. The Rockies may have added some chum to their rotation bucket, but opponents aren’t likely to have any trouble shooting the fish in this particular barrel.

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Paul Swydan is the managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for the Boston Globe. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan.

12 Responses to “Rockies Add More Chum To Their Rotation Bucket”

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  1. Will says:

    $50 says they flip Smith to the Braves or another power-starved contender by all-star break.

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  2. ben says:

    I thought this was going to be an article about Jaime Moyer, but alas…

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  3. Pitnick says:

    Rex Brothers might be my new favorite baseball name.

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  4. will says:

    this is my favorite post title of all time. also a very good article, but that’s secondary

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  5. TheGrandslamwich says:

    Outman may not quite live up to his awesome last name, but he’s shown a solid K% in the minors. I think he would make a decent back-end starter, and Moscoso would as well. I’m not convinced by Smith’s talents and think the A’s sold low on this one.

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    • Chris says:

      This is probably true in parks that suppress home runs, but not in Coors field. If I were the Rockies I would have been trading for guys like Masterson or Carmona to try to increase my ground ball rates, not trading off Ubaldo and getting junk flyball pitchers in the off season.

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  6. walt526 says:

    As someone who was too old to watch Sponge Bob and too young to have kids who did, I’m grateful that you included that link at the end of the article to clarify exactly what a “chum bucket” was. Because my initial thoughts were something that wasn’t exactly G-rated.

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  7. stan says:

    Its kind of odd to see you so negative on this deal. Seth Smith is only a league-average starter who’s not worth much more than he’s being paid given that he’s now into arbitration and his offensive numbers are Coors-inflated. In comparison the Rox saved some money and got two pitchers who are both cheaper and equally good.

    I agree that they would both seem to be a bad fit for Coors but if that’s the case they’ll both have value if the Rox choose to flip them.

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    • Chris says:

      You, like everyone else that sees some sort of negative home/road split from players on the Rockies aren’t quite right. If you were to actually look at the numbers you could argue that he’s just a better home hitter vs road hitter. I remember when Hawpe was traded everyone called him a flop who only benefited from Coors Field, but the home/road splits also told a different story.

      Coors Field may affect offense to a good degree, but it does not make poor players good ones, nor is it enough to put a guy in the top 60 players by wOBA over the course of his 4+ year career. That’s like .040 better than the league average for 2010, which is to say pretty damn good.

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  8. Jon says:

    What we have here is a lose lose trade.

    Why does CO choose these particularly styled pitchers with their park, regardless of value considerations, and OAK get only Smith, hardly anything more than a Kielty-ish impact for two not great but certainly somewhat valued SP?

    Rockies should flip that value of Moscoso and/or Outman for better fit.

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