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Wandy deal would make sense for Rockies

8/24/2011

Reports surfaced that the Colorado Rockies made a waiver claim on Houston Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, meaning the teams have until 1 p.m. ET Thursday to work out a trade (or the Astros can pull him back off waivers and keep him).

So what are the Rockies thinking? Do they think they have a chance to win the NL West, even though they're 8.5 games behind first-place Arizona? Rodriguez is a solid, consistent pitcher who has posted an ERA between 3.02 and 3.60 each of the past four seasons, pitching mostly on bad or mediocre clubs in Houston. While he's not overpowering with his 88-90 mph fastball, his strikeout rate has been 8.2 per nine innings over those four seasons, although it's dipped slightly this season to 7.7. He mixes speeds with a curveball and changeup and when he's on, he's very tough -- he's had seven starts this season where he hasn't allowed a run.

Rodriguez is making $7.5 million this season, $10.5 in 2012 and $13.5 in 2013, with a $13 million club option for 2014 that becomes a player option if he's traded. Rodriguez is 32, so there is a little risk with the age, but he hasn't spent much time on the DL in his career. He isn't a workhorse, as he's topped 200 just innings just once. The biggest concern is that Rodriguez has pitched much better at home than on the road throughout his career, with a 3.43 ERA at home and 4.78 on the road. Over the past five seasons, his home ERAs have been 3.20, 2.82, 2.08, 2.99 and 2.94. His road ERAs have been 3.39, 4.41, 4.05, 4.34 and 6.37. Houston has a reputation as a hitter's park, but it's actually played fairly neutral, so maybe Rodriguez just likes the mound there or he pitches to the deep part of the ballpark. He allows a few more homers on the road but also a much higher batting average. I think it's enough of a red flag to worry about, especially in a park like Coors Field.

While the Rockies are known for their late-season surges -- 18-9 in September of 2009 and 20-8 in September of 2007, with the famous 14 wins in their 15 games -- I don't see them making up the ground on Arizona or San Francisco, despite the lackluster play of those two teams. But Rodriguez is an underrated pitcher, and having traded Ubaldo Jimenez, maybe the Rockies view this as an opportunity to add a good veteran pitcher with a market-rate contract without giving up a frontline prospect. (Of course, it should be noted that Jimenez's contract was much more team friendly than Rodriguez's.)

Would you rather have Jimenez through 2014 for about $18 million total, or Rodriguez (for $37 million), Drew Pomeranz and Alex White? If the Rockies can work out a deal with the Astros, they're banking on the latter. I'm inclined to agree. They would get a mid-rotation anchor for three seasons ... and the possibility of another miracle playoff run this year.