BY DAVID MARTIN
Trade season is here and the Colorado Rockies are sellers. There is no doubt about that.
The team has already dealt Jeremy Guthrie and Marco Scutaro, two veterans brought in to stabilize the clubhouse. Next in line would be Ramon Hernandez, and Jason Giambi, if he wasn’t on the 15-day disabled list. However, word is out that the team may consider dealing Rafael Betancourt.
Betancourt is signed through 2013 with an option for 2014. He is making $4 million in 2012, with a raise to $4.25 million in 2013. In the real world that is more money than most people would ever dream of. In baseball terms, however, that is pretty inexpensive for a dominant late-inning reliever.
Matt Belisle is another name that has been floated around, but with less traction than Betancourt. Belisle is making $3.775 million in 2012 and will make $4.1 million in 2013.
In a season in which the Rockies are on pace to lose more than 100 games, nearly everyone should be on the block. If a contender wants to overpay for a player, the Rockies should allow them to. This is a perfect time to quickly replenish a depleted farm system.
That said, the Rockies should stay away from dealing both Betancourt and Belisle at almost any cost. Unless another team is willing to give back some pretty phenomenal prospects, the Rockies should be hesitant to let those two get away.
The reason is simple. Both Betancourt and Belisle are rarities in Major League Baseball. They are guys who can be trusted in nearly any situation that they are thrown into. They have consistently been good at Coors Field and on the road, and are the main cogs in what has quietly been one of the best bullpens in the National League, despite a huge workload.
The key to both of the late-inning relievers is that they pound the strike zone. Since 2010, Betancourt has walked a total of 26 batters, eight of which were intentional, while striking out 200 in 161 2/3 innings. Pounding the strike zone at that rate is extremely rare. In Coors Field, it is nearly unheard of.
Belisle’s ratio is very similar, he has been special. Since 2010 he has walked a total of 38 batters, 11 of which were intentional, while striking out 198 in 217 innings.
Pitchers like those two are easy to forget about. In a season in which the Rockies have usually given up five or more runs by the time either one of them steps to the mound, their importance really isn’t as great as it may have been if the purple pinstripes were in contention.
The issue, however, is that when both of those pitchers are gone, a team struggles to replace them with the same quality. Colorado might get some salary relief by dealing them, but the value in a solid back of the bullpen goes beyond salary relief for just one season.
If the Rockies do end up dealing one or both of those pitchers (Betancourt seems the most likely), they will have created another hole to fill. At this point, if the team ends up creeping back into contention, or close to it in 2013, they are going to need to fill other holes. Right now, they don’t need to worry too much about their bullpen. They have talent locked up for fairly cheap that can get the job done. There is no reason to believe that those guys won’t perform at the same level in 2013, and the Rockies may need them then more than ever.
When things have gone as bad as they have for the Rockies, it is easy to get short-sighted. It is easy to suggest that anyone who someone else might want should be traded, if nothing else to save salary. However, the long-term cannot be forgotten about in the emotions of such a poor season.
The reality is, both Betancourt and Belisle are rare pitchers. They pound the strike zone, get outs and have no issues pitching at Coors Field. The Rockies should be hesitant to deal away either one of them.