On a busy Tuesday across baseball, the Rockies shipped outfielder Dexter Fowler to the Astros and picked up four-time All Star Justin Morneau.
The Rox exchanged their everyday leadoff hitter for an unproven major league pitcher and an outfielder that will struggle to even make the Opening Day roster.
Several months ago, I suggested Fowler was the main commodity the Rox front office had to offer. Dealing Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez would help the club retool their farm system, but involves too much of a risk.
A gifted outfielder who will turn 28 in March, Fowler still has loads of upside. He covers lots of ground in the outfield, draws walks frequently and shows power on occasion. For those reasons alone, I thought the Rox could get a proven number four or five starter for the rotation in exchange.
Jordan Lyles and Brandon Barnes are your newest Rockies.
The 23-year-old Lyles was the 38th overall pick in the 2008 draft. A starting pitcher that relies heavily on location, Lyles posts a career 5.35 earned run average.
Lyles sounds like another project. Remember when the Rox obtained prized pitching prospect Drew Pomeranz in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade? Jimenez is about to cash in on a free agent deal while Pomeranz has yet to resemble anything but a feared major league southpaw.
Barnes seems to be more of a throw-in part of the trade. The 27-year-old outfielder makes little noise at the plate, but plays solid defense. In an outfield that still lists four players above him on the depth chart; it’s hard to believe Barnes making an impact for the Rockies.
Fowler was due to make a little more than $7 million in 2014. It’s safe to say that this particular trade served as a salary dump, as opposed to acquiring pitching help the club desperately needs.
Hours later, it was reported the Rockies signed Morneau, a longtime Minnesota Twin. The Canadian first baseman was named 2006 American League Most Valuable Player and regarded as a sweet-swinging left handed hitter for much of his career.
But Morneau suffered a dangerous concussion in 2010, in addition to neck and wrist surgeries the last few years. The health issues derailed the first baseman’s last three seasons, in which he’s hit just .206.
In his prime, Morneau hit 30-plus home runs year after year. Playing his entire career in a pitcher-friendly stadium, it made sense for him to sign with the Rockies. If he can stay healthy and play 125-130 games, 25 home runs doesn’t seem out of the question.
Morneau will make about $6.5 million in 2014, nearly equal to what Fowler would have made. Essentially, the Rox traded an inconsistent outfielder for a veteran past his prime. We’ll see which of the two has a better campaign next season.
But the question remains. Will the Rox get a starting pitcher that can automatically be inserted into the rotation before Opening Day?
If they don’t, 2014 will be much like the last three years.