Dead­line deals im­prove ball­club

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Groke

WASH­ING­TON» Bud Black can’t re­mem­ber the con­ver­sa­tion ex­actly, but he was def­i­nitely in a room at the Ra­mada Inn next to a Phoenix dog track in 1982 when Seat­tle Mariners gen­eral man­ager Dan O’Brien called him in a hurry. Black, he was told, was the “player to be named later.”

“It was thirty … eight years ago? 36?” Black said, try­ing to re­call. The Mariners jet­ti­soned Black to the Kansas City Roy­als as part of a de­layed trade, and he went on to win a World Se­ries in 1985.

“It was a long time ago, bro,” Black said.

The for­tune that guides the wake of a trade can start that sud­denly, as the Rock­ies may learn soon af­ter div­ing into the Ma­jor League Base­ball trade dead­line last week.

Now Colorado’s man­ager, Black gained vet­er­ans Pat Neshek, a re­lief pitcher, and Jonathan Lu­croy, a catcher, within four days. The Rock­ies, on pa­per, are a bet­ter team than they were one week ago. But how good?

“From our van­tage point, a cou­ple of thou­sand miles away from Den­ver,” Black said late Sun­day night af­ter split­ting a dou­ble­header with the Na­tion­als and learn­ing dur­ing the night­cap the Lu­croy deal was com­plete, “to get this type of player will pick ev­ery­body up.”

While the Rock­ies ad­dressed,

twice over, their great­est con­cern — pitch­ing, al­ways pitch­ing — the rest of the best teams in the Na­tional League tried to outdo them.

The Los An­ge­les Dodgers, al­ready a run­away leader in the NL West, on Mon­day traded for Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish to join a ro­ta­tion that in­cludes Clayton Ker­shaw and Alex Wood. Los An­ge­les gave up three prospects, in­clud­ing per­haps the fourth-best player in its farm sys­tem, in an ur­gent at­tempt to reach the World Se­ries for the first time since 1988.

“I think it will def­i­nitely be an emo­tional boost for the team,” Dodgers gen­eral man­ager Farhan Zaidi, who also up­graded L.A.’s bullpen in sep­a­rate deals, told the Los An­ge­les Times. “It’s hard to say they need it.”

The Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs, just a half-game ahead of Colorado for the first of two wild-card spots, landed right-handed slug­ger J.D. Martinez two weeks ago in a lineup-al­ter­ing deal with the Detroit Tigers.

And two other post­sea­son po­ten­tials, the Chicago Cubs and Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als, out­bid the Rock­ies on trades. Chicago added top-notch re­liever Justin Wil­son and catcher Alex Avila in a Sun­day night deal with Detroit, and the Na­tion­als swooped in to snag Min­nesota closer Bran­don Kint­zler on Mon­day.

The Rock­ies’ trades fit in spe­cific con­text. Gen­eral man­ager Jeff Bridich told The Den­ver Post he is not shy about lean­ing on a tremen­dously young pitch­ing ro­ta­tion, in­clud­ing four rook­ies whose av­er­age age is just 23. They have com­bined for 36 of the club’s 45 vic­to­ries among start­ing pitch­ers.

“If you are at this level and you are good enough to be here,” Bridich said, “then you are good enough to play well here.”

So in­stead of brac­ing for a start­ing pitcher bid­ding war chas­ing Darvish or Oakland’s Sonny Gray, the Rock­ies tried to im­prove on the mound from the edges. Lu­croy gives them an ex­pe­ri­enced catcher to guide the young ro­ta­tion. Even though his of­fen­sive pro­duc­tion has dipped since last July, it is of se­condary con­cern.

“Jonathan gives us a guy with a vet­eran pres­ence be­hind the plate as our young starters go into un­charted ter­ri­tory in the next two months,” Black said.

They also added Neshek, an all-star sidearmer, in an

“Jonathan (Lu­croy) gives us a guy with a vet­eran pres­ence be­hind the plate as our young starters go into un­charted ter­ri­tory in the next two months.” Bud Black, Rock­ies man­ager

im­me­di­ate late-in­ning up­grade to the bullpen. Nei­ther trade cost Colorado any sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment. And there is time, if the Rock­ies choose, to weasel another sign­ing or trade through waivers. They added vet­eran slug­ger Ja­son Gi­ambi in late Au­gust be­fore play­ing in the 2009 post­sea­son.

“It seems like the front of­fice un­der­stands that we’re for real and we’re in this,” Colorado all-star third base­man Nolan Are­nado said. “And we’re try­ing to make moves to get bet­ter. It gets you a lit­tle more pumped up com­ing to the ball­park ev­ery day. That’s what we needed, with Neshek and Lu­croy, to show there’s a lit­tle some­thing to this.”

Greg Fi­ume, Getty Images

Re­lief pitcher Pat Neshek gives the Rock­ies help at a po­si­tion where they needed some depth for a run at the play­offs.

Rob Carr, Getty Images

Catcher Jonathan Lu­croy, who played for the Texas Rangers this sea­son un­til he got traded to the Rock­ies on Sun­day, pro­vides a steady vet­eran hand for the team’s four rookie start­ing pitch­ers.

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