O'Dowd says Rox 'restocking' with Ubaldo deal

O'Dowd says Rox 'restocking' with Ubaldo deal

O'Dowd says Rox 'restocking' with Ubaldo deal
SAN DIEGO -- Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said the trade of pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to the Indians for four Minor Leaguers, including three highly touted pitchers, was the right deal at the right time, and it could bear fruit sooner than later.

"We are restocking, not rebuilding," O'Dowd said in a conference call with local media.

O'Dowd said the two No. 1 Draft picks, right-handed pitcher Alex White and left-hander Drew Pomeranz -- once he's clear to join the Rockies' organization on Aug. 15 -- could be a part of the big club's rotation before season's end. Righty Joe Gardner will be moved to the bullpen and could be a factor at the big-league level quickly.

White (2009), who saw action with the Indians early this season before suffering a middle finger injury but is ready for injury rehab assignments, and Pomeranz (2010) were first-round picks, and Gardner (2009) was taken in the third round. White is expected to visit Denver as early as Monday to have his finger evaluated.

Trade Include

The Indians said Pomeranz will continue to work in the Indians' farm system, and the Indians and Rockies will work out a work schedule for the next two weeks.

The Rockies also nabbed a hitter in Matt McBride, although they need to find a position for him. McBride has played catcher, first base and outfield.

It was the only deal the Rockies made before Sunday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. O'Dowd said he thought he had another trade but it fell apart a half-hour before the 2 p.m. MT deadline. O'Dowd did not say which Rockies player was involved, although catcher Chris Iannetta to the Blue Jays was a rumored deal, and reliever Rafael Betancourt and third baseman Ian Stewart also were speculated about on Sunday.

Now that the non-waiver Trade Deadline has passed, deals involving players on the 40-man roster cannot be made unless the players already have cleared waivers. In other words, the player must be offered to the other teams in reverse order of the standings, and if a player is claimed by one of the teams, he cannot be traded. The club that placed the player on waivers can either withdraw the request and keep the player, or let the player go to the claiming team, which would then have the rights to the player.

O'Dowd acknowledged that giving up Jimenez, who has pitched the only no-hitter in Rockies history and started last year's All-Star Game, is not popular with fans. Then again, trading All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday to the Athletics after the 2008 season was not warmly received until two of the players who came in the deal, outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and closer Huston Street, helped the Rockies to the playoffs in 2009.

The caveat, of course, is White and Pomeranz, or at least one of them, will need to meet lofty expectations. One reason the Rockies felt they had to make a deal was recent first-round starting pitchers Greg Reynolds (2006), Christian Friedrich (2008) and Tyler Matzek (2009) have battled a combination of lower-than-expected performance levels and injuries. Another top pick reliever Casey Weathers (2007), also has had his injury issues and has not had a smooth trip through the Minor League system.

O'Dowd acknowledged the difficulty in parting with Jimenez, who had the best season in club history last year (19-8, 2.88 ERA) but got off on the wrong foot with injuries to his right thumb cuticle, hip flexor and groin struggles early this season. But when the Rockies made Jimenez available and placed a high asking price, then saw teams ready to pay it, it made sense.

Other teams offered some hitters and, in some cases, Major Leaguers, but O'Dowd said he chose the top-end pitching prospects the Indians offered.

"If we were 10 games up in the division and not 10 games back, this would have [still] been a difficult deal to pass up," O'Dowd said.

The Rockies ended up dealing Jimenez at the top of his trade value.

Last offseason, the Rockies granted lengthy, big-money contracts to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, and told Jimenez they would watch his performance this season and get back to him on an extension.

As the season unfolded, the Rockies had concerns over Jimenez's slow start, coupled with his dropoff last year after beginning the year 15-1. Having been burned in the past, not only by the contracts to Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle beginning with the 2001 season but when injuries beset Jeff Francis and Aaron Cook after they signed expensive deals, it became clear a new contract for Jimenez was not coming.

"These are agonizing decisions, but at the same time I felt better about it because Ubaldo knew what was going on in the process," O'Dowd said. "He knew what we were trying to do and why, and Ubaldo was extremely excited about it. That made it easier."

Rockies manager Jim Tracy said he understood the difficulty in making the trade.

"It takes a lot of character, it takes a lot of courage to make a deal like this, because you know it's in the spotlight and something that's going to be speculated on for a while," Tracy said.

Both Tracy and O'Dowd strongly denied any suggestion that the deal means the Rockies are planning for a far-away future. They would not even acknowledge giving up on this year, since they're still looking for a late turnaround -- despite long odds that the Rockies will find their way into playoff contention.

"All you have to do is look around on the field and know you're not in complete rebuilding mode," Tracy said.

Other teams were ready to reach out for a pitcher who has pitched better on the road than at home, and is capable of making a difference in a pennant race, plus has a club-friendly contract. As has been the case with other deals, the closer a player moves to free agency, the less other teams are willing to trade.

"We had to be bold," O'Dowd said.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.