Trades show Rockies expect to win now

Trades show Rockies expect to win now

Rockies first baseman Todd Helton has played through many a Trade Deadline, a few of which saw his team practically bark, "Contracts! Contracts! Get your big contracts here!"

In the last week, he saw the Rockies taste -- well, nibble -- at how the rich live.

"It's good to be on the buying side, there's no doubt about that," Helton said.

Well, we're talking the cost-conscious Rockies in a 2009 Major League economy. In comparison to big-market teams, the Rockies didn't open the bank account. But all of that is relative.

The rest of setup man Rafael Betancourt's $3.5 million from his contract with the Indians and about $700,000 owed to lefty reliever Joe Beimel -- $300,000 sent by his former team, the Nationals -- represents a decent expenditure for the Rockies.

But the hope is they receive value in the form of a shot in the bullpen.

"We got two guys, one from the right side and one from the left side, that throw strikes, have pitched in big games and know how to get outs," Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said.

Before examining how the deals can help the team's National League playoff prospects -- they were tied with the Giants for the Wild Card lead entering Monday -- let's examine how the Rockies did on the value scale.

In that sense, the deals were an unqualified success.

Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd parted with two pitching prospects the club liked. But Connor Graham, who they sent to the Indians, was in high Class A, meaning it could be a long time before he realizes his potential. Reliever Ryan Mattheus, who the Nationals received, threw in last year's Futures Game and was at Triple-A Colorado Springs but is recovering from elbow surgery last month and could miss a year.

But the Rockies didn't lose such close-to-the Majors pitching prospects as righties Brandon Hynick, at Colorado Springs, and Esmil Rogers, at Double-A Tulsa, and left-hander Matthew Reynolds, also at Tulsa. They told teams that speedy Colorado Springs second baseman Eric Young Jr. was untouchable, and stuck to that. No claims here that the Rockies mortgaged the future, which is never far from their minds.

"You have to give [principal owners Charles and Richard Monfort] credit for getting guys that put us in a good position right here," All-Star right fielder Brad Hawpe said. "We got a couple of good pieces, and rumor has it we didn't lose guys we were worried about losing."

Now, push the future aside.

The Rockies are a team of now.

They have starting pitching that's consistently going deep in games and arguably the league's most effective closer in Huston Street, who has converted 28 of his 29 save opportunities.

But until the arrivals of Betancourt and Beimel, there was scant late-innings experience in the bullpen. The group has changed all but one member, Street, since the season began. But Juan Rincon, the most experienced reliever before the deals, struggled recently, and is now on the disabled list with right elbow tightness.

Now they have two relievers who have experience in tight races, yet know how not to become uptight.

Betancourt, 34, keyed the Indians' run to the 2007 American League Championship Series with a career year. Things went sour for the Indians this season and Betancourt received a new lease with the trade. But he noted that when he takes the mound, the only differences are the uniform and the league.

"That's different, when I look at the standings or go to the park," Betancourt said. "But when I'm in the game, it's the same. When I'm out there, the innings are just as important as they were when I was over there [with the Indians]."

The Rockies will gladly accept that approach, especially the way he has produced. He hasn't given up a run in five appearances, covering 4 2/3 innings, since the deal.

Beimel, 32, was a key bullpen member of two Dodgers clubs that reached the playoffs, in 2006 and last season. Not only does he escape a losing situation with the Nationals, but he returns to the NL West, where he is familiar with many of the top left-handed hitters.

"I was there three years, so you get real familiar with certain guys, their tendencies and what to expect from them," said Beimel, who negotiated with the Rockies last winter but could not reach a free-agent deal. "You play other teams, too, but you play inside the division so much that there are no surprises when you go to the mound. If you put your pitches where you want, usually you're going to have success."

Of course, deals are no guarantees. Beimel, who had a clean inning with a strikeout in his Rockies debut on Friday, gave up a game-tying, eighth-inning home run to the Reds' Joey Votto on Sunday, but the Rockies won, 5-4, in 11 innings. Tracy trusts Beimel's track record.

"Tuesday is another day," Tracy said.

The Rockies don't take the prospect of making late-season moves lightly. If they don't feel the value is there, they don't make deals. In 2007, when they made their World Series trip, they turned down opportunities to acquire veterans because they didn't feel the value was there. They turned to their system instead, and brought up pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales and outfielder Seth Smith -- all of whom are contributors now.

So Tracy trusts that the decisions at this year's Deadline are correct.

"It strongly suggests that there's a lot of homework that gets done," Tracy said. "There's a recognition of needs and how to go about fulfilling those needs with the situations that you have to deal with."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.