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Rockies' focus on short-term future at Trade Deadline

Veteran assets would only be dealt for pieces to help team contend next season

Rockies' focus on short-term future at Trade Deadline

DENVER -- The Rockies have pitching problems in the rotation and the bullpen. They have depth issues. All of the problems have been worsened this year by a crushing stretch of injuries.

But with the non-waiver Trade Deadline approaching Thursday, the Rockies' strategy is partly set by the fact that there is a problem they don't have -- they don't have a money problem.

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Given that, there is no pressing reason for the Rockies to trade their big-money stars -- shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. If the Rockies entertain trading them at all, and for various reasons it's doubtful, it will be in the offseason.

So, according to club officials, the only circumstance under which the Rockies want to make a deal by the Trade Deadline is if it helps the Rockies contend next season. And, young pitching under club control will always be a top priority.

This season fell apart when injuries occurred. The Rockies have had six starting pitchers visit the disabled list. Right-hander Tyler Chatwood will not throw another pitch until sometime next year because of Tommy John surgery. Righty Jhoulys Chacin is under a rest-and-strengthening program for a muscle strain and small labrum tear in the right shoulder and is not expected to pitch again this year. The position players have taken their hits. Currently, Tulowitzki, right fielder Michael Cuddyer and first baseman Justin Morneau -- all possible trade bait under different circumstances -- are on the disabled list. Gonzalez, who missed time with a finger injury, is nursing a right ankle injury.

So the Rockies are left with a decision: Do they deal veterans for younger Major Leaguers or prospects and rebuild, or do they count on better health next season? The Rockies were a contender in April and May, when the lineup was together. With all of the aforementioned players except Cuddyer under contract for next season, expect them to keep the roster intact.

Of course, this season's injuries bore through the depth the club built last offseason and exposed a lack of frontline talent at the top of the Rockies' farm system. That was especially true with pitching, where the Rockies tried numerous options but appear to have struck gold with just one, lefty Tyler Matzek.

There is a way to increase that Major League-ready depth, but the Rockies would have to be blown away in a trade offer to explore it.

Lefty Jorge De La Rosa has been the best pitcher in the Rockies' history in terms of home performance, which is no small feat given the horrors of pitching at Coors Field. Several contending teams see De La Rosa as someone to help the back of their rotation. But when the Rockies asked for several of the Orioles' best young pitchers -- including righty Kevin Gausman, who is pitching in the rotation of that contending club -- it was clear the Rockies valued De La Rosa more than any other club did.

Several club officials told MLB.com that the Rockies were leaning toward keeping De La Rosa, a free agent at season's end, and making a $14 million qualifying offer for next season. The offer would assure the Rockies of Draft pick compensation if he were to sign elsewhere, but the hope on the team's part is that offer will keep De La Rosa in the fold.

Left-hander Brett Anderson missed three months with a broken left index finger, but his work in three starts since his return has the Rockies all but convinced to pick up his $12 million option for next season.

The best shots at making trades lie in other teams' interests in Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins, who has converted all but one of his 17 save opportunities but even at 41 could help a contending team's late bullpen, and outfielders Drew Stubbs and Brandon Barnes, two speedy right-handed hitters who are strong defenders. The Rockies will have to receive immediate help in return.

Standing pat is a risk, given that another year of massive injury could leave the Rockies right back where they are this year, and the fan base is impatient for change. But with the Rockies believing they can win next season with better health, the Rockies may take that risk.

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.

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