Rockies stand pat, confident in current team
Players not worried as other NL West contenders deal
DENVER -- The non-waiver Trade Deadline information crawling across the bottom of the television screen in the Rockies' clubhouse served as entertainment for pitcher Aaron Cook on Saturday afternoon.
"Away from here I don't follow it, but you come here and see everything that's going on, it's kind of neat to see," Cook said. "It's one of those things that's kind of special to baseball. There's a lot of hype and a lot of talk about it. Then all of a sudden it's over."
It never really began, as far as the Rockies were concerned.
Confident that a team expected to return to the playoffs will end up doing so, the Rockies let the Deadline pass without a deal. The three teams ahead of them in the National League West -- the Padres, Giants and Dodgers -- were among the most active clubs in the Majors.
The Padres picked up potentially dangerous bats in infielder Miguel Tejada and outfielder Ryan Ludwick. The Dodgers grabbed Ted Lilly for the back of the pitching rotation, Octavio Dotel as a setup man and depth players Ryan Theriot and Scott Podsednik. The Giants focused on helping a banged-up bullpen with Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez, both one-time Rockies, incidentally.
Yet, there was zero feeling that Rockies management fiddled while the team's playoff chances burned.
"I don't even know who everybody ended up with so far," Rockies outfielder Seth Smith said. "Unless somebody's picking up a No. 1-type starter or something like that, it's just kind of trading pieces. It's not really something we're too concerned with."
The Rockies still believe they're a prime contender even though they entered Saturday trailing the Padres by eight games in the NL West, and the Giants by 5 1/2 games in the Wild Card race.
Part of the Rockies' inactivity is an acknowledgment that their additions are actually returns. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki returned this week from missing 33 games with a fractured left wrist, and first baseman Todd Helton could return next week from lower back tightness that has kept him sidelined for much of this month.
The faith in this group also can be read as an acknowledgment that the Rockies have underachieved.
After earning the Wild Card last year, the Rockies came into this season expected in many circles to take the division. But an eight-game losing streak sparked speculation in many circles that the team would give up on playoff hopes and begin sending off veterans such as Cook, relievers Joe Beimel and Rafael Betancourt, outfielders Brad Hawpe and Ryan Spilborghs, and infielders Melvin Mora and Clint Barmes.
Actually, a couple of key Rockies made themselves difficult to deal during the losing skid. Cook has struggled badly in four of his past five starts. Hawpe began the second half suffering the lingering effects of bruised ribs and deep in a slump. But Hawpe has turned the corner this week. Cook, who will carry a 4-7 record and 5.06 ERA into Tuesday's start against the Giants, said he is healthy and confident he'll regain consistency.
But there's nothing like a couple big victories, such as Thursday's 9-3 beating of the Pirates and Friday night's 17-2 thrashing of the Cubs. If nothing else, an eighth inning during which the Rockies managed a single inning-record 11 consecutive hits in the eighth put some substance behind the faith.
"When you look at what was done last night in the eighth inning, the focus and the concentration and the work that they did in their at-bats, what else could you do to make that significantly better?" said Rockies manager Jim Tracy, who noted that last year the Rockies obtained Betancourt and Beimel but didn't disturb the position-player group because they liked it.
"We don't feel there's anybody in our lineup that I want to call into my office and say, 'You're going to have to step aside,' " Tracy said. "Now, you've got that club that's in first place right now [the Padres] and they went out and got a couple of pieces in Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Tejada, somebodies that have been doing a very special job for their ball club to have them at 60-41, they're not going to play as much.
"The ramifications of that? You wait and see. It may make them considerably better."
Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said earlier in the week that he didn't like the available players more than the ones he had. But that also is a call for the current roster to produce.
Players welcome that.
"You just can't make a deal just to make one, just to appease other people," Beimel said. "We don't have that many weaknesses as a team. We just have to play consistently every day, and there isn't a big piece out there that we needed to be able to do that."
Over the next month, deals involving players on the 40-man roster cannot be made unless the players already have cleared waivers. A player exposed to waivers can be claimed by any team and -- if there are multiple claims -- the player would be offered to the team with the worst record.
At that point, a team has 48 hours to either try to work out a trade with the claiming club or remove the player from waivers. A player can only be pulled back from waivers once, but if he clears waivers either the first or a second time through, a team can attempt to trade him to any club.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.