DALLAS -- Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said trading former closer Huston Street to the Padres for a player to be named should not be read as a step back for a bullpen that was the strength of the Colorado club during a difficult 2011 season.
Of course, it would help the Rockies if they were to use the $7 million they save in Street's salary to grab a starter capable of throwing 200 innings or even a bat for the lineup -- moves he admits are tough to make. Street is due $7.5 million in salary, with the Rockies agreeing to pay $500,000 and becoming responsible for the $500,000 buyout if the Padres don't pick up Street's $9 million option for 2013.
"I don't think we got less competitive," O'Dowd said.
Right-hander Rafael Betancourt replaced a then-injured Street as closer in August, then went 8-for-9 in saves to finish the season and didn't relinquish the job. O'Dowd preferred not to have a contest between the two for the job in 2012, and Betancourt "wasn't going to let that job go easy; he likes it."
Those who can fit the eighth-inning role include young Rex Brothers, a hard-throwing left-hander who had his moments as a rookie last year; Matt Belisle, who has excelled for the Rockies the last two seasons; and right-hander Matt Lindstrom, a hard thrower and former closer. Righty Edgmer Escalona also turned some heads late in the season. The Rockies then are looking at allowing some of the young pitchers who fall out of starting-rotation competition to take multi-inning bullpen roles.
The Rockies also could develop a closer of the future, such as righty Chad Bettis, who is coming off a dominant 2011 season at Class A Modesto and could move quickly if switched to a relief role.
"Given the opportunity, we actually have a few guys with more God-given ability, and in fact may have a little bit different edge," O'Dowd said. "We didn't just dump money. We actually feel like we've created opportunities for internal guys at some point in time to take a step up and impact our club. I don't know when, but at some point in time."
O'Dowd lauded Street, who converted 84 of 95 save chances in three seasons in a Rockies uniform after arriving in a trade with the Athletics.
"His '09 season certainly gave us an opportunity to get into the postseason; without him, we wouldn't have gotten there," O'Dowd said. "His last two years weren't as good as the '09 year, but his competitiveness, his desire to want to be part of the team -- great human being, super family man.
"But we sat in San Francisco [at the end of the 2011 season] and had a very frank discussion. I knew that he was really, really uncomfortable coming into Spring Training under the conditions we were in, competing for the closer job. He's a closer in his mind. In our mind, there was competition for it. What we did in our mind was try to do the right thing for him and the right thing for our ballclub."
The Rockies have attempted this week to acquire right-hander Edinson Volquez from the Reds and have expressed interest in righty Jair Jurrjens of the Braves -- two capable pitchers who are under club control for two more years. While not confirming or discussing any specific trade talk, O'Dowd called the starting pitching trade market "almost painful to get in."
The Denver Post reported that another possibility is the Cardinals' Jake Westbrook, a onetime Rockies No. 1 Draft pick. Westbrook is due a salary similar to Street's. The Cardinals are listening to offers, rather than actively shopping Westbrook, who has a blanket no-trade clause.
Another route that O'Dowd said the Rockies could be pursuing is looking for "the right short-term guy," reported to be righty Hiroki Kuroda, who is seeking one year at about $13 million.
The Rockies also have looked at improving the lineup, having expressed interest in outfielder Michael Cuddyer. It has been reported that Cuddyer has been offered a three-year, $25 million deal by the Twins, the team with which he has spent his entire big league career.
There has been little progress in other talks between the Rockies and the Braves, who would have to be willing to give up infielder Martin Prado -- who profiles as an effective hitter at Coors Field.
The on-again, off-again talks with the Cubs, with the Rockies giving up third baseman Ian Stewart and receiving outfielder-first baseman Tyler Colvin, were reported to be on again Wednesday but not much progress was made.
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.