Queries surrounding non-Taveras deal
Rockies face decision on speedster if he isn't traded by Friday
LAS VEGAS -- This much is known: The Rockies did not trade center fielder Willy Taveras to the Nationals for right-handed pitcher Tim Redding on Tuesday. But by late night Wednesday, three questions remained.
How close is close?
How dead is dead?
And what about Rockies pitcher Juan Morillo?
Several baseball officials with knowledge of the talks said early stories that the teams were close to a Taveras-Redding deal were correct. On Tuesday, it was believed that the deal fell through because the Nationals wanted not Taveras but outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, whom the Rockies obtained from the Athletics in the Matt Holliday trade. But Wednesday, it became clear that Taveras was in the deal.
Why the deal never took place is in question.
ESPN.com and several other media outlets reported Wednesday that the failure of a physical taken by one of the players scuttled the trade. Redding had left foot surgery after the season, but a source close to the righty said he wasn't the reason. So that left Taveras, who ended the season with a stress fracture in his lower right leg. A source close to Taveras, however, also said that there was no failed physical.
Asked Wednesday night whether Taveras is healthy, O'Dowd said, "We think he is, but others may not."
Later on Wednesday, the Denver Post reported the deal was not dead but "on life support." The report said sources from both teams said the deal was nixed not because of Taveras' health, but due to the health of a pitcher whom the Rockies were going to send the Nationals.
However, MLB.com learned Wednesday night that the other player in the deal was Morillo, whose fastball has been clocked at more than 100 mph several times in his career. But Morillo also has had difficulty with control and command. Morillo, however, has had some positive outings in winter ball in the Dominican Republic, having pitched well enough that O'Dowd called him "a wild card" for action in the Rockies' bullpen.
The question is whether there is a health concern about Morillo. He threw a full season at Triple-A Colorado Springs, going 1-0 with a 5.28 ERA in 52 games. He had one appearance with the Rockies.
There are reasons to revive the deal.
Redding and Taveras are arbitration-eligible, and clubs have until 10 p.m. MT on Friday to tender offers to such players. At least in Taveras' case, there's a good chance he'll be non-tendered if he isn't dealt, so the Rockies would like to trade him. Some reports indicate Redding could be non-tendered as well. And Morillo is out of Minor League options and with a Rockies team that has right-handed bullpen depth.
In a Wednesday evening meeting with the media, O'Dowd held slim hopes that he could move Taveras. He referred to the deal that brought Taveras to the Rockies in the first place. After the 2006 Winter Meetings, the Rockies sent pitcher Jason Jennings and a Minor Leaguer to the Astros for Taveras and pitchers Taylor Buchholz and Jason Hirsh. That deal didn't occur until after a White Sox-Astros trade fell apart.
"I've left these Meetings before ... the Jennings thing came right out of left field for me, so we'll see," O'Dowd said.
The Denver Post said the deal could be revived after Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, the last official act of these Winter Meetings.
In other Winter Meetings news on Wednesday:
The Rockies plan to have left-hander Franklin Morales, a top prospect who lasted just one month last season and spent the rest of the year in the Minors, will shut down his participation in the Venezuelan Winter League on Dec. 17. Then he'll head to Denver for workouts, then go to the Dominican Republic to pitch to hitters before Spring Training.
Also, right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, whose strong first full season in 2008 is one that the Rockies hope Morales can emulate, will pitch for Licey during the Dominican Winter League playoffs. The Rockies have cleared him to pitch four games during the round-robin portion of the playoffs and will revisit the issue after that. Jimenez has been working out at Coors Field.
The Rockies went into the offseason considering making an offer to free-agent right-hander Brad Penny, who has been dominant against them with the Marlins and Dodgers, but have decided against it. Penny's name has not been prominent during the Winter Meetings. A shoulder issue forced Penny to shut down right before the Dodgers entered last year's playoffs.
The Rockies could arrive at Spring Training with a formidable bullpen. Manuel Corpas and Huston Street, each of whom have succeeded in the Majors, figure to battle for the closer role, with the other doing setup duty.
Buchholz was one of baseball's top righty setup men last year. The Rockies are putting the finishing touches on a one-year offer for lefty Alan Embree, who has succeeded in the NL West. Righty Ryan Speier pitched well in several callups last season. Righty Luis Vizcaino is looking to bounce back from an injury-filled and disappointing 2008.
The Rockies are waiting to hear from left-hander Glendon Rusch on their one-year contract offer. The Rockies offered a Minor League deal to keep from having to use a spot on the 40-man roster.
"He's a great guy and we don't want to tell him stuff that's not accurate," O'Dowd said. "We want to tell him the truth and paint the picture the way it is. We want him back, but we want him back for what we can afford."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.