O'Dowd has made some questionable moves over the years since he was first hired as General Manager in the fall of 1999. However, his only major failures were the signings of lefty pitchers Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton to lucrative long-term deals. After signing a 5-year, $51 million contract, Neagle was an absolute disaster in 2001 and 2002 for the Rockies, with ERA's well over 5. In 2003, he pitched in only 7 games due to injuries and had his contract terminated under a personal conduct clause after patronizing a prostitute - for which he legally served community service. The Players Association protested the termination, and the Rockies later came to an undisclosed financial agreement with him.
Mike Hampton had previously been a star pitcher for the Houston Astros and New York Mets and signed a massive contract with the Rockies. He was awful in his first season - a 5.41 ERA in 32 starts - and even worse in his second season with a 6.15 ERA in 30 starts. After the 2002 season, Hampton was traded along with Juan Pierre and cash in a three-team deal. some of his salary was deferred to other teams, but the Rockies had to eat a lot of it. Pierre went to the Marlins and Hampton ended up with the Braves. PIerre went on to be quite good with the Marlins, and Hampton actually found himself with the Braves in 2003 and 2004. He was off to a very good start in 2005 before he blew out his arm and because of setbacks in recovery did not pitch in 2006 or 2007. When he returned for his final contract year in 2008, he wasn't very good in 13 starts (4.85 ERA). He would try and hang on for a couple more years, but he was finished.
Focusing on the Farm
But since then the Rockies have gone to more of a player development route, one that's served them well with All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, outfielders Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon, catcher Wilin Rosario, and third baseman Nolan Arenado. They've also been good at identifying key contributors as free agents, including first baseman/outfielder Michael Cuddyer and first baseman Justin Morneau. Their main issue has been pitching, which they have not consistently developed, often going outside the system to try and boost their staff.
In 15 seasons under O'Dowd, the Rockies only enjoyed four winning seasons. They have definitely suffered from key injuries to outfielder Carlos Gonzalez (a trade that O'Dowd definitely won), Troy Tulowitzki, and others. But mostly, it has been as simple as when they've pitched well, they win, and that hasn't been often. With the now former Director of Player Development at the helm, it would appear obvious that the Rockies are going to fully commit to a homegrown strategy.
Bill Geivett took the VP of Major League Operations in 2012, although he'd been with the Rockies front office since 2000. While O'Dowd remained GM, Geivett took over a lot of the Major League dealings, even putting an office right outside the clubhouse - a move that caused some tensions with players. There were some deals that went very badly under his watch, namely the Brett Anderson trade that hasn't worked out well at all due to Anderson now suffering from back issues. Drew Pomeranz, who went to the A's in the deal, looked like he was about to put things together, but after breaking his hand after punching a chair in frustration, that was the end of his season.
Relief pitcher Boone Logan was signed to a hefty contract for a left-handed specialist, and the results have been atrocious, though it would seem he suffered from horribly bad luck, too. They also foolishly waived a talented starting pitcher in Colin McHugh, who proceeded to breakout with the Houston Astros. But overall, what's been holding the team back is a lot of injuries and many young players not taking the roles that the team hoped that they would.
But O'Dowd and Geivett did make some good trades last offseason. Drew Stubbs for Josh Outman proved to be a great one as Stubbs was forced into service due to injuries to outfielders and performed extremely well offensively at Coors Field - not so much elsewhere. But he's still around for 2015 and could still be a very useful piece going forward. The Dexter Fowler trade, after O'Dowd made some interesting comments about the player's character, hasn't worked out terribly, netting them a decent back-end starter in Jordan Lyles and defensive-minded outfielder Brandon Barnes. Fowler has been okay for the Astros, but nothing special. Still it was pretty much a wash.
Solid Core in Place
Going forward, young new general manager Jeff Bridich has some good pieces to work with. Obviously, he's going to hope Troy Tulowitzki and star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez can return fully healthy in 2015. Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon now have starting jobs in 2015 with Gonzalez's return due to their excellent performances in 2014. Defensive wizard Nolan Arenado started flashing a lot more power this season and should be a cornerstone of this team for some time. Wilin Rosario has had some struggles, however. Second base has also been a black hole for the team. But 2014 free agent addition Justin Morneau has been good and will return for an inexpensive second season. Even with Michael Cuddyer leaving, this will pretty much still be the same offense next year.
On the pitching side, the Rockies retained Jorge De La Rosa, their only really consistent starter, and obviously Jordan Lyles will be in the plans for 2015. Homegrown product Tyler Matzek shows promise. Rex Brothers needs to get his walk rate under control in the bullpen and they could use another strong arm in the bullpen, but Logan really can't be any worse in 2015 and beyond. The Rockies need a couple of strong starters to add to their rotation if they want to win more than 66 games next season.
Looking Beyond 2015
Prospect-wise, pitcher Jon Gray had an okay 2014 Double-A, and he has the potential to be a front-line starter. The Rockies will definitely be tracking his development closely. Eddie Butler could also be a very solid starter, as well, although there are scouts that still feel his future is in the bullpen, despite very strong AA numbers. Outfielder David Dahl is hitting well in the low minors, so he's a potential trade chip as he currently looks blocked in the Majors. Lefty pitcher Kyle Freeland, outfielder Raimel Tapia, and infielder Ryan McMahon could all be others to watch closely.
It will interesting to see just how different the Rockies approach to the offseason will be in 2014-15. The Rockies definitely have a few holes to fill. We'll see how they try and cover them, because the core is better than their win-loss record would have you believe.