The bigger name in the deal made Tuesday evening between the Houston Astros and the Colorado Rockies is that of reliever Wilton Lopez, but Houston may ultimately wind up clear winners in this deal if the starter they got in return, Alex White, comes anywhere close to his potential.
This is the second time in the past week that the Astros have agreed to trade Lopez, but the first deal, with the Phillies, fell apart when Lopez traveled to Philadelphia to take his physical. Whatever issues were encountered there could still be in play I suppose, but assuming everything goes through the Rockies will have added one of the better late-inning relievers in the National League.
The deal, which will reportedly include a player to be named later going with Lopez and minor league right hander Alex Gillingham headed to Houston with White, makes much more sense for the Astros than it does Colorado. White, 24, spent most of the 2012 season in the Colorado rotation and though he struggled, it was his first extended major league look.
Drafted in the first round by Cleveland in 2009, White was one of two top pitching prospects, along with Drew Pomeranz, that the Indians included in their deal to acquire Ubaldo Jimenez in 2011. White made 23 appearances (20 starts) for the Rockies in 2012 and like virtually every other Rockies hurler, he was hit hard, posting an ERA of 5.51 in 98 innings of work. White did post a solid groundball rate, which seems beneficial for a pitcher in Denver, but his strikeout rate was just 6.1/9 innings.
Lopez is not overpowering but features outstanding command and has been one of the most effective relievers in the league for the past three years. He stepped into the closer’s role for Houston late last season and wound up saving 10 games.
It could be that the Rockies are building a better and deeper bullpen to offset their issues in the starting rotation, or it could be that either Lopez or Rafael Betancourt could be on the move again. the Rockies don’t figure to contend in 2012 unless they make serious strides in addressing their starting rotation. This deal does nothing to help them there.