Even if Jamie Moyer is getting nothing more than a bone thrown in his direction by the Colorado Rockies, his years of pitching and veteran-ness can surely help the team's staple of young pitchers learn a thing or two.
Spare the jokes, just for one moment, if you would. The ones about how he's so old he wears his Social Security Number on his jersey, and how he was present for the invention of the curveball, and how he owns blue jeans that are older than Drew Pomeranz ... all that stuff. Just set it aside for a bit, so we can really talk about what the hell Jamie Moyer and the Colorado Rockies are doing consummating the strangest marriage of this hot stove season.
Pending a physical, the Rockies and the 49-year-old lefthander have agreed to a minor league deal that includes an invitation to spring training. Which means that Moyer will step on to the complex at Talking Stick in Scottsdale in a few weeks competing for a spot in an unsettled Rockies rotation. It's hard to remember a season in which the Rockies have gone to camp with so little resolved when it comes to the men who will make the first five starts of the season on the mound. Aside from Jhoulys Chacin and Jason Hammel, nobody is guaranteed a spot on the roster. Aside from those two and Kevin Slowey, who was acquired from Minnesota in the offseason, none of the candidates can claim more than two full seasons spent in the big leagues.
So enter Moyer into the discussion, who has enough experience to go around. Moyer broke in to the major leagues in 1986, before yours truly was born and before the Rockies were even a gleam in Major League Baseball's eye. Twenty four seasons later, Moyer's elbow blew out on him after 19 starts with the Phillies in June 2010. Tommy John Surgery isn't a career death sentence, but when the recipient of the surgery is 47 years old, you'd be forgiven if you assumed it was. When Moyer started making noise last year about wanting to pitch again once he was healthy, it was met with a healthy dose of skepticism. Yet, here he is with a ticket to the Cactus League in hand.
Even if it seems preposterous to think that Jamie Moyer has anything more than an infinitesimal chance of breaking camp with the big league team - well, that still means there's a chance. And the people who see that as a possibility are bothered by it because him doing so would be an alarming show of bad faith in the young pitchers the Rockies have spent all winter amassing. If the likes of Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Tyler Chatwood, Josh Outman, and/or Juan Nicasio can't make the rotation ahead of Moyer, whose ERA was sitting in the high fours despite decent peripherals before he got hurt and has spent the last year not pitching in the big leagues and, oh yeah, turning forty-nine freaking years old, then it can be interpreted as a sign that the Rockies aren't just in trouble this season, but in the future, since that would seem to imply a lack of readiness/polish/talent on hand.
But, to me, bringing in Jamie Moyer is precisely the sort of thing the Rockies should be doing in preparation for this season. The Rox should hit just fine in 2012, especially if Dexter Fowler's second half of 2011 was the real deal, but if they want to be any good, they've got to get better starting pitching. And that's a tough ask of such a young group of hurlers. Sure, there's a lot of potential on hand. But for that potential to bear results, the Rockies need their kids to mature in a hurry. Not just physically, but mentally as well.
And for that purpose, who better to have setting an example in your spring camp than one of the game's smartest pitchers, and an ultimate example of how to succeed without being overpowering? Moyer never was a pitcher with blow-away stuff, and is the game's all time leader in gopher balls surrendered with 511. But his longevity and success are a product of an unparalleled understanding of the art of pitching. With a fastball that wouldn't get a speeding ticket on Interstate 80 at the center of a five-pitch repertoire, Moyer knows how to pitch without a safety net. He's understood the importance of working the corners, setting up hitters, and attacking their weaknesses.
The Rockies aren't just bringing in a veteran pitcher. They're bringing in a professor emeritus of pitching, one who can serve as an example for the future of the Rockies rotation. And it's a move that fits with the club's off-season philosophy - changing the culture of the clubhouse and setting the table for the future of the franchise. It's a move based upon intangible value, and if even one month in Scottsdale is all Moyer spends with the Rockies, his insight could prove invaluable if the rest of the staff is willing to listen.
So now you may resume your regularly scheduled snark. Because it is a little funny that the Rockies just signed a guy who once struck out Ty Cobb and remembers where he was the day McKinley was shot. But the Rockies are well-positioned to take advantage of what Jamie Moyer has to offer. And if nothing else, it's a 49 year-old lefty giving his dream one more shot against all odds, a phenomenal story to follow, and maybe even root for, this spring.