Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd insisted that dealing team career wins leader Jason Jennings on Tuesday was for one reason -- to make the team better in 2007. The Rockies received high-upside right-handers Jason Hirsh and Taylor Buchholz, as well as speedy center fielder Willy Taveras from the Astros for Jennings and Minor League pitcher Miguel Asencio. Recent headlines centered on the Rockies' inability to sign Jennings beyond 2007, for which he is signed for $5.5 million, which meant that they risked losing him for a mere draft pick if they didn't deal him.
The long-discussed deal swaps a proven pitcher for two highly talented pitchers -- Hirsh, the key to the deal, was chosen Pitcher of the Year in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League last season and the Double-A Texas League the previous season, and Buchholz has greater fastball velocity than Hirsh. For a team that wants to win with young players, O'Dowd will take that. "We were very fortunate to work this deal out," O'Dowd said. "When I talked to Jason, I told him that this had nothing to do with his contract. We would have made this trade at any point in time. "This trade gives us more flexibility as we continue putting our club together, and I think it's going to make us a better club next year and in the future." Hirsh, who was the Astros' top pick in 2003 and turns 25 on Feb. 20, went 13-2 with a 2.10 ERA in 23 starts for Triple-A Round Rock. He also went 3-4 with a 6.04 ERA in the first nine starts of his career, with the Astros. In 2005, he was touted as the Astros organization's top prospect as he went 13-8 with a 2.87 ERA at Double-A Corpus Christi. "He's 6-8 and 260 pounds, with very good control, a high-average Major League fastball and two secondary pitches that he's still working on," O'Dowd said. "He still has a significant ceiling." Buchholz, 25, went 6-10 with a 5.89 ERA in 22 games, including 19 starts, for the Astros as a rookie in 2006. He also made seven appearances at Round Rock. Buchholz suffered from shoulder problems in 2004 and had just 20 starts in 2005.