Aspen Comes Out of the Rain

By Rene Custeau

The Aspen Rainmakers have made several off-season moves to make an

attempt to pull themselves out of the gutter and into contention for the 2009

BRASSWORLD title. They knew going into the Free Agency draft that they were

in desperate need of a couple of power hitters and a whole new bullpen. They

had only retained two relievers (Dave Borkowski and Mike Gonzalez) from last

season and they both would be considered “mop-up” at best.


First, they dealt away starting pitcher Ryan Dempster to Virginia for

Kelly Shoppach, Chris Carter and Virginia's 2010 1st round draft choice. This

gave the Rainmakers a young catcher to relieve Jason Kendall and provide the

team with some added pop. “It was tough giving up Dempster but we only had

him signed for the season and thought the deal was the right direction for the

team,” elaborated Aspen’s general manager, Johnny Bench. “Demp was a fan

favorite here and we took a lot of flack but the team had only produced 120

wins over the past two seasons so something had to be done.”

With Dempster gone the Rainmakers still have four pretty damn good

starting pitchers in Rich Harden, Adam Wainwright, Kevin Slowey and Scott

Kazmir. They next made a trade with Henry Vance of the Greenheads to pick

up slugging leftfielder, Alfonzo Soriano. Aspen sent Kevin Frandsen, Kyle

Kendrick, Aspen's 2009 1st round draft choice and $1,500,000 to get him and

lefty relief specialist Matt Thornton. They gave up a lot but it was the

acquisition of Thornton that made the deal. He was the first cog to rebuilding

Aspen’s depleted bullpen.


Next, they picked up Waikiki’s right-handed reliever Dan Wheeler to

complement Thornton by giving up youngster Brandon Moss and a 2009 later

round draft pick. Wheeler was the second pitcher added to Aspen’s bullpen.

GM, Bench then opened up owner Rene Custeau’s wallet and spent

several millions of dollars in Free Agency, signing 2nd baseman Orlando Hudson

and 3rd baseman Chone Figgins. Hudson would replace the versatile Marco

Scutaro at second and freeing him up to backup everyone else. Figgins would

give the Rainmakers some speed at the top of the lineup and replaced

disappointing Kevin Kousmanoff at 3rd. This move solidified the Rainmakers

infield. They now had Connor Jackson at first, Hudson at 2nd, Figgins at 3rd

with Jhonny Peralta and Jason Bartlet battling for shot.


Bench also signed 3 more significant relievers Grant Balfour, Darrin

Oliver, and Mike Adams. With these signings it could be said that the

Rainmakers have assembled the best middle relief crew this league has every

seen. Next, they signed starting pitcher, Hiroki Kuroda to replace the loss of

Ryan Dempster and will complement the rest of the starting staff.

With all the moves mentioned above the Rainmakers still needed the

one big bat in the middle of the lineup. With their infield all set they needed to

find an outfielder with some considerable pop. There really wasn’t anything

left in the Free Agency so they turned toward other teams looking for a trade.

“We had inquired very early on about Adam Dunn’s future in Hoboken. They

were interested in starting pitching and had mentioned Dempster, Blanton and

Cha Seung Baek,” Bench was quoted as saying. “When GM Peter Blake

contacted us (Rainmakers) we had already dealt Dempster and weren’t willing

to part with Blanton so it was Baek who was shipped to the Bum’s for Dunn.

With Dunn now anchoring the middle of Aspen’s lineup there outfield was set

with Soriano in left, Winn in center and Dunn in right.


So, the Rainmakers added two big bats and a slugging catcher to their

lineup (Soriano, Dunn & Shoppach) as well as rebuilding their bullpen.

(Wheeler, Thornton, Oliver, Adams, & Balfour). They have replaced starter

Ryan Dempster for Hiroki Kuroda and added Figgins & Hudson to their infield.

Who knows if they will be able to win it all next year? One thing we can say for

sure is they have worked hard at assembling a team that will definitely be

much more competitive than the last two seasons and, with a little luck,

compete for the infamous BRASSWORLD title.


2009 Aspen Rainmakers Projected Lineup

Chone Figgins, 3B

Randy Winn, CF

Alfonzo Soriano, LF

Adam Dunn, RF

Orlando Hudson, 2B

Connor Jackson, 1B

Jhonny Peralta, SS

Kelly Shoppach, C


2009 Aspen Rainmakers Projected Starting Pitching Rotation

Hiroki Kuroda, SP

Kevin Slowey, SP

Scott Kazmir, SP

Rich Harden, SP

Adam Wainwright, SP


2009 Aspen Rainmakers Relievers

Dan Wheeler, RP

Matt Thornton, RP

Grant Balfour, RP

Mike Adams, RP

Darrin, Oliver, RP