Time to break down the Rockies for 2007. Many thanks to the fine Rockies blog Purple Row, a helpful resource.
Dan O’Dowd’s contract obligations:
C – Chris Iannetta – $0.38MM
C – Yorvit Torrealba – $1MM
1B – Todd Helton – $16.6MM
2B – Kaz Matsui – $1.5MM
SS – Troy Tulowitzki – $0.38MM
3B – Garrett Atkins – $0.38MM
IF – Jamey Carroll – $0.7MM
IF – Clint Barmes – $0.38MM
LF – Matt Holliday – $0.7MM
RF – Brad Hawpe – $0.38MM
OF – Cory Sullivan – $0.38MM/Jeff Baker – $0.38MM
SP – Jason Jennings – $5.5MM
SP – Jeff Francis – $0.38MM
SP – Aaron Cook – 3.05MM
SP – Byung-Hyun Kim – $2.5MM
SP – Ubaldo Jimenez – $0.38MM
RP – Brian Fuentes – $3.5MM
RP – Jeremy Affeldt – $1MM
RP – Denny Bautista – $0.38MM
RP – Ramon Ramirez – $0.38MM
RP – Manuel Corpas – $0.38MM
RP – David Cortes – $0.38MM
By my estimate the Rockies have $40.6MM locked up before raises, so let’s say $45MM for now. Holliday alone could see his salary increase by $4MM in arbitration. They entered the 2006 season with a $41.2MM payroll.
The Rox appear to have a capable tandem behind the plate with rookie Iannetta and 28 year-old Torrealba. However, the team is still concerned with Torrealba’s strained shoulder, which dates back to September. There has been talk of importing either Bengie Molina or Rod Barajas to split time with the promising but green Iannetta.
First base is set through 2011 with Helton. His ’06 offensive performance ranked 12th among first basemen. Maybe not worth the price, but not many guys can give you a .400 OBP. He is taking up 35% of the payroll, however. Helton has an out clause after ’07, but I don’t see him abandoning $69MM for four seasons.
The middle infield is good to go, with Tulo and Matsui seemingly the main guys and Carroll playing the utility role. Atkins trailed only Miguel Cabrera for the best offensive season for a third baseman in 2006. He progressed beyond expectations by hitting a robust .329/.409/.556 in almost 700 PAs.
Can’t go wrong with Holliday and Hawpe at the corners, especially for the price. I’m not sure what the plan is for 25 year-old outfielder Jeff Baker, but some projections like him quite a bit for next year. He may steal some time from Hawpe, according to Clint Hurdle.
Of course the big need for this team is center field. A slew of candidates have been mentioned: Aaron Rowand, Dave Roberts, Chris Burke, Jay Payton, Darin Erstad, Brady Clark, Steve Finley, Coco Crisp, and even Clint Barmes. The only free agent I haven’t seen connected in print to Colorado is Kenny Lofton.
If O’Dowd prefers, that CF could come via trade. Jason Jennings is generating some buzz, and reports say that the Rockies are listening to offers. He averaged over 6.6 innings per start this season and posted a 3.78 ERA. He’ll be just 28 in 2007. However, free agency is around the corner and Jennings could easily post a 4.50 ERA in ’07 based on his peripherals.
Jennings is still a hittable pitcher with subpar command right now. I would shop him aggressively for the next month and definitely trade him before the season begins. Last winter, Kevin Towers’s Adam Eaton situation was comparable to this. He snagged Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez in that deal. It’s a shame Jennings didn’t win nearly as many games as he deserved to, or his market value would be even higher.
Elsewhere in the rotation, the Rockies have talked about several guys to fill out the last slot: Josh Fogg again, Rodrigo Lopez via trade, Carl Pavano trade, or free agents Bruce Chen or John Thomson. Thomson wouldn’t cost much and he came up through the organization. The Rox sent Thomson to the Mets in an ’02 trade for Jay Payton.
For the sixth starter type spot, hard-throwing 23 year-old Ubaldo Jimenez could work after a fine 13 start effort at Double A this year. Chin-Hui Tsao, rehabbing from rotator cuff surgery, could work his way back into the mix.
The pen has some live arms, but the Rockies are looking for help. Many players have the team’s interest: Octavio Dotel, David Riske, Dan Kolb, LaTroy Hawkins, Scott Williamson, Scott Schoeneweis, Justin Speier, and even Eric Gagne. Look for a low-level signing or two.
To sum it up, the Rockies have a center fielder and a couple of relievers in their sights. I have my doubts that the Rockies would lock Jennings up for four or five years at $10-12MM annually, so a trade this year seems likely. Pretty much every team wants pitching, and there are plenty good young CFs available.
Matt Holliday is Rockie property through 2009, though he hired Scott Boras this year and will probably go year-to-year for the duration of his Rockie career. The Rox had looked to lock him up last winter until he switched to Boras.