Offseason Outlook: Colorado Rockies

The Rockies are next in our Offseason Outlook series.  Here’s a look at their 2009 commitments:

C – Chris Iannetta – $400K
C – Yorvit Torrealba – $3.5MM
1B – Todd Helton – $16.6MM
2B – Clint Barmes – $405K+
SS – Troy Tulowitzki – $750K
3B – Garrett Atkins – $4.3875MM+
IF – Jeff Baker – $403K
IF – Ian Stewart – $400K
LF – Matt Holliday – $13.5MM
CF – Willy Taveras – $1.975MM+
RF – Brad Hawpe – $5.5MM
OF – Ryan Spilborghs – $400K
OF – Seth Smith – $400K

SP – Aaron Cook – $8.75MM
SP – Jeff Francis – $3.75MM
SP – Jorge de la Rosa – $1.025MM+
SP – Ubaldo Jimenez – $400K
SP – Greg Reynolds – $400K

RP – Manny Corpas – $750K
RP – Taylor Buchholz – $400K
RP – Luis Vizcaino – $3.5MM
RP – Matt Herges – $2.5MM (club option; salary estimated)
RP – Jason Grilli – $420K+
RP – Ryan Speier – $400K
RP – Jason Hirsh – $400K

Non-tender candidates: Cory Sullivan – $1MM+, Willy Taveras – $1.975MM+

Other commitments: Mike Hampton – $6MM

That’s $77.6MM committed, plus arbitration raises to Barmes, Atkins, Taveras, de la Rosa, Grilli, and Sullivan.  Outfielders Taveras and Sullivan could be cut loose, but raises will still push payroll past $82MM.  The Rockies began the season with a $68.6MM payroll.

This should be an interesting offseason for Dan O’Dowd and company.  First there’s the Helton issue.  He’s owed $56.9MM for the 2009-11 seasons, so he’d be very difficult to trade.  Throw in the back problems and he’s basically immovable.

Helton’s injury status may make it harder to trade Atkins this winter.  Could Baker and/or Joe Koshansky handle first base if Atkins is traded and Helton is injured?  Perhaps.  The Rockies would like to move Atkins and his probable $7MM salary for a frontline starting pitcher, but his performance away from Coors has been poor.  If the offers are weak, Atkins may stay.

Holliday could be traded instead; his road performance is not problematic.  However, the Rockies will probably only trade Holliday if they can do so without hurting the ’09 team.  A package similar to the one the Twins received for Johan Santana would be surprising; O’Dowd instead went after Carlos Beltran this summer.

The Rockies’ offense could be solid in ’09 with the current group.  They could hope that Tulo and Atkins bounce back and give more playing time to Iannetta and Stewart.

For the rotation, the Rockies will probably add one veteran starter to their solid core of Cook, Francis, Jimenez, and de la Rosa.  Derek Lowe would be a great signing if they are willing to raise payroll (or find a reasonable trade for Atkins).  Losing Brian Fuentes will hurt the bullpen, but starting pitching is the more urgent need.  Perhaps Atkins can be traded for a quality reliever like Huston Street (just an example – the A’s may not be interested).

If the Rockies take payroll past $85MM, maybe they can lure a veteran like Lowe while retaining Holliday for an ’09 run.  That’d be my strategy.

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