29-year-old Rockies lefty Jorge de la Rosa is one of the more interesting names among the 2011 free agent starting pitcher class. He had a breakout season in '09, winning 16 of 32 starts and whiffing 193 batters. De La Rosa and the Rockies agreed on a $5.6MM base salary for 2010, as the pitcher wasn't impressed by the team's three-year, $11MM offer. According to Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd, the sides were "light years apart" on an extension.
The Rockies wanted to know if De La Rosa can repeat or improve upon his 2009 season. In his first four starts of 2010, he bumped his strikeout rate up to 10.2 per nine and his groundball rate up to 61.4%. Carried out over a full season, those numbers would make GMs salivate. On the other hand, De La Rosa's walk rate rose to the danger zone of 5.1 per nine. Though he never racked up a similar groundball rate, teams might draw an Oliver Perez comparison and keep their distance.
Perez's three-year, $36MM contract did seem to be a reasonable baseline for De La Rosa. Teams aren't giving out pitching contracts so freely anymore, though, so just to approach $30MM like Randy Wolf might've sufficed.
However, De La Rosa's price will be further depressed because of an injury he suffered on Monday. It was initially described as a bruised finger, but now he's going to be out "for a while" with a torn flexor tendon band. Baseball Prospectus' Will Carroll believes De La Rosa could miss at least a month with the finger injury, and even draws a scary Adam Miller comparison (while noting that Miller's "damage was much more extensive.") Suddenly the free agent hot commodity carries an injury concern, and the pressure is on De La Rosa to come back strong in June.