Ah, another preface, but I can't help but think that these are necessary when delving into a lengthy discussion such as this. Before reading any further, be sure to read the first part of the off-season breakdown titled "Truths," in order to better understand where I'm going with these following points. As for this post, the important thing to note is that these are not to each be taken as concrete actions, but simply as suggestions for action. It's too easy to say that you'd trade for Tejada, or things of that nature. These will be more about exploring avenues and the means that might be necessary to accomplish certain goals. Also, they aren't all inclusive, several suggestions will serve to fill the same need, but as in real life, not all trades, or free agent pursuits come to fruition, so contingency plans are needed. Along these lines, some suggestions will request a restraint in action, as I hope to cover my thoughts on certain moves rumored by beat writers or fans. Finally, there will be no suggested coaching or front office personnel changes listed here. My main focus here was to not look at this from the eyes of O'Dowd, but as a rational individual following the "truths" I laid out in my previous post. I don't doubt that some coaching changes could improve the team, but the focus here is on the players. In summation, look at these suggestions as a plan to attack the off-season, designed prior to the off-season, guided by the five truths about this team:
In House Suggestions:
-Exercise Jennings 2007 option, and extend his contract another three years.
Jason is set to make over five million with the option, but he's worth far more to the franchise. Working in the Rockies favor is that Jennings lacks the surface stats to demand an ace's salary. His improvement this season probably won't allow the Rockies to average the extension to five million a year, but three years and 21 million might be a workable option. Five million is a good starting point, though.
-Offer Holliday an "above market value" contract to avoid arbitration and insure his immediate future in Colorado.
This one is no guarantee because of the Boras wildcard. One thing the Rockies have working in their favor is that Carlos Lee, the off-season "benchmark" for left fielders, left Scott Boras, so his eventual asking price might not be as high as it would have been. Holliday has better numbers than Lee, but he doesn't have the perception of being the better player in the media. Regardless, the Rockies will need to overpay to keep Holliday, and as long as the price isn't exorbitant, they should strongly consider paying it. This isn't just a situation of appeasing the fan base by keeping a homegrown star, this is carrying through with a plan started in 2004. He's 26, and a top five left fielder in the majors, and despite Smith's improvement in Tulsa, the Rockies don't have a prospect in Holliday's league as a hitter that they can bank on succeeding right now. Besides, the money should be there, the team earned a sizable check in revenue sharing, the interest locally in the team appears to have risen, and an article in the Post a few weeks ago stated that the taxpayer's of Colorado are increasing their burden of paying for Coors Field...
-Exercise the team option on Kim's contract.
Why not? He's not perfect, and at times he's not even worth starting every fifth day, but more often than not, he keeps this team in ballgames. His bullpen experience also adds to his value, especially if he loses out on a rotation spot to a guy like Jimenez. The option is for 2.5 million, which isn't so great that he couldn't be flipped at the deadline if need be. He should be held onto for flexibility purposes.
-Decline options on King, Mesa, and DeJean, refuse arbitration for Tom Martin.
Turning over a bullpen isn't uncommon, and this team has been pretty adept at adding players who play at a solid level. The point is that these guys won't really be needed, but their 40 man roster spots might be. The Rockies could be flushed with plenty of in-house bullpen options. Players that lose out for rotation spots, like Kim, Bautista, and Jimenez, could be candidates for the pen. The team also has returning players from injury, like Tsao and Speier, that could be healthy and effective enough to pitch middle innings. Finally, minor league relievers that could surprise in training camp can't be counted out, and those names include: Newman, Burch, Miller, Songster, Hampson, Field, and a few more. Finally, we can't forget the holdovers; Fuentes, Ramirez, Corpas, and Affeldt, all four likely better bets than the players being sent on. The money saved on declining these options could be better spent on other areas, and as I will point out soon, free agency might have some relievers worth looking into.
-Give Morillo a crack at winning a bullpen role.
This is not a white flag on his future as a starter, but his arm could be a major asset in the pen, and several analysts suggest breaking in power starters in relief roles. Morillo's leverage and innings could be closely monitored, and pitching on a more frequent basis could help develop feel in his other pitches. Chances are likely that he wouldn't break camp as an integral member of the pen, but it would be worth exploring in training camp, and who knows what he'll do when he knows he has an opportunity to make show without AAA experience?
-Insure that Stewart, Fowler, Tulowitzki, Koshanksy, Morales, Morillo, Jimenez, Bautista, and Reynolds are all playing with a Colorado affiliate on opening day.
Keep this in mind when I discuss trades later. The trade deadline this season shows that teams are starting to accept that other organizations are preferring not to part with their top tier prospects for any reason, and the Rockies should be no exception. Teams seem more inclined to take on young major leaguers with moderate potential, and the Colorado might have some to offer. Even power arms like Bautista and Morillo should be saved. With the Rockies modest budget and long-term financial commitments, the success of developing the high ceiling players is critical for functioning under these constraints. There's just no need to deal these guys, the current core isn't good enough to justify it.
-Urge Todd to exercise his opt-out in his contract, which takes effect after the 2007 season.
I've heard about this opt-out several times, but I haven't heard any recent news about it, and it could be possible that he long declined to do so, and that discussing it is a moot point. Still, from what I can tell, the opt-out is still in play, and he must inform the team this off-season that he would plan to do so. Obviously, it makes little financial sense for Todd to get out of his current contract, but the Rockies have measures in which to twist his arm a bit. They could politely inform him that the position will be turned over to Koshansky full-time in 2007, and that he would then be relegated to the bench. Or imply that Atkins will be manning the position shortly to make room for Stewart in 2007. As competitive a guy as Helton is, playing the "reserve role" card is the best tool they have, but the Rockies have to do something to get this contract off their books. Getting Helton to announce his decision to opt-out of his contract in 2007 would go further to brighten the Rockies financial future than any other move they could possibly make, other than selling the team to a media giant like Cablevision.
This is the end of the first phase of the suggestions. I'll post the trade and free agency suggestions later in the week.