Tracy Ringolsby, after awarding some turkey to figures around the league who haven't exhibited the best judgment or integrity this season, notes that even without Matt Holliday's contract, the Rockies are in line for a $5 million plus rise in their player payroll for 2009 from the 2008 season.
So where we're at is that the Rockies will pay more for players in 2009 than they did in 2008, but less than they would have had they retained Holliday. So strictly speaking, this isn't going to be a downsizing, but certainly a scaling back. Fans obviously would like the payroll to be closer to or above that Holliday level of payroll, but articles like this make it pretty clear that this is not what we're going to be getting. Ringolsby's projection includes Garrett Atkins and Willy Taveras, two players that may not be with the team on opening day given the amount of rumors surrounding them, and there is a strong possibility that whoever's left in place of them will come at a lower salary, so how the team ultimately winds up relative to last year remains to be seen.
Compared to the rest of the division, the Rockies might actually be gaining on three of their rivals in player payroll if the $5 million increase estimate holds. The Padres are cutting back drastically, the Diamondbacks figure to settle between $70 million and $72 million, which at the top range is a slightly smaller increase than what the Rockies would be seeing, and recent statements by the Dodgers owners make it seem almost certain that LA's going to be paring back from last season's $118 million spent on players. The Giants seem eager to spend more after a year without Barry Bonds brought their salary close to Colorado, San Diego and Arizona's level, so I'd expect them to see a bump closer to the $90 million they were spending in 2007, perhaps more if they land CC Sabathia.
Of course, keep in mind that payroll's only valuable as a rough gauge of veteran talent, and by itself doesn't really say much about the overall talent level of the team.