Tracy Ringolsby reports that the Rockies are hanging onto Garrett Atkins not only as Todd Helton insurance, but also for a second reason that I hadn't previously associated with our incumbent third baseman, that uncertainty over Jeff Francis means that the team doesn't know if it will be needing to trade Atkins for a veteran mid-rotation starting pitcher. Of course, the problem with this line of argument from the team is that all the rumors around Atkins to date have been with the Rockies being rebuffed in their attempts to pry pitching as part of the deal. There is one significant shift here, however, in that all those previous rumors had the Rockies looking at budding top of the rotation types rather than veterans in the middle. While they were looking for a team to overpay during the winter, it seems during the season they will understand what a more realistic expected return for Atkins should look like.
The Helton back situation is an important one. Helton's primary substitute in a post-Atkins world would be Jeff Baker, who projects to see a .265/.325/.456 line in 2009 according to Marcel, the difference between that and Atkins' projected .293/.355/.472 is fairly significant at a position that both were equally bad at defensively in 2008. The only other competitive solution to the issue necessitates Dexter Fowler or Carlos Gonzalez being assets at the MLB level in center, so Brad Hawpe could move in to first, but neither Fowler nor Gonzalez have shown that they're ready for regular big league work.
Glendon Rusch adds one more piece to the puzzle as a non-roster invite, but I'm curious what exactly came of his meeting with the team when he asked for clarification of his role. For Rusch to be added to the roster, somebody else has to be taken off, but Troy Renck's notes make it sound as if he's already got a place on the team,
Rusch and Alan Embree will be the team's primary left-handed relievers entering spring training. Embree will be a late-inning setup man, while Rusch is pegged as a long reliever and a spot starter.
even while Rusch himself acknowledges that there's going to be some sort of competition there. I know the Rockies would like to trade Luis Vizcaino, if possible, which would open a spot, but otherwise it looks like Ryan Speier would be the odd man out should Rusch be part of the opening day 25-man roster. Juan Morillo's Rockies career also seems to be pretty tenuous at the moment, but the Spring usually has a couple of surprises, so we'll see where this goes.
Fox's Ken Rosenthal reports that the Rockies still may trade for Jason Marquis if they don't land Tim Redding, an idea that was nixed by the team a few days ago.