Monday Rockpile: Free Agent Pitcher options for the Colorado Rockies

Since Jorge de la Rosa has become the compensation prize for those losing out on the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, the Rockies have to possibly think forward on who they could slot into their rotation in 2011 in De La Rosa's place.

As it stands right now, the Rockies have a 2011 rotation of Ubaldo Jimenez, Jhoulys Chacin, Jason Hammel, and Aaron Cook. The #5 starter could be Esmil Rogers if we look purely at internal candidates, but chances are the Rockies are going to have to look outside of the organization to bolster their rotation.

The first option to look into would be longtime Rockie Jeff Francis. Francis' 2011 option at $7M was declined by Colorado, but the word on the street is that they would still be open to bringing Francis back on a low-base, incentive-laden contract. Despite Francis' injury conditions, it should be noted that over his 104IP, he posted a career-low FIP (3.88), xFIP (3.94), and BB9 (1.98). His ERA left quite a bit of room to be desired (5.00), but showing strong peripherals showed that there was still something to be hoped for. Much as Francis is no longer the cock of the walk in Colorado, he looks to be a very useful piece still.

Jake Westbrook looks to be one of the next possibilities for the Colorado rotation. Westbrook, a former 1st-round draftee by the Rockies (traded to Montreal for Mike Lansing), shows a similar profile to pitchers such as Kris Benson, Carl Pavano, Joe Blanton, and Aaron Cook: Not a lot of strikeouts, not an overwhelming amount of walks, and large groundball numbers. Assuming he's healthy (which is a big assumption for Westbrook), he could be good for 200IP in the latter half of the rotation, and veteran presence and all that good stuff. Westbrook did miss all of 2009 with Tommy John surgery, but he pitched a strong season in 2010 for Cleveland and St. Louis. Westbrook is also coming off of a 3-year, $33M contract, and given the full season he pitched in 2010, he probably won't be a grab-bag $5M option for any team.

Click past the jump for some more FA options.

Off-Topic

A pitcher who came as somewhat of a surprise to me was Javier Vazquez. Vazquez posted near-Cy-Young-Award worthy numbers with Atlanta in 2009, and then went to the Yankees in trade where he promptly fell apart. Vazquez' strikeout numbers plummeted, his walks rose, and his home run rate jumped pretty substantially as well. By season's end, Vazquez was in the bullpen. The stigma on Javy Vazquez is strange. He has struck out a higher-than-average number of batters per 9, walked a low number, and kept the ball in the park at about an average clip, which makes for a nice FIP, but his actual ERA always seemed to fly past what his peripherals would suggest. The other side of the coin suggests that Vazquez is simply not a big-game pitcher, struggles with traffic, can't handle the big stage, whatever. It should be noted that Vazquez' best seasons have come in the NL (2000-2003 with the Expos, 2009 with the Braves - although 2007 and 2008 in Chicago were also very good seasons). He could be a good buy-low candidate, looking for a rebound, but his hesitance to come to the Western divisions (as evidenced by a limited NTC to the AL/NL West) might make Colorado an unlikely destination.

A couple names I want to throw into the ring is Brandon Webb. Webb has only pitched 4 innings since opening day, 2009, has undergone shoulder surgery, and showed drastically reduced velocity while trying to return to the majors. We know what Webb is capable of. When he is healthy, he's the most extreme groundballer in baseball, while inducing more than a standard groundballer's share of strikeouts and walking very few batters. It's hard to try and pick what kind of contract offer would be required for the former Cy Young winner, as his 2010 $8.5M option went to waste. My first thought was to draw the comparison to Chris Carpenter, but most of Carp's injury history happened under contract and not at a point where it immediately factored into his next contract. Perhaps a $6M base and then escalators based on innings pitched? This is assuming he looks like a major league pitcher to scouts.

Finally, one random pitcher to toss in: Carl Pavano. Pavano, after limping his way through a 4-year, $40M contract with the Yankees, Pavano rebounded to post 2 3+ WAR seasons with Cleveland and Minnesota. Although he certainly has some ERA fluctuation, his FIP/xFIP have remained very consistent from 2009-2010 (4.00, 3.96; 4.02, 4.01). Pavano displayed an above-average GB%, walked below 2 batters per 9 innings and pitched over 199 innings in both seasons since his stint with New York. Pavano made $7M with Minnesota in 2010, and could be in line for a 2-year contract after 2 seasons' worth of success.

So essentially, it looks like the team is going to have to spend money on pitching, unless Francis is considered the best option to fill out the rotation. It's odd not to have an obvious internal candidate to fill a rotation slot, but here we are.

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