Friday Rockpile: Lopez's Role, Bullpen Minus Delcarmen, Offseason Progress

We are now two months into the offseason, just about one week away from the half-way point between the final regular season game and pitchers/catchers report in mid-February.

This week, including baseball-wide events such as the arbitration deadline and the tender deadline, has shown the Rockies take their first steps towards their final 2011 team. I will be analyzing the projected roster, from before and after, behind the jump. First, I want to talk about the Rockies' latest posturing maneuver, the acquisition of Jose Lopez from the Mariners for RHP Chaz Roe.

I personally have been interested in acquiring Lopez this offseason, though I was expecting it to be via free agency after a non-tender. After laughing at dragging a warm body 9in Felipe Paulino out of Houston for certain non-tender Clint Barmes a couple of weeks ago, Dan O'Dowd felt it necessary to make a similar choice here, dragging Lopez away mere hours before he was to be non-tendered, ensuring that we would be the ones to land him. Comments like this one (via Troy Renck's twitter) from Assistant GM Bill Geivett, indicate that Lopez has been a significant target this offseason inside the front office, and while we've known for some time that he was on the radar, it's clear that they determined he was worth enough for a trade.

So, first, my thoughts on the trade: I'm not horribly upset about the loss of Roe. His placement in the organization has fallen over the past year and a half, and a rough 2010 at AAA ground any further progress to a halt. Having only been added to the roster as a Rule 5 protectee last November, there was time to hang onto him if we wanted, but the organization is currently filled with more valuable starting pitching prospects who will be knocking on the door by 2012, the soonest Roe would have had a chance. As with any trade, whether or not we dumped Roe for ultimately nothing as we did with Chris Balcom-Miller (more on that later), will be determined somewhere down the line. From simply an understanding of value in the organization, Roe didn't have as much as he used to. He's not, in my eyes, a significant loss.

On to Lopez himself. The reason he caught my eye, over other potential utility candidates like Bill Hall or a return of Melvin Mora, was largely the age, as Lopez has only turned 27 as recently as last week. He's at an interesting career point, as few players have as much MLB experience as he does at this age, after a young start. Further, Lopez has experience all across the infield, and will likely be a candidate for multiple utility positions if he doesn't wind up starting. While his defense is generally considered adequate at best, he will fit somewhat comfortably at second base, as well as behind Ian Stewart at third and Todd Helton at first. In essence, he provides a right handed option with some degree of power behind three positions with performance concern going into the season. On paper, there's an easy spot for a player of this type on the roster, moreso than say a Lance Berkman or Jason Giambi (though it should be noted that Jose Lopez, while capable of playing first, is not likely a candidate for a straight platoon there with Helton, thus leaving open the possibility of another acquisition for that role).

At the plate, Lopez, as a right handed hitter, gives us a potential power threat farther down in the lineup, though his power numbers last year dropped significantly from a career year in 2009, not at all unlike the past two years of the departed Barmes. Also like Barmes, Lopez is a free swinger, who walks VERY little, though his K rates are a significant bit lower than Barmes' over their careers. What we can expect from Lopez, in the best case, is a resurgence in power aided by the offensive nature of Coors Field, and at worst, another frustrating hitter in Barmes' fashion.

Overall, I feel Lopez has enough of a chance of outperforming both Mora and Barmes on the roster, flaws included, to stamp this acquisition as an upgrade to last year's team, at least offensively. However, if Lopez sees himself performing as he did to last year's standards, it may become quickly evident that another player was what we needed. The major question is what his role will be. Lopez has been a starter at second or third base nearly every year of his career, and I find it likely they will at least pretend to consider him as an option to dethrone the Eric Young Jr./Chris Nelson/Jonathan Herrera clan. Ideally, however, I would like to consider Lopez to be a situational infielder to be used when right handed power is needed, or another player needs a day on the bench. He provides mediocre but acceptable insurance for an aching Helton, a struggling Stewart or a young second baseman caught in a starting riptide and in need of rescue.

Oh, and he also contributes to the Venezuelan presence on the team, and even though I think that means next to nothing from a performance standpoint, it is relevant because of just how large that population is on our team.

Lopez is arbitration eligible, but past the service time point to be optioned, so even though he only used one option year in his career, he would have to clear waivers and consent to assignment for such a thing to occur.

UPDATE: Muzia pointed to this Jon Morosi tweet n the comments, which indicates that Jose Lopez has already agreed to a 2011 salary of $3.6 million, eliminating the need for a salary through arbitration.

More team notes after the jump.

Off Topic

 

Projected Roster

The following is my projected roster for 2011 using only players we have in the organization, with the crossed out players being the original projection I made as of the free agent declarations that have changed. Remember, this is not a fantasy roster, nor is it the roster I believe we will have on April 1st. This is merely to show the team in transit from one point to another. It is designed to show us who is going to be the natural (and contractual) favorite for every roster spot, and help identify where we still need to go.

C Chris Iannetta
C Michael McKenry
1B Todd Helton
2B Eric Young Jr.
SS Troy Tulowitzki
3B Ian Stewart
IF Clint Barmes IF Jose Lopez
IF Jonathan Herrera
OF Carlos Gonzalez
OF Dexter Fowler
OF Seth Smith
OF Ryan Spilborghs
OF Cole Garner


SP Ubaldo Jimenez
SP Jhoulys Chacin
SP Jason Hammel
SP Aaron Cook
SP Esmil Rogers SP Jorge De La Rosa

RP Huston Street
RP Rafael Betancourt
RP Matt Belisle
RP Manny Delcarmen RP Felipe Paulino
RP Franklin Morales
RP Matt Reynolds
RP Matt Daley/RP Esmil Rogers

We could still use another outfielder, another catcher, and while the bullpen is full, adding to it should hardly be a problem if the right player is found.

Non-Tendered

With Delcarmen being non-tendered yesterday, a spot was opened in the right handed bullpen to allow both Felipe Paulino and Esmil Rogers, rotation candidates effectively rerouted to the bullpen as of the signing of Jorge De La Rosa, with Matt Daley's name remaining in the mix, particularly if Rogers is allowed a fourth option year to continue starting at AAA. It should be remembered that Delcarmen was acquired from Boston with every intention of allowing him to try and rebuild himself here over the next two years before free agency (not just as a September addition), but the right handed side of the bullpen continued to be an issue, even after Octavio Dotel declined arbitration earlier in the week, particularly with both Rogers and Paulino being displaced from the rotation. Ultimately, Delcarmen's loss is a bit sour, particularly for fans of Chris Balcom-Miller, but the rationale makes sense. Over the past three months, the Rockies dropped Delcarmen and Taylor Buchholz from the expected 2011 pen, and lost Manuel Corpas to injury and ultimately to release. The fact that we're struggling to find room for everyone precisely illustrates the crowding I have been seeing there for some time.

Finally, some other non-tender information. MLBTradeRumors kept a Tender Tally, showing us every player who has joined the free agent market as a result of not being offered a 2011 contract by their original teams. Those lists can be found here (NL) and here (AL).

A couple notable names, particularly for Rockies fans, include:
- Russell Martin: a top 3 starting catcher two years ago, sidelined by injury and overworking. If he's healthy, he absolutely must be a consideration for addition, but he will attract interest from all over.

- Matt Diaz: a possible target for an outfield platoon role. Several other once notable outfielders, including Lastings Milledge, Fred Lewis and Ryan Church were also not tendered contracts, but Diaz is the only one we've been tied to.

- Scott Hairston, bane of the Rockies existence, will hopefully be signing somewhere as far away from us as possible in the AL East.

- Former Rockies Jack Cust, Joel Peralta and Taylor Buchholz, who never got a chance to do anything for the Red Sox, were not tendered contracts.

Next week comes the final major MLB offseason event of 2010, the Winter Meetings in Florida, which will be culminating next Thursday with the Rule 5 Draft. Baseball then goes largely on break for the holidays, with arbitration procedures beginning as 2011 kicks off.

LINKS:
Reactions to the Lopez Trade

Troy Renck of the Denver Post (Also, he shares more specific thoughts on his blog here.)

Thomas Harding of MLB.com

Tracy Ringolsby, Inside the Rockies

Rockies Summary

Harding also provides a blueprint of the current team situation, not unlike what you will find here on Purple Row. This article was written before the Lopez trade, and does not include Lopez on the list of arbitration eligible players. Just remember to include him in your brain.

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