Wednesday Rockpile: Division rivals could get crunched by arbitration; O'Dowd denies interest in Wellemeyer

A pair of divisional rivals seem more likely to face arbitration hearings with important rotation parts. Neither the Giants and Tim Lincecum nor the Diamondbacks and Edwin Jackson have been able to resolve their different opinions of the players' value. In both cases, the teams are already close to (or in the D-backs case, over) their projected 2010 salary levels, so player wins in these arbitration hearings could conceivably help the Rockies this season by making it more difficult for the Giants and Snakes to add help later.

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Other than that, for the Rockies Tuesday was notable for who's not going to be part of the team:

For instance, the Rockies aren't going to sign Joe Beimel, according to a Troy Renck report.

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The second person the Rockies aren't signing has something to do with a subject I meant to bring up this past weekend, namely a comparison of the different recovery timelines of Brandon Webb and Jeff Francis.

 

In their most recent Rowbot Radio podcast, Andrew and Greg brought up Francis' situation again and shared their thoughts so be sure to listen to that, but it did get me to thinking. As fans, we're sort of left in the dark when it comes to athlete injuries and what to expect in their recovery from surgery, as most of us are not practicing physicians. What we can do, however, is look for certain flagposts along the way that tell us how far out they are. In Francis' case, let's go back to the Denver Post report from a month ago, and here's the key quote:

 

He threw well in simulated games in September and followed that with a strong showing in the Arizona instructional league. That left him to proceed through an uninterrupted winter program - long toss, and starting next week, mound work - which will be capped with a 10-day stay in the Dominican Republic before spring training.

We haven't received any reports of setbacks or changes to the schedule, and more importantly, the club's actions still haven't been showing any signs of second thoughts. The closest to this would be the reported interest in Todd Wellemeyer, which Dan O'Dowd categorically denied yesterday.

Instead, there's a possibility that money that may have been held back just in case another starter would need to be found late was shifted and helped spur the Rockies late involvement with Orlando Cabrera and Felipe Lopez before they settled with Melvin Mora. The main point here is that the team's actions, or more precisely inaction, when it comes to the rotation is speaking volumes, and it's not saying "we trust Greg Smith or Franklin Morales will hold us through" nearly as much as it's saying "Francis is ready to be effective from day one."

If you need more encouragement, take a look at Brandon Webb, who many see kind of as a Francis parallel (as far as the injury situation, not as far as expected contribution). Webb was reportedly set to start throwing off a mound for the first time yesterday, or about three weeks behind Francis. Webb expects to be ready for opening day, although if you read this article, the Arizona organization seems to be a bit more skeptical of that, with manger A.J. Hinch suggesting he may be a couple of weeks behind. Webb didn't throw simulated games last fall as Francis did, instead, he just played "catch four times".

This is what a candidate for an extended Spring stay will usually look like. On the other hand, Francis is seemingly somewhere between that and being so ready for 2010 that he could have joined a winter league team. Additionally, if necessary, the Rockies could give him almost an extra week by slotting him fourth or fifth in the rotation so he'd be targeted for the home opening series against the Padres rather than the first road series against the Brewers.

The second question Rowbot Radio broached on him, of how effective Francis will be in 2010, is probably what everybody really wants to know. I think most of us writing here are trying to be outwardly cautious with this, but I have to let you guys know that inside, I'm pretty giddy. Right now, Francis and Carlos Gonzalez are why I'm thinking that the Rockies are not going to be as close to the rest of the division as projections are seeing. I know stuff can go uncannily wrong for the team or uncannily right for other squads, but if Jeff really is back to his 2004 Tulsa form; we'd be looking at that 3.5 to 4 win pitcher he was in 2006 and 2007. I said awhile ago that the Rockies don't need Francis to be that good and still be competitive, but if he is, they should have added separation from the rest of the division that a lot of analysts don't seem to be expecting.

 

I think the Rockies rotation overall does take a small step back this season about a win or so, but I'm in the camp that they will still likely be the best in the division in value after park effects are taken into account.


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