I was going to write about how I thought signing Michael Cuddyer/Josh Willingham (while jettisoning Seth Smith) was a bad idea, but then Andrew 1 did it masterfully on Monday. Then I was going to write about how much money the Rockies had freed up, but then Andrew 2 did it yesterday (with a colored table, no less -- I can't compete with that!). So what you're getting today is an unholy amalgamation of those two articles.
We've got all this money freed up...now who do we spend it on?
Here's my quick and dirty breakdown of the payroll situation as it stands right now:
- Including Kevin Slowey's $2.75 million deal, Colorado has $52 million committed to 10 or 11 roster slots for 2012 (depending on Jorge De La Rosa's injury status, so we'll assume 10 for Opening Day)
- Colorado will have roughly $5 million in arbitration commitments for Dex and Smith...and then, if you add minimum salaries for the rest of the 13 roster slots, that's a cost floor of about $63.5 million
- Given that I see Colorado's 2012 payroll in the $80-85 million range, they have between $17-22 million to spend as upgrades on those other 13 roster slots
- 4 bullpen pitchers -- Brothers and Reynolds will be 2 of these, and they're minimum salary guys
- 3 starting pitchers -- Chacin will be there for sure, maybe Nicasio if he's fully back
- 2 starting infielders (2B, 3B) -- There's a whole gaggle of minimum salary players competing right now
- 2 backup outfielders -- preferably one of which who is a lefty-killing platoon guy, but these slots might be filled by Blackmon and Colvin
- 1 backup infielder -- right now this is looking like the 2nd best of the 2nd/3rd competitors that can also play SS in a pinch
- 1 backup catcher -- Rosario is the most attractive candidate here
I've made it pretty clear in the past few months that I believe that the Rockies' everyday lineup is pretty darn solid. On any given day, Colorado can/will trot out 6 players (Tulo, Cargo, Dex, Helton/Giambi, Smith, and Hernandez -- replacing Iannetta) who produced at an above average level offensively (over 100 wRC+ -- which is a park-adjusted stat -- in 2011). That's as many above average hitters as any 2011 NL playoff team, in case you were wondering.
The main thing dragging Colorado down was putrid performance from 2B/3B and from the reserves. This fact is why I opined in October that Colorado really only needed to shore up 2B/3B/SP and their terrible bench. The trouble is, the 2B/3B market was looking pretty fallow, so much so that I advocated keeping Ian Stewart as the starter in 2012. Obviously that particular scenario isn't going to happen now, but the point is that 2nd, 3rd, and platoon RH OF are where Colorado should be focusing its attention, providing they aren't able to get Beltran in conjunction with a productive Smith trade. After all, a cheaper righty platoon partner for Smith like Andruw Jones or Jonny Gomes would likely be equivalent to a full Michael Cuddyer at half the price.
If Colorado will commit to playing their "A" lineup consistently (and against RHP, they have no reason not to) and if health/age don't cause one of the core 6 to go down, Colorado could really be a surprise offensively in 2012 without even adding a piece. I'm not saying that Colorado is an offensive juggernaut as currently constructed -- I'm just illustrating that they aren't as far away from being a playoff-caliber offense as you think. The NL West is eminently winnable, and I think that filling in the gaps in the bench, infield, and rotation will keep the Rockies solidly in contender status.
Basically, I'm arguing that it is easier and more cost effective to go from terrible to passable in the rotation/bench than from average to good as a starting offense (particularly outfield). I think that with Kevin Slowey, Tyler Colvin, and DJ LeMahieu on board, the process of upgrading the rotation/bench from terrible to passable is well underway.