Wednesday Rockpile: Casey Blake, Third Base Starter

During a press conference yesterday in which the Rockies officially introduced their new free agent signee, Michael Cuddyer -- calling him a perfect fit for the team (I disagree given the cost, but you've already heard that from me), Colorado also announced the signing of 38 year old 3rd baseman Casey Blake to a one year deal that is pending a physical. The non-guaranteed contract (he's got to make the 25 man roster to get the money) is for $2 million, with $1 million in unspecified performance incentives possible to attain. I love this signing for many reasons:

1. Blake is still a pretty darn good player -- despite only playing in 63 games last year due to several injuries (the most serious of which required neck surgery), Blake still accrued 1.1 fWAR (on pace for an above average year). He's been at least an above average (2+ WAR) player for the five years preceding last year, so there's a high likelihood that he's going to be productive if he's healthy, offensively and defensively. He's what Ty Wigginton was supposed to be, but he comes at half the price and has a nice beard to boot.

2. If he's not healthy, the Rockies aren't on the hook for much -- a plausible scenario includes Blake not being fully recovered from surgery to begin the season, but in that case the Rockies can either release him for little financial investment or keep him on the DL until he is healthy. Either way, Blake is very likely to be a net positive for Colorado in 2012.

3. He's fantastic depth even if Nolan Arenado seizes the job out of Spring Training -- Blake is a perfect stopgap player for Colorado: someone who is going to put up good numbers at the hot corner when healthy, he's signed cheaply, and he's not signed long-term. In the likely scenario that super prospect Nolan Arenado isn't ready to man the position out of Spring Training, Blake will be a great custodian. When Arenado is deemed ready, Blake will be a good bench bat as well as a decent corner infield backup. In fact, Dan O'Dowd notably did not name Blake anything more than a utility infielder or depth, but he definitely should be the front-runner for the starting job at this point.

4. There's still money in the budget for another starter and a 2B -- because this signing was quite cheap, the Rockies should be able to still upgrade over DJ LeMahieu/Chris Nelson/Eric Young at 2B and at the SP position if they want to. With the Cuddyer and Blake signings, I see the Rockies with between $6-11 million (above minimum salaried players at each position) to work with in payroll flexibility and up to five roster slots to spend on.

In the likely event that Seth Smith is traded for pitching, then the payroll flexibility will change. If these spots are filled externally, two of the spots will be relievers, one will be a backup catcher, one will be a starter, and one will be another bat. There's enough flexibility to the point where if a pitcher like Wandy Rodriguez became available in a trade that made sense in terms of prospect cost, Colorado could squeeze him into the budget.

If the Rockies don't make another move, the only big hole they'll have in their lineup is 2B -- that's the only position that won't project at least close to being a league average hitter. In addition, Colorado's bench will be better too, as Blake will either join the bench or at least push a marginal bat out of the 25 man roster. That's why I believe that this was a terrific signing for Colorado. Now if O'Dowd can manage to actually get something of value in return for Seth Smith, I'll consider this off-season a successful one.

Other News

The Rockies also signed 29 year-old journeyman Carlos Torres to a minor league contract. When I say journeyman, I mean that the right handed pitcher was in Japan last year (he didn't pitch well, unfortunately). Hooray for more pitching depth.

This article from Rany Jazayerli at Grantland is relevant for the Rockies -- on how prospects have gotten to the point at which they are maybe now overvalued by teams. Having 30 great prospects is nice, but there isn't going to be space for all of them on the major league roster. I'm a proponent of using some of the redundant prospect chips (Blackmon/Wheeler, one of the young arms) to get major league help in the short term (Martin Prado please).

Fellow SB Nation site MLB Daily Dish had a Q&A session with Purple Row's own Andrew Martin.

Off-Topic, because y'all have ADD.

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