Wednesday Rockpile: What do the Rodriguez Waiver Claim, Kouzmanoff Trade Mean for 2012?

So Alex White didn't have the dream Rockies debut that we were hoping for, but Colorado still managed to get a 4th straight victory thanks in large part to that feared slugger Jonathan Herrera. This marks the Rockies' longest winning streak since mid-June. Better yet, unlike many days of late, when there was little to speak of beyond what was going on in the farm system, yesterday featured a couple of moves designed to help the Rockies in the near term and beyond.

The bigger news was that the Rockies' waiver claim on Houston Astros lefty Wandy Rodriguez was awarded by MLB. There are three ways this could turn out: Colorado could trade Houston a prospect or two in return for some salary relief (Rodriguez is owed $36 million through 2014), Houston could choose to let the Rockies have him and make them pay his salary, or the Astros could take their ball and go home. In any case, the deadline for this particular negotiation is 11 AM MT on Thursday.

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, who broke the story, the last scenario is the most likely. I'd put the odds at 25-5-70. Right now it looks like there isn't much trade momentum. Houston has established the position that they won't trade Rodriguez for salary relief alone and certainly doesn't have to trade him by any means. Even so, the thought of acquiring Rodriguez is certainly an intriguing one.

As for a potential Rodriguez acquisition by the Rockies, it will certainly help their short-term competitiveness -- in this case, mostly meaning 2012. Free agent pitchers aren't exactly clamoring to come to Coors Field, so getting a pitcher of Wandy's caliber (slightly above average to good the last few years) would be a sound baseball decision, especially with the uncertainty surrounding the 2012 rotation. 

Financially, it might not be the best use of the Monforts' resources. Rodriguez would be in his age 33-35 seasons and Colorado would need him to average 2.5 WAR a season to achieve market value payroll efficiency -- an iffy proposition given his advancing age -- and it will hurt the payroll flexibility of the Rockies for the next 3 years. Then again, Colorado probably would need to pay a premium to lure in an above average free agent starter, so the math becomes a little more palatable. The math would be even better if the Astros were to pay a little of that salary burden for Colorado.

Looking at the free agent class this offseason, it's tough to see a pitcher that would out-produce Rodriguez that Colorado could realistically sign. Of course, no signing is made in a vacuum -- if the Rockies used the money freed up by dropping Aaron Cook's salary on Rodriguez, that would likely mean no run at a player like Michael Cuddyer to bolster the offense. In an awkward twist of fate, Rodriguez will be facing Colorado today unless he is traded.

But I've written enough about an eventuality that probably won't even come into effect. Let's discuss a player that definitely is in the Rockies organization -- Colorado native 3B Kevin Kouzmanoffwho was acquired as part of a PTBNL trade yesterday with the Oakland A's. Given Kouzmanoff's MLB performance this season (.221/.262/.353 line with 4 HR in 149 PAs) and salary ($4.75 million and headed into arbitration for the third and final time this off-season), I highly doubt that the PTBNL is a PuRP-caliber prospect.

Besides his $4.75 million salary (which per arbitration rules can't be lower than $3.8 million next year), I really think that this is a decent signing. I mean, Kouzmanoff is not only a Colorado boy who can field the hot corner well, he's also a player that has played his entire MLB career in extreme pitchers' ballparks (in San Diego and Oakland) -- yes, this is shades of the Mark Ellis trade, and that's turned out okay.

Kouzmanoff has some pop too (he's averaged 21 homers, 56 XBHs, and 87 RBIs per 162 games). All in all, he seems like the kind of guy who could fill in well until Nolan Arenado claims his place in the hot corner -- except for that contract. Are the Rockies willing to pay almost $4 million minimum to get (what is likely) below average production at the hot corner -- again? Kouzmanoff could be another Ty Wigginton situation waiting to happen. On the plus side, his B-R page shows that two of his top 10 comparable players are John Wockenfuss and Clell Lavern (Butch) Hobson. Awesome. 

If Colorado does decide to keep Kouzmanoff on for 2012, they've probably decided to forgo the acquisition of an Aramis Ramirez or David Wright (both of whom were unlikely in any case). He wouldn't be the worst guy Colorado could go with, but at that price I'm not sure that I want to take the chance. I am looking forward to seeing how he does in the next few weeks, however.

Off-topic.

News/Links

Mike Newman (AKA Scouting the Sally) has a very complimentary scouting report on Nolan Arenado up at Roto Hardball, though I'm not sure praising his clutchiness is the route I would have taken.

Baseball Prospectus has a nifty salary compensation tool that I've spent a little too much time going through. In fact, breaking down the Rockies' salary in graphic form now and in the near future as BP is something that I'll likely expand upon in a Rockpile to be named later.

Finally, here are two great articles from SB Nation's MLB hub. First, Jon Bois shows us the hilarious translations that come from feeding baseball's rules into other languages. "See Johnny, the problem was that you just weren't in the zone of assault enough today". Second, Grant Brisbee explores whether it is okay for grown men to bring baseball gloves to ballgames as spectators.

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