DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 15: Manager Jim Tracy #4 removes starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin #45 of the Colorado Rockies from the game in the sixth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Coors Field on September 15, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Over the 2010-2011 offseason, the Rockies made a handful of moves to solidify their roster for the ensuing 2 seasons.
They traded for reliever Matt Lindstrom from Houston and immediately signed him to a 2-year contract worth $6.6M.
They extended reliever Rafael Betancourt through the 2012 season with a 2013 mutual option, paying $4M in 2012.
They brought in utilityman Ty Wigginton on a 2-year, $8M contract with a $4M option on 2013.
They extended starting pitcher Jason Hammel for the next 2 years, paying him $7.75M.
They extended reliever Matt Belisle through 2012 for $6.125M.
They reworked Todd Helton's contract so he's only owed about $10M instead of like $94M.
They signed Jorge De La Rosa to a 2-year deal with options that could bring the entire contract to a 4-year deal.
Basically put, the organization has more or less made their bed for the 2012 season, and I'm really not looking forward to sleeping in it.
The good thing about these extensions is that it leaves Colorado with a strong bullpen. Per Fangraphs WAR, the Rockies still have a top-10 bullpen, and I anticipate that ranking won't change. So call that a boon moving forward.
Additionally, Cargo and Tulo aren't gonna be falling apart next year. Or maybe they will. Maybe they'll get better. At this point in their careers, there's really no reason to think that they won't produce somewhat similarly next season.
Todd Helton and the state of the 1B position constitute another question mark moving into next season. Will trick back Helton show up? Will unexpectedly rejuvenated Jason Giambi be as productive as he is this season?
One of the obvious pieces to this puzzle is everyone's favorite clutch hitter, Ty Wigginton. I still maintain that he hasn't been nearly as bad as people make him out to be, but his slightly-below-average bat as well as his bad defense make him closer to replacement level than I'm comfortable with.
Furthermore, if he's to be looked at as a platoon solution in 2012, for the love of God keep him out of the outfield. His only "decent" defensive production has been at 3B (a mere -6.5 UZR), and he's been Brad Hawpe bad at every other position. Considering him to be an outfield platoon partner is going to be a mistake of monumental proportions. I don't care if he does hit lefties considerably better than righties, he looks like a cartoon character in the outfield.
Colorado needs to bring in someone like Jonny Gomes or Andruw Jones. Gomes would be my choice based on punching ability alone, but Jones would likely fit in the outfield better (there's like 10 jokes to make there - pick one).
Furthermore, the infield outside of Helton is a problem. Yes, Wigginton can back up 1B and 3B, and I'd prefer to actually use him in that role. Mark Ellis should be retained for 2B. Extrapolate his 57 games with the Rockies out to 150 games and we're looking at a guy who could contribute as much as 3 wins to the team's fortunes.
The only position I can see a potential change at would be catcher. Jose Morales wasn't a MISERABLE backup, but he wasn't anything special. Matt Pagnozzi kind of falls in that same boat as well. Eliezer Alfonzo... well, it's probably too soon to take cheap shots, but he was no better than Morales or Pagnozzi. Rosario looks pretty raw thus far, but you can already see the flashes of what all those minor league peoples have been talking about. A straight platoon behind the dish between Rosario and Iannetta would be far from a bad thing.
I'm beating a tired drum here, but 3B needs to be improved, and the team needs to do more than improve it for the 2012 season. Is Aramis Ramirez the answer to that question? Maybe, but I'm slowly moving away from that idea.
The thing is, the rotation just isn't ready to compete in 2012. 2011 may be Jhoulys Chacin's sophomore slump season, and Alex White and Drew Pomeranz can't necessarily be counted on to contribute in a stellar fashion. None of that is said as an indictment, but when the weight of a pitching staff is resting on the shoulders of 3 guys under the age of 25, expectations need to be realistic. When we account for Jorge De La Rosa's likely need to use the majority of his time in 2012 to re-aclimate to the majors, and that looks like a staff of players in some sort of transition. Again, not an indictment, but injury and inexperience both take time to move away from, and Rockies fans need to be cognizant of this.
That being said, bringing in David Wright or any other rental that looks to price themselves out of an extension just doesn't make sense to me. I'm not suggesting that the team phone in 2012, but honestly, waiting for Nolan Arenado to hit the majors and waiting for Pomeranz and White to iron out their inevitable rookie lumps would waste any production that a 1-year guy would bring, and would also waste the prospects likely spent in pursuit of said rental.
What I want to do for 2012 is put together the best run prevention team Colorado's ever had. Fowler and Gonzalez are a good start in the outfield (and maybe we'll just need to keep a glove-first 5th OF around to swap out for Smith/Gomes - or if Jones is in the picture, he could be the sub!), and a Tulo-Ellis-Helton 6-4-3 sounds absolutely beautiful.
Should Headley/Wright/Ramirez not be an option, I'd say look for someone like Kevin Kouzmanoff (as a worst-case) or maybe even Jack Hannahan (although I can imagine Chris Antonetti looking at his phone, seeing Dan O'Dowd, and kicking the call to voicemail). The name of the NL West game has become run prevention, so putting together a top notch defense will help get the pitching where we need it to be.
No, it's not a flashy plan. It's not even really a winning plan in the short term. But this will give the farm some extra time to produce some surprises (Josh Rutledge, anyone?) and give the guys in the majors some extra seasoning before the team prepares to make a run.
My only hope is that they don't get stuck in a holding pattern. Waiting for a break is one thing, but not recognizing that break and not making the appropriate moves to complement are entirely another.