As Jeff mentioned yesterday, the 2012 Rockies season has reached a stage where keeping interest even for avid fans can be difficult, and its likely we've lost all the casual followers to the new school year or the football season. So it doesn't really seem like much news that Ramon Hernandez will miss the remainder of the year after a follow-up MRI revealed a torn hamstring. Some fans were already going to be missing the rest of 2012, so this will be no big loss to them. For the rest of us, it's also probably not much news since Hernandez was largely disappointing for the Rockies when in the line-up, batting for career lows in most offensive categories despite the benefit of playing at Coors Field.
Hernandez's 2012 disappointment has largely been overshadowed by the solid rookie campaign of Wilin Rosario, who hit his 24th home run of the season last night, leaving him one behind Todd Helton for the most ever by a Rockies rookie. Helton required 595 plate appearances to hit his 25, whereas Rosario is only up to 352 PA's after last night's game.
As mentioned yesterday, Rosario's backup now will be the new again catcher, soon to be super utility player extraordinaire, Jordan Pacheco. If the Rockies are able to pull this off defensively, and with Rosario's and Pacheco's combined defense behind the plate that's a pretty substantial if, then it would solve a couple of roster issues facing the team heading into 2012, and make it easier to carry an extra pitcher for stretches when the Rockies four man piggyback rotation makes it necessary.
Renck's piece gives a glimpse at the direction the team seems to be headed for 2012, with Pacheco sliding into a super-utility role rather than having his poor defense neutralize the so-so bat he brings to the third base position. DJ LeMahieu also gets mentioned as a useful bench part, which may leave a question open about Chris Nelson's future with the club. Nelson's been quietly putting up one of the Rockies better performances of the second half with a .315/.356/.491 line.
One thing that Pacheco, Rosario, LeMahieu and Nelson all have in common, not to mention Josh Rutledge, Eric Young Jr. and Nolan Arenado once he arrives, is that they fill the slots they will fill on the roster at a very low price compared to veteran free agent or trade acquired equivalents. Add in a similar number of low wage pitchers, and it's clear that the Rockies are going to have a fairly cost effective model next season despite the potentially sunk cost of Hernandez's $3.2 million due and the overpay of Michael Cuddyer.
We'll look at this in more detail in the coming months, but initially, it's looking like a good chunk of money will be coming off the book, although if ownership anticipates declining attendance that might not mean much of the savings will get added back in. The Rockies will face arbitration bumps with Dexter Fowler, Tyler Colvin and Jhoulys Chacin and about $7 million in scheduled raises for other long term contracts on the team, and we don't know what Jeff Francis will be paid, but about $20 million in salary is coming off the books from the opening of 2012. At second base (Marco Scutaro $6 million) in the rotation (Jeremy Guthrie, Kevin Slowey, Jamie Moyer, $10.55 million combined) and on the bench (Ty Wigginton, Jason Giambi, $3 million combined) the replacement parts for 2013 are already largely in place and much cheaper than their 2012 counterparts.
If you're thinking about using that money in free agency to shore up the rotation, good luck. Identifying pitchers that would take the Rockies money for the privilege of pitching in Denver and still be useful to the club is tricky. Trading however, opens up other options as teams like Pittsburgh and Tampa will likely have to shed salary this winter, albeit let's hope we see better results through this than with the Guthrie fiasco of this season.