Unlike their division rivals, who either can throw $35 million over two years (full trade protection!) at a bounceback candidate in Tim Lincecum or are the Dodgers (who signed Cuban defector 2B Alexander Guerrero for $28 million yesterday), the Rockies are operating on a budget this off-season.
According to Troy Renck, the Rockies submitted multiple offers to Cuban defector and potential impact bat Jose Dariel Abreu to try to acquire his services. This is refreshing because Abreu is exactly the type of player the Rockies should be looking for in free agency. Because of the contents of that article though, I doubt that Abreu was ever close to signing with the team - he recently inked a six year, $68 million contract with the White Sox.
Still, it's nice that the Rockies were thinking along the right lines. The team is woefully lacking in depth and could use help at first, the corner outfield, and bench depth in particular. How lacking in depth? The "Ranking the Rockies" series we've been running here at Purple Row over the last few weeks reached 21 entries before finally reaching some players yesterday who provided positive rWAR to the team.
Here's a table showing the amount of plate appearances the teams in the NL West gave to below replacement level players in 2013 (yes, including pitchers because the Rockies were actually better off with pitchers included - seriously) and the total number of plate appearances each team had:
|Below Replacement PAs||Total PAs||% of Tot|
Holy cow, Colorado gave a LOT of playing time to below replacement players this year. For them to be contenders in 2014, that needs to change significantly next season.
Renck writes that Dick Monfort has indicated to him that the Rockies have $5-9 million to spend this off-season in additions to the team. That kind of scratch doesn't go very far in the 2014 edition of the MLB free agent market, especially given the amount of needs on this team. That means the top tier of free agents is not being considered as I look toward potential fits for the Rockies.
Here's the full list of 2014 free agents that I'm working from. This is not meant to be an in-depth analysis of proposed free agent signees (that will come next month as the Hot Stove season really heats up). Instead, I'm just trying to frame the discussion as it relates to the Rockies.
Catcher - unless you're comfortable with Jordan Pacheco, backup catcher, the Rockies should probably try and get somebody to back up Wilin Rosario. Outside of the obvious starters that are FAs (McCann, Salty, Ruiz), there isn't a lot to choose from besides bringing back Yorvit Torrealba or Miguel Olivo (ack). Maybe the Rockies could roll the dice on John Buck or Geovany Soto?
First base - probably Colorado's biggest need is whichever spot Michael Cuddyer isn't playing next year. With that in mind, I'm guessing that Colorado focuses its free agent dollars right here.
Renck mentions former MVP Justin Morneau as a possibility - and that makes sense - but I would look elsewhere. While I wouldn't scoff at a league average player at first (which he was per rWAR last year), Morneau hasn't been an impact player for three years and is firmly in his decline phase. That isn't to say that, like Cuddyer, he couldn't have a rebound year in Colorado at age 33. It's just unlikely given his offensive profile.
I'd prefer a (slightly) younger player like Kendrys Morales as a power option (I will probably expand on this in the coming weeks if he remains an option) - or if the Rockies want to go a little cheaper, perhaps they could get notorious Rockie-killer James Loney to ply his trade for the good guys. Corey Hart might be a good bounceback play while Carlos Pena and Casey Kotchman could be acquired on the cheap on a catch and release basis. There's actually a few decent options for the Rockies in this direction.
Second base - Colorado could use some more offense out of the position, but at least DJ LeMahieu is a competent MLB player with his defense and is under team control for the next few years. The Rockies aren't getting Cano, but looking at a depth player in the middle infield wouldn't be the worst idea. A glove guy like Clint Barmes or Brendan Ryan could fit the bill nicely.
Shortstop - see second base, except with more Troy Tulowitzki.
Third base - pass, basically. Nolan Arenado is an everyday guy that can be backed up by LeMahieu and others.
Outfield - while the Rockies could just decide to plug in Charlie Blackmon and/or Corey Dickerson into their outfield and call it good, I very much want the team to get at least one competent outfielder with some OF experience this off-season, if only because those 4th and 5th outfield spots tend to get quite a few plate appearances as the year goes on. Colorado could also decide to get the everyday starter and power bat that they covet at the corner outfield slot here instead of first base.
Next week I'll look at potential pitching targets for the Rockies.
Ben Lindbergh, editor-in-chief at Baseball Prospectus, just graduated from MLB Scout School. He wrote about his experiences on Grantland and in so doing imparted a lot of knowledge about how scouting works to me. I highly recommend reading the whole series.
So this database linking all baseball, basketball, and football players within 12 connections is pretty amazing. I've spent way too much time on it already. When linking, say, former NBA number one pick Greg Oden to NFL legend Dick Butkus, one of the links is...former Rockie Elmer Dessens? What? It's fantastic.