Buried beneath a mountain of World Series story lines and an otherwise busy weekend on the Denver sports scene was perhaps the most shocking piece of Rockies contract news since the club elected to extend Troy Tulowitzki through the end of the decade three off seasons ago.
According to Troy Renck of the Denver post, the Rockies made a significant offer to Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu, with the potential deal reaching $63 million -- just shy of the $68 million the White Sox will actually pay Abreu for his services over the next six seasons. Assuming Colorado's offer was also for six years, which Renck seems to hint at, the Rockies missed on Abreu by less than $1 million in average annual value (AAV), which is relative pocket change when you're dealing with this sort of cash.
Had the deal gone down, it would have been the largest free agent signing for the Rockies since Mike Hampton's infamous deal all the way back on Dec. 12, 2000. In addition, it would have guaranteed a guy who has never played a game in the majors more money than any Denver athlete (Bronco, Rockie, Nugget, or Avalanche) not named Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez, and it all flew almost completely under the radar.
This offer (if accurate), which on the surface looks like nothing more than a mere footnote with the White Sox topping it, opens up a world of possibilities that didn't seem on the table 48 hours ago. The Rockies simply don't offer contracts of this nature. They will lock up their own guys with huge deals as we've seen with Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and even Todd Helton back near the very beginning part of the century, but when it comes to bringing in outside help the Michael Cuddyer contract of three years for $31.5 million is as much guaranteed money as you'll find committed to any player in the last decade.
So now that we know the Rockies were willing to part with this kind of cheese to land Jose Abreu, what does it tell us?
Well, first of all, the Rockies are betting big that Jose Abreu is going to be a star. Even though he won't be wearing purple next season, he becomes an interesting player to watch because he becomes a fair piece to grade the front office on. If Abreu becomes anything less than an All-Star, it's fair to say that the Rockies badly miscalculated his ability.
More importantly however, it tells us that the Rockies are willing to spend some pretty serious money this offseason if they find a guy they want. This time, let's dive a little deeper into what Colorado's financial commitments would have looked like if the AAV the White Sox offered Abreu was just $1 million less per season.
Again, assuming the deal was $63 million over six seasons ($10.5 million AAV), the Rockies would have already committed $48 million to just three players (Tulo, Cargo, and Abreu) for the 2016 season, and $51 million to those same three players in 2017, leaving very little room to otherwise operate when some of their current, younger talent will be getting raises.
Now before we go any further, let's stop and ask ourselves a very important question: what does Jhoulys Chacin mean to this franchise right now? He's a 25-year-old, established top-of-the-rotation pitcher who is currently due $4.85 million in 2014, is arbitration eligible in 2015, and can become a free agent prior to the 2016 season. Don't you think it would behoove the Rockies to offer him an extension of some sort as soon as possible before he gets outrageously expensive?
This point should be weighing heavily on every fan of this team right now, because that contract offer to Abreu almost has to mean something on the Chacin front. Either the Rockies have no plans to extend him at all, which would seem foolish considering his age and track record, or the Rockies feel the two sides are currently so far apart that they would be better off spending the money elsewhere and just slapping a qualifying offer on Chacin on his way out the door after the 2015 season.
If the Rockies do want to extend Chacin, it's going to come with a price tag in at least the $10 million AAV range for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, and here's where things get really interesting.
Do you believe for a second that there's any scenario in which the Rockies (an organization that clings and holds onto its own players and people like a mother clings and holds onto a child during a tornado) would value Jose Abreu's services more than Jhoulys Chacin's? Or to put it another way, if the club felt it only had enough money to sign Abreu or Chacin through the 2016 / 2017 seasons, do you think there's any scenario in which they don't choose Chacin?
I can only think of one, and that's in a situation where the Rockies have decided that they're not going to sign any pitcher to a long / expensive contract at Coors no matter how strong they've looked. The combination of the disastrous Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle deals and the inability of just about any pitcher the Rockies have ever had to stay healthy and effective has led the club to a decision that they're never handing out an extremely lucrative deal to a pitcher again unless it has safely nets built in similar to the Jorge De La Rosa deal.
From there, I see only two other realistic possibilities here.
One, the Rockies did prioritize resigning Chacin over Abreu long term but have concluded that there's no way a deal can get done because the two sides are nowhere close; or two, the Rockies did prioritize resigning Chacin over Abreu long term and feel that they will have enough money in the 2016 and 2017 seasons to fit Tulowitzki, Gonzalez, Abreu, AND Chacin into the payroll, which will run them into at least the $60 million neighborhood before we even get to the other 21 men on the roster. Perhaps they know something about the local TV money coming their way when the current contract expires after the 2014 season the rest of us don't?
One way or another though, the Abreu offer is a smoking gun on the Chacin front. It could mean a few different things that range the spectrum in good or bad news for this franchise, but all of them would be major, major story lines.
Now that we know how much money the Rockies were willing to part with for Abreu, root hard for a Chacin extension this off season, because that puzzle piece creates a much prettier picture for the Rockies going forward than the other two implications this offer may have signaled.
More from Purple Row:
- Sunday Rockpile: Measuring Defense
- 2013 Colorado Rockies Player Review: Corey Dickerson
- 2013 Colorado Rockies Player Review: Josh Outman
- Friday Rockpile: Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado, and Troy Tulowitzki nominated for Gold Glove awards
- 2013 Colorado Rockies Player Review: Matt Belisle