Good news, everyone. Thanks to a projected increase in revenue from the addition of "The Rooftop" party deck in Coors Field, ownership has authorized the expansion of the Rockies payroll by $50 million per season going forward. Amazing what having a profitable entertainment area instead of several thousand empty chairs in the stadium can do for the team.
However, getting the Rockies management, specifically Dick Monfort, Dan O'Dowd and Bill Geivett, to agree on more than five moves to spend the extra cash is just going to be a bridge too far, so the team will be limited to just a handful of changes.
That kind of increase is going to put the Rockies' payroll in the $120-130 million range going forward, so the lack of money excuse would be over.
A team spending that kind of money is going to be expected to contend for and make the playoffs consistently, starting in 2014.
Without further ado, here are the five moves the Rockies could make to spend $50 million and make the team a playoff contender in 2014.
1. Sign free agent OF Shin-Soo Choo to a 6-year, $110 million contract ($18.33 million)
This one is almost too easy. The Rockies seem intent on moving Michael Cuddyer to first base next season, opening up a hole in right field, which happens to be Choo's best position. He also slots in nicely in the second spot in the Rockies' order between Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez (though I would consider hitting Choo leadoff and Fowler second.)
Choo would also be another solid left-handed bat in a Rockies lineup that, aside from Carlos Gonzalez, is pretty right-handed. He is also an on-base machine, with a .389 career OBP that would likely be increased by playing half of his games at Coors Field. He also brings decent power, hitting 21 home runs last season, and a solid glove in right field. Aside from Robinson Cano, Choo is probably the best free agent the Rockies could add this offseason.
2. Sign Japanese RHP Masahiro Tanaka to a 6 year, $65 million contract ($11 million)
Obviously there would be a posting fee involved with signing Tanaka, but we're discussing payroll expansion only here and in terms of that, Tanaka could be a great value. At age 25, he is easily the youngest starting pitcher on the free agent market and has drawn comparisons to fellow Japanese import Yu Darvish.
Tanaka's numbers with the Rakuten Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball in 2013 were dazzling. He went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 0.94 WHIP, striking out 7.8 batters per nine innings. Regardless of what you think of the win statistic or NPB, putting up those numbers in the pros is no small feat. Tanaka making the transition to MLB, and Coors Field in particular, is a concern, but I'm willing to gamble on his talent prevailing.
3. Sign free agent RHP Grant Balfour to a 2 year, $17 million contract ($8.5 million)
The Rockies are rumored to have interest in Balfour, and he could be an excellent addition to the bullpen. Over the last three seasons in Oakland he has posted a 2.53 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in 199 1/3 innings, saving 64 games in the process, converting 44 straight save opportunities at one point.
Balfour also brings an intensity to the game that is appealing, even if it does lead to the occasional shouting match with Victor Martinez in the playoffs. Teaming him with Rex Brothers at the end of games is certainly an enticing thought for Rockies fans.
4. Trade LHP Josh Outman, OF Tim Wheeler and 2B Charlie Culberson to Detroit for RHP Rick Porcello ($7.5 million)
With an underwhelming and overpriced free agent market for starting pitchers and the fact that the Tigers have made Porcello available in a trade means there is an opportunity for the Rockies to make the addition. As a 24-year-old in 2013, Porcello had a 4.32 ERA in 177 innings with 142 strikeouts and a 13-8 record. The real appeal with Porcello is his ground ball rate, which was 55.3% in 2013 and is 52.8% for his career, making him a very good fit for Coors Field.
In return, the Tigers would get a solid bullpen piece in Outman, potential 4th or 5th outfielder in Wheeler and a versatile bench bat in Culberson for a player who is set to be a free agent after 2014.
5. Sign free agent LHP Boone Logan to a 2 year, $9 million contract ($4.5 million)
Logan isn't a flashy signing, he isn't a big name, but he is a very solid left-handed relief pitcher, which is something the Rockies could really use. Last season with the Yankees, he made 61 appearances, posting a 3.23 ERA in 39 innings, striking out 50.
Logan's numbers have been fairly consistent across the last four seasons at that level as well, meaning he'll be a guy the team can be confident in coming out of the bullpen, something that was in short supply for the Rockies in 2013.
Total Payroll Added: $49.83 million
With those moves, the Rockies roster to open the season in 2014 would likely look something like this.
CF Dexter Fowler
RF Shin-Soo Choo
LF Carlos Gonzalez
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Michael Cuddyer
C Wilin Rosario
3B Nolan Arenado
2B DJ LeMahieu
Jorge De La Rosa
That is a much better team than the one the Rockies fielded in 2013, and one I believe could compete for a playoff spot in 2014. It also may be the best one-through-five starting rotation in franchise history, and while the lineup may not be quite at the level of the Blake Street Bombers, there are a lot of good hitters there. Now, if only that money did really appear in the budget...