Tuesday Rockpile: So many holes to fill, so little time

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockies aren't close to being a contender, and probably won't be for a few years. That doesn't mean the team shouldn't capitalize on opportunities to improve along the way.

A power-hitting right fielder. A viable setup man. An additional middle reliever whose arm is still attached to his body. At least one mid-rotation starter, but probably more like two. MLB-quality depth.

The Rockies need all of these things to return to being anywhere near a contending team in an improving National League West. Most of the other teams in the division are doing what they need to do to continuously improve. The Dodgers might be the front-runners for Masahiro Tanaka, although Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors believes the Rockies might get into the mix. Nobody is going to compete with L.A.'s money, but the Diamondbacks are taking the trade route to try to return to contention, as evidenced by their discussions with the Cubs regarding starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija.

Both teams have holes bigger than what they're trying to fill with the examples listed above, but they're a lot closer to being atop the division than the Rockies, who have a myriad of problems keeping them in or close to the NL West cellar.

Pitching has always been a problem, but bounceback performances from Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa and a breakout of sorts from Tyler Chatwood elicit hope. However, at least one -- and likely more -- of those guys will regress in 2014, so the team has to prepare accordingly by bringing aboard at least one quality starter. It's probably not going to be Tanaka, and the Rockies won't be making a run at David Price. But they need more than a scrap-heap revitalization project.

The same goes for right field. The Rockies are reportedly interested in prying Yoenis Cespedes away from the Athletics, but is he the answer? It's probably better than going after Carlos Ruiz and sticking Wilin Rosario at first base or right field. That won't fix anything; Rosario will be more of a defensive liability at either of those two positions than he is behind the plate, and Ruiz is showing decline and isn't getting any younger.

The bullpen is the area in which the Rockies are most likely to improve. It's also the easiest spot on a baseball team to fill. It can be filled internally by minor-leaguers with good stuff, and it can be filled with fairly cheap, already-established big-leaguers. MLBTR's Dierkes predicts the Rox could end up with former Indians reliever Sean Joe Smith, who is a notorious ground ball specialist with good numbers over the past few years, albeit with questionable strikeout and walk rates.

Sounds like a lot of work, right? But, none of that even addresses arguably the team's biggest need, which is MLB-quality depth. When the Rockies last made it to the postseason, they had an entire bench full of quality players. Chris Iannetta, Garrett Atkins, Seth Smith, Jason Giambi, Ryan Spilborghs ... all proven veterans who had the ability to get big hits in bigger situations. In 2013, Jonathan Herrera was far and away the team's best backup. That's not going to work for any team, let alone one whose unique circumstances prevents it from fielding a healthy team for more than two-thirds of any given season.

The Rockies must figure out a way to fill all of these holes, and it's not going to be easy to do in one offseason. There usually just aren't enough quality players who can be had for a decent price all at once. If they work hard to address at least some of these issues, improvement should be expected again in 2014.

But playoff contention? That's going to take a few years to achieve -- and a lot of things to go right on the farm -- unless every single piece falls into place before Spring Training begins.

Off-topic

Links

Grant Brisbee believes Ubaldo Jimenez will accept the Indians' one-year, $14 million qualifying offer because other teams will be reluctant to give him more than that.

Steven Goldman breaks down a few of the candidates on the Hall of Fame's Expansion Era Committee (formerly Veteran's Committee) ballot. (Ed. note: Tommy John should absolutely be in the Hall of Fame.)

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