The other day I linked an article in the Post that said the Rockies were looking to fill the recently vacated fourth outfield spot and were primarily focused in on two elder statesmen, the Giants Marquis Grissom and the Marlins Jeff Conine. Going through a lot of stories I probably didn't give that article the treatment it deserved, which would be a massive thumbs down.
Right now, the Rockies' 2006 outfield figures to feature Matt Holliday and Brad Hawpe in the corners and Cory Sullivan in center. While Sullivan might not be the most ideal choice for center (unless he forever plays like he did in September), he's at least going to be a bit above replacement level. Holliday is becoming the player the Rockies envisioned he would be two years ago -not elite, but good to very good and a quality presence in the clubhouse. With Hawpe, it's still too early to tell, he could either be a quality slugger or a bust but he has got to get the playing time to be evaluated next year. I don't think there's much doubt on these three for the moment and while Spring may bring a surprise or two in the way of injury, I'm confident pencilling them in as the starting outfield for 2006.
After that is where things get murky. The number one question on the list is what's going to happen with Ryan Shealy. If this experiment to move him to the outfield proves successful, we'll probably have a platoon situation in right (Hawpe/Shealy) and Shealy will spend 2006 as a super-sub, but if it doesn't -and right now I'm not expecting it to- then don't expect Shealy to be a Rockie past Spring Training barring an injury to Todd Helton. The next question, however, and somewhat related to this thread, is what the Rockies are expecting of Jorge Piedra for the 2006 season. Their signalled interest in Conine or Grissom seems to show two things: One, they feel they need a viable backup plan for right handed outfield help should the pipedreams about Shealy not pan out, and two, they don't have a lot of confidence in Piedra's or Hawpe's or The-Apparently-Irrelevant-Except-for-Trade-Larry-Bigbie's ability to handle southpaws and find the latter two as somewhat redundant to the squad.
Frankly, I don't see it the same way, I think right now, Piedra, Bigbie, and Hawpe all hit better than Marquis Grissom against right or left handers, and I think it's not too long -likely 2006- before the same can be said for sure of Conine. What's more, I see Piedra as a better all around outfielder who's young legs could probably cover more ground in center for the Rockies than the 39 year old Grissom. With Jeff Conine likely resigning with the Marlins (at least according to this article in the Florida Sun Sentinel) Grip's arrival becomes the most likely outcome of all this unless some other club is foolish enough to take him first. How discouraging is that? Remember Denny Hocking? Yeah, about that discouraging. Let's stop this silly talk of other fourth outfielders now please, unless they're named Brian Giles.