Part Two: Catcher
The Machine within the Machine With the NL West a shambles, the Rockies are in a prime spot to become playoff competitive as soon as next year, but in order to do this, key needs must be addressed. Starting today we're going to take an in depth look at each position and start gauging whether it's best to stay the course with the player we have or make a move in the offseason. After the series is complete, it's been suggested that it would be fun/informative to give everybody a go at guessing the names of next season's opening twenty-five man roster, so we will include a contest, chintzy Rockies related prizes yet to be determined.
Keep in mind that there could be some unique factors involved in this season's free agent market. The sale of the Washington Nationals franchise figures to be a financial boon to the remaining twenty-nine teams and some of that money will eventually find its way into player salaries, possibly as soon as this offseason in bloated backloaded contracts. The weakness of this free agent class on the whole leads most pundits to think that many players this year will be overpaid just to fill specific needs of various teams.
As far as offseason trades go, with the weak FA crop, the exchange action could be fierce as value conscious teams will see that as the better avenue to fill their needs. Among the other things to keep in mind specifically concerning the Rockies is that for the last three years we have carried one Rule 5 pick throughout the season. Will the team have that luxury this year? Seriously though, if any of you correctly guess the name of a Rule 5 pick of the Rockies for 2006 you'll deserve a special prize anyway.
The Rockies have stated that they are going to have to work with a budget of around forty milion dollars, but Charlie Monfort recently said the team should be able to go over that self imposed cap. By how much? Probably not as much as any of us would like, so for purposes of the exercise we'll try to keep the salary expense below forty five million.
That's all for later though, for right now, I want to take a look at the player outside the foul lines.
To Thieve a Catcher
Current Starter: Danny Ardoin
Current Backup: JD Closser
Completing Rehab: Todd Greene
Greene can guide us to enlightenment on the backstop situation.
Current Situation: The three names above belie the fact that the Rockies don't have one true top backstop as none of the three have the combination of offense and defense to make them viable candidates for full-time duties on contending clubs. Closser's bat has been heating up and while his defense is a bit improved, it still needs a lot of work. Greene's the best option right now, but he's also an offense first catcher whose offense isn't that special to begin with. Ardoin is basically a replacement level player who doesn't figure into our plans.
Possibly available from the farm: Chris Iannetta
I don't like the idea of rushing Iannetta, he seems special certainly and if he merits the call-up great, but I see him more as a mid-season replacement next year rather than the opening day starter.
Potential Free Agents: Ramon Hernandez, Bengie Molina, Brad Ausmus
Hernandez is the only name on the list I really like, as he would be a definite upgrade on what we have. He's been solid for San Diego the last one and a half years and for Oakland for a season before that (before then he was below average as he developed) up until going down with a season ending injury a month ago. He should be back in time for 2006 and the injury will depress his value a bit, maybe enough for us to fit him in our plans. If we were looking for defense only, Molina might be an okay option. Ausmus' best days are long past and they weren't ever that great to begin with. I didn't mention Mike Piazza as he's clearly only going to help some AL team at DH at this point in his career.
Available via trade? There are probably several here to look to as potentially available, Florida has three catchers, Boston too (although we're not dealing with them), and the White Sox and Arizona are other alternatives but our choices might not be limited to them. I'd look to the Marlins first and see if I could swing a deal for Josh Willingham or Ryan Jorgensen as the Marlins are unlikely to need both to backup Lo Duca and Treanor. Willingham would be the ideal choice, in my mind, now that Kelley Shoppach from Boston is off the table. Once we've exhausted our efforts there, then we can look to free-agency.