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Saturday Morning Rockpile:

So the Rockies quickly agreed with Matt Holliday, and have three other players to work out deals with or go to arbitration hearings with. Jack Etkin sees Brian Fuentes as the most tricky, with the two teams nearly a million and a half dollars apart. It might be difficult, but it looks like the differences between the Rockies and their players are otherwise closer than a lot of other teams. For instance, Ryan Howard asked for $10 million, but was offered seven by the Phillies, who also siginificantly undercut Eric Bruntlett. Erik Bedard, Mark Loretta, Brandon Phillips and K-Rod all have significant bridges to cross with their teams as well.

Even better news, according to Dave Krieger, the Troy Tulowitzki deal being worked out is six years plus an option, meaning that we could actually have Tulo for at least two years of his free agent period rather than just the one that was being reported yesterday. Holliday long term would be nice, but franchise shortstops are a rarity and it's easy to see why the team would want to invest their dollars here.

Rockiesbiggestfan pointed out in the comments yesterday this Jack Etkin article, but I think it deserves a closer look. There was nary a word about the Rockies efforts in the Caribbean from Baseball America since the signing period started last July, so I was worried we were falling behind there. Not so, as six relatively sizable bonuses were handed out to players. They might not be the headline grabbing seven figure bonuses the Yankees are able to hand out, but I trust our scouts know what they're looking for and I wouldn't be surprised if a couple of these players develop to be stars in our system.

You could see from this that the Rockies take a similar approach to player evaluation in every stage of development, from the 16 year olds that sign out of the Dominican to the Rule 4 draft to the veterans we look for in free agency, eschewing the high profile costlier models for more practical values. The method has worked thus far, and consistency in it will ensure a floor of at least mediocrity for years to come. That might sound bad, but realize our ceiling could wind up much higher for healthy stretches as some overlooked prospects do develop into stars. What you wind up with is a team that's seemingly close and plausibly in contention every year rather than one that cycles through highs and lows like the Marlins and Diamondbacks. For building a loyal, Red Sox Nation type of fan base consistency is crucial.

By relying on several sources for undervalued players, rather than just focusing on one -say like the Athletics have with the June draft, only dipping occasionally into the foreign market- it makes it less likely that a massive overhaul/restocking of the system will have to take place when the one source proves less fruitful. Here's an example from our own system of what I'm talking about: in 2001, the Rockies had a pretty awful draft, with Cory Sullivan and Jayson Nix the only players of note selected, but they also signed Ubaldo Jimenez, Pedro Strop and Ching Lung Lo from overseas. Lo's probably going to fizzle, and while Nix may or may not help redeem that draft, with Jimenez and Sullivan alone the Rockies can say it was a successful year for player acquisition. One important starter in the rotation, one fairly solid bench reserve player in Sullivan, a likely cog in the bullpen in Strop and a decent stopgap at a weak position in Nix. The Rockies have derived one tenth of their forty man roster from what could have been one of their weakest years for acquiring talent. The sum contribution for the acquisition year's peak (six to ten years after) turns from an almost certain negative to the team to a solid plus. With this haul from the Dominican last season, and a decent mix of low risk polish and high upside tools in the draft, it looks like we'll be able to say the same positive things about the class of 2007 five years from now.