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Saturday Rockpile: GM-ing the Rockies

The key descriptive word in Wrigley Field's nickname isn't that misleading part about the place being friendly. No, the key word would be "confines" as in:

confines (plural)

  1. the borders or limits of an area
  2. elements that restrain one
  3. the scope or range of a subject
  4. the only space that Jim Edmonds could qualify as a center fielder in.

Coors Field is the opposite of confinement. Sheep ranchers use the outfield as their winter pasture. They have to send posses out to control the roving bandits that hide in the outfield's canyons and rob Brad Hawpe of so many plays. So when MVN's Evan Brunell suggests that the Rockies move to make Edmonds and Jason Michaels a platoon for center field in the league's largest outfield space, you have to wonder if he's aware that Edmonds' defense ranks as the second worst among MLB center fielders according to Dewan's plus/minus system and we already got a preview of the brutality we'd witness were he to come here in his stint with San Diego last season, and yeah, our divisional rivals outfields are nearly as brutal. While the upgrade with Edmonds over Willy Taveras on offense is easily apparent, the difference on the defensive side of that coin would completely nullify those gains and then some. Michaels wouldn't be a terrible back-up for Dexter Fowler and without looking at any projections I could see him having a rebound season after a poor 2008, but the Edmonds suggestion just makes me chuckle.

As for Brunell's other moves, Joe Beimel would be a fine replacement for Brian Fuentes in the bullpen, better than many of our stated options (I'm looking at you, Glendon) and the Rockies would be smart to look into it as an alternative. Signing Ryan Dempster wouldn't be the worst move to fill out the rotation, but his performance history previous to what happened to be his walk year in 2008 in my mind makes him far too risky for small to mid-market teams that can't afford to make big mistakes in free agency. I'd rather pay slightly more for Oliver Perez (who while inconsistent within seasons, is consistent year to year) or better yet, Jon Garland, as the money saved in the step down to Dempster is more likely to bite.

Finally, as for Garrett Atkins to the Brewers for Rickie Weeks, I'd love for it to happen but at this point it's too far in hot stove dream land to look seriously at (Brunell has Weeks for Atkins being necessary for Milwaukee after a Hughes/Cano for Prince Fielder trade). Besides, honestly our second base "problem" isn't nearly the worry it looks like on the surface. Once we settled in on Jeff Baker as our primary second baseman and Clint Barmes at super utility as a backup, our contribution from the position relative to the league was fairly solid. While the Barmes/Baker tandem wasn't close to Chase Utley's production (really, who is?) and trailed the Cubs Fontenot/DeRosa pairing in Chicago, the Rockies would have been right in the next tier of production from 2B, and easily in a safe NL contender category. Will it remain so in 2009? Just like last season, I think the team has enough options at the position to make it likely even if our first option does a Jayson Nix. If Barmes and Baker aren't back, maybe Omar Quintanilla or Jonathan Herrera or Eric Young Jr. will be ready. There's safety in numbers here that says at least one of that crowd should be.

Offensively in 2008, the Rockies lagged primarily at three positions: center field, first base, and shortstop. Tulo was already well on his way back when the season ended and Dexter Fowler might need a little adjustment period in 2009, but he's the answer in center. Really, the long term question at first will need to be addressed, but until Todd Helton's contract is off the books, don't expect a real answer to materialize. So if I'm the Rockies GM building for 2009? I try and move Garrett Atkins for the best available talent, period, without trying to plug a specific hole. I do the same with Matt Holliday, but don't marry myself to the idea of trading him this winter if I don't like what's offered back. If I still have a hole in the bullpen or rotation after that, I try and fix it with what I have after those trades. I would look to sign a Beimel if cheap and Garland if I do trade Holliday and the contract will be merely uncomfortable/barely affordable. I'd trade Willy Taveras for anything legitimate, but wouldn't wait too long to pull the trigger. I'd definitely look to extend Chris Iannetta through his arbitration years with a team option and start at least discussing a similar contract for Ubaldo Jimenez. Other than that, I just watch what Los Angeles and Arizona do and make sure they don't get too far ahead.