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Sunday Rockpile: Rockies payroll advancing

As was pointed out a few weeks ago to be the likely scenario by Tracy Ringolsby at the RMN, thanks to the Jason Marquis trade, Troy Renck and the Denver Post are now also on board that the 2009 Rockies will cost more than the 2008 team did. The projected payroll of $73 million represents a near 7% rise from last season, about 3% above inflation. Relative to the rest of the NL, the Rockies will certainly pass San Diego, but will remain behind Cincinnati, Milwaukee and San Francisco for 11th in the league in player salaries. Adding in the AL, it looks like the Rockies will have the MLB's 19th largest payroll next season, although a spending spree by the Orioles could dip us back to 20th.

I mentioned this previously in a couple of comments, but I think contention in 2009 could be pretty important for the long term health of the Rockies franchise. If the team wants to continue to raise payroll -and thereby maintain competitiveness- in future seasons when the farm system won't be as productive (which will likely be the case in 2010 and 2011) then it needs some added revenue to hold on to key players or attract a higher grade of free agent. Winning in 2009 will draw crowds, will feed the coffers, and will give the team more options in keeping the window of opportunity open. Operating a losing franchise in a down economy could exacerbate things by magnifying the typical fan exodus that follows poor on field performance. Without knowing for sure that the Rockies will rebound in 2008 given their decrepit performance in 2007, I can understand why the front office would be hesitant to go too far out on a limb with the current core, but this is a situation where I feel if the team's competitive in June and July, that taking a little more risk in trading for a rental upgrade would be warranted this summer as it seems to be a pivotal year for the division on the whole. The winner in 2009, will be well positioned going forward, whereas the also rans might have to keep a tighter lid on things going forward.