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The State of the Rockies: Post GM Meetings Update

In what will be a semi-weekly occurrence from now until January on Purple Row Academy, I'm going to update my post on the State of the Rockies. In other words, I will update my loyal readers (all three of you)--as well as anyone stupid intrepid enough to follow me after the jump as to the roster framework the Rockies are looking at as some big offseason deadlines approach.

This week, I'll be looking at what has happened thus far for the Rockies and what that means going forward. Also discussed will be the Rockies' impending decision on Rafael Betancourt's club option and how the Rockies are affected by the Elias Free Agent classifications.

By next week, we should have a better idea of what the Rockies are doing as the beginning of free agency and the deadline to set 40 man rosters approaches (November 20th).

Jump with me, brave souls, to roster-building nirvana...

Before I begin, let me first note that this analysis will be limited to what I can project the 25 man roster to be, since I'm forecasting the 2010 ODP (which only includes the active roster and DL). For most of the players not on the 25 man roster but who are on the 40 man, they will be paid the prorated minimum should they make the Show and considerably less in the minor leagues.

What the Rockies Already Owe in 2010

This category is for money that the Rockies have already committed to the 2010 roster. Note that this only includes players who are under contract with the Rockies (not just under team control), giving management concrete salary obligations to work around. This data, as well as much of the data for the rest of this study, was contributed by the incomparable Jeff Euston at Cot's Contracts.

For each player I'll give their name, approximate ML service time, 2010 salary, and minimum future salary obligations.

Player Name ML Service Time 2010 Salary Add. Min. Obligation Years After 2010
Todd Helton 12.059 $16,600,000 $23,700,000 1
Aaron Cook 7.02 $9,833,000 $10,583,000 1
Brad Hawpe 5.058 $7,500,000 $500,000 0
Jeff Francis 5.04 $5,875,000 $0 0
Troy Tulowitzki 3.033 $3,500,000 $25,750,000 3
Manuel Corpas 3.076 $2,750,000 $3,750,000 1
Ubaldo Jimenez 2.087 $1,250,000 $8,000,000 2
Yorvit Torrealba 8.03 $500,000 $0 0
Alan Embree 15.059 $250,000 $0 0
Total $48,058,000 $72,283,000

This list of players the Rockies definitely owe money to next year has become more certain, especially since Colorado declined the options of Embree and Torrealba as I predicted. Embree won't be back, but as RG wrote this morning, the door is open for Torrealba to return.

Pre-Arbitration Players

For the players listed below, the Rockies have the option of keeping them under control for several more years and can do so cheaply in 2010 (for a price between $400,000 and $460,000). For the purposes of this exercise I'm assuming a 3% raise over 2009 salary.

Player Name ML Service Time 2010 Salary
Eric Young Jr. 0.042 $412,000
Dexter Fowler 1.027 $413,030
Franklin Morales 2.01 $414,060
Ian Stewart 1.154 $416,120
Carlos Gonzalez 1.06 $415,090
Seth Smith 1.119 $415,090
Matt Daley 0.155 $412,000
Total $2,897,390

The main difference on this pre-arb chart is that I've taken out Paul Phillips, who was outrighted on Monday to clear up 40 man roster spots and looks like he'll become a free agent. That leaves a hole in the projected roster at backup catcher, perhaps to be filled by Torrealba, a cheaper in-house option such as Mike McKenry, or even a free agent catcher.

Even with the extra spot in the roster open, I'm not using Matt Murton to fill it because he would be the sixth outfielder. One of Murton, Ryan Spilborghs, and Hawpe will likely be gone--and more than one leaving is possible.

Arbitration-Eligible Players

Since my previous post two weeks ago, the Rockies have avoided salary arbitration with two of their prospective cases, relievers Randy Flores and Matt Belisle. The Rockies were able to secure the services of these two relievers for less than I had predicted--Flores for $650,000 and Belisle for $850000, raises of 6.25 and 8.33% respectively. Both contracts have incentives based on number of appearances, neither of which I predict will be triggered.

With Belisle and Flores in the fold, the Rockies stil have eight potential arbitration cases to negotiate--including that of Garrett Atkins, who is almost certain to be non-tendered. The Rockies may (should) do this before the November 20th deadline for setting the 40 man roster in order to protect another prospect from the Rule 5 draft. Let's face it: Atkins won't engender much interest from teams at his current price point (minimum of $5.64 million). For that reason I'm removing him from the below chart. Bold numbers represent concrete salaries, not just predictions

Player Name ML Service Time 2010 Salary Difference from 2009
Huston Street 5 $8,775,000 95.00%
Jorge De La Rosa 5.015 $5,600,000 180.00%
Clint Barmes 4.122 $4,225,000 160.00%
Taylor Buchholz 3.14 $1,055,000 0.00%
Matt Belisle 4.02 $850,000 6.25%
Randy Flores 5.061 $650,000 8.33%
Jason Hammel 2.153 $2,026,560 380.00%
Chris Iannetta 3.029 $1,867,500 350.00%
Ryan Spilborghs 3.072 $788,500 90.00%
Total $25,837,560 141.06%

As you can see, this is considerably less than two weeks ago, due mostly to Atkins but also because Belisle and Flores were signed more cheaply than I had anticipated. Another effect of Atkins being removed is that the Rockies' average player salary increase from arbitration is closer to reflecting the league average of 172%.

Of the seven arbitration cases that remain, I could really see De La Rosa and maybe Spilborghs getting to actual salary arbitration. De La Rosa in particular could garner a larger salary than I predict here (more in the $6.5 million range). Meanwhile, Barmes and Street seem more likley to take the multi-year contract route and might have lower salaries this year than I'd projected.

Estimated Rockies 2010 ODP

This calculation represents the status quo, if the Rockies neither re-sign any of their free agents nor get rid of any players under team control (besides Atkins, that is) and remain dormant in free agency. The resulting roster would have 22 players on it with Buchholz starting the year on the DL (therefore the salary of three players would need to be added in) and would be paid:

Multi-Year Contracts: $48,058,000

Pre-Arbitration Contracts: $2,897,390

Arbitration Contracts: $25,837,560

Total ODP: $76,792,950

In other words, a roster that still has three spots open is about $1.6 million over last year's ODP.

The Betancourt Variable

The variables as far as the Rockies are concerned from now until November 20th are their free agents. The most pressing and important of these players to the front office is set-up man Rafael Betancourt, whose $5.4 million club option expires tomorrow.

Betancourt has reportedly already turned down a multi-year offer from the Rockies, so it is important for Dan O'Dowd to decide whether he wants the 35 year old Betancourt to be the set-up man next year or not. If the option is declined, Betancourt may still be retained, but the Rockies will have to bid against other teams for his services.

I've made my opinion on the issue of bullpen spending pretty clear--I believe that bullpen performance is highly variable, very fungible, and an inefficient use of salary dollars. Obviously many people disagree with me on this, but I'd prefer the Rockies to bring back Jose Contreras as a combo set-up man rotation insurance.

As Thomas Harding notes, the Rockies are interested in re-signing Contreras and Joe Beimel, who combined will probably make about the same as Betancourt's club option.

Free Agent Classification

Another reason for the Rockies to perhaps let Betancourt go would be his status as a Type A free agent. I wrote about free agency compensation several months ago, but the gist is that the top 20% of players in their positional groups (1B/DH/OF, 2B/SS/3B, C, SP, RP) as calculated by Elias are classified as Type A free agents. The formula for these calculations is complicated, convoluted, and confidential, rarely making a list that makes much sense.

In return for losing one of these players in free agency, a club receives the signing club's first round pick in the Rule 4 draft as well as a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds. As I discussed in my analysis of the Betancourt trade back in July, the draft picks from a type A free agent are typically worth $5 million to a team. In fact, in that article I recommended that the Rockies decline Betancourt's option and retain the draft picks.

Unfortunately, the Rockies would have to offer Betancourt arbitration in order to receive the draft picks in return--and in this lackluster market, the risk is high that Betancourt will accept and get even more than the $5.4 million club option. The same logic applies to Colorado's other free agents. If the Rockies want to take advantage of the Type B status (sandwich pick as compensation) of Jason Marquis, Torrealba, and Beimel they would have to offer arbitration--and there is a relatively high risk that these players would accept.

Is the risk worth it? For someone like Betancourt, who probably won't get a commensurate offer on the open market, especially with his type A status, the proposition is too chancy. For Marquis, who is likely to draw strong interest in a weak starting pitching market from his hometown Mets, the risk might be low enough to offer him arbitration. My personal view is that Colorado should offer arbitration to Beimel because his arbitration cost would be around his market cost--relatively low. Marquis could command $10-12 million in arbitration, so the Rockies need to be certain that he would decline before they offer it to him.

Next week the picture for the Betancourt situation should be a little clearer as the option decision will be made and the 40 man roster will be solidified. Until then, don't touch that stove. It's hot.