As discussed in yesterday's Rockpile, Baseball America has put together their Rockies top 10 prospects, with four 2009 draftees cracking the list, including Tyler Matzek at number one.
The Rockies made the decision to offer arbitration to Jason Marquis and Rafael Betancourt, but not Joe Beimel or Yorvit Torrealba. The team is also expressing interest in bringing Bobby Crosby in as a utility infielder who could play multiple positions and more or less replace Garrett Atkins as a primary corner bat off the bench. Also interest in free agent pitcher Noah Lowry has been expressed.
Time to take a step back and spell out what I'm seeing with these moves:
- The decision to offer arbitration to Marquis surprised quite a few, but added to the Rockies interest in Justin Duscherer and Lowry, it indicates that Dan O'Dowd might not be entirely comfortable going all in on a Jeff Francis recovery with only unproven internal prospects as insurance, and will be looking for an MLB experienced plan B. In recent seasons, O'Dowd has tried to stack plenty of starting options going into Spring. I don't think the team expects Marquis to accept arbitration, but they don't offer it to him if there's no room for him in their 2010 plans and they didn't feel they could get their money's worth out of him.
- Alternatively, and a bit less likely, it might mean that the Rockies have an intriguing trade offer on the table for a current starter, the guess would be Jorge De La Rosa given that his name popped up in last month's GM Meetings, but don't want to pull the trigger on the deal without a better succession plan in place.
- Bobby Crosby as Atkins' potential replacement is going to be one of those "trust me" sort of moves that could backfire on O'Dowd, but in that event is unlikely to make us any worse off than we were last year with Garrett's big slump. It could also pay off. As a replacement for Ian Stewart and Todd Helton, and given Jim Tracy's heavy reliance on platoon advantages, Crosby would be batting against LHP's mostly with the Rockies, against which he hit .265/.333/.460 in 2009 while playing the bulk of his games in pitcher friendly venues. Added to his defense and lower cost, I'm actually interested to see where this will go and am pretty comfortable with the decision.
- As for the Rockies catching front, the decision to not offer Torrealba arbitration while not closing the door to his return is a little trickier to gauge. There are other moves around the league like this that indicate small or mid-market teams feel that the arbitration process is overvaluing catchers, and that they can fill their needs on the open market at better cost efficiency. One intriguing possibility for a replacement for Torrealba is expected to be a victim of this trend, as the Tampa Bay Rays are expected to non-tender Dioner Navarro in a few days. Adding a 26 year old switch hitting bat could be useful. I haven't seen any indication that the Rockies would be interested in Navarro were he to be available, but I'm hoping I do if it does happen.