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Introducing Know Your Foe

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Good afternoon Rowbots.  I am a new bench coach here at Purple Row.  Luckily for all of you, I don't pose the same threat to the manager as another new bench coach in town.

With that, welcome to Know Your Foe.  My goal with this column is to be your scout for all things non-Rockies related that directly relate to the Rockies.  That is to say - I will be reporting each week on the Rockies' divisional foes, recapping any recent trades, free agent signings, rumors, awards, hot players, cold players, major accomplishments, firings, promotions, suspensions, injuries,arrests and anything else relevant to those teams.  I'll also explore how the division - and most importantly, the Rockies - may be affected by each tidbit.  Think of it like a Rockpile, except only once a week and covering four teams.  I might even share an insight or two from AZ Snakepit, Gaslamp Ball, True Blue LA and McCovey Chronicles, our sister NL West SBNation Blogs.

Once the regular season starts, if you don't run me off by then, I aim to also include a weekly preview of the upcoming opponents.  To get you acquainted with the teams (that is, to Know Your Foe) I'll include projected pitching match-ups, recent acquisitions, injuries, hot and cold players, other pertinent news, and perhaps if I feel salty - a weekly projection.  There will also be an opportunity to reflect back on how the NL West teams performed in the preceding week on the know, once they actually take the field.

I'd like readship response on what more - or less - you would like to see in Know Your Foe, and I'll gladly oblige.  I aim to please.

Join me after the jump for this week in the NL West.


Signed RHP Tom "Flash" Gordon Friday.  The contract is for one year and $500k but can reach $2 million with incentives. The 41-year old will now be managed by a former battery partner in Bob Melvin, who was a backup catcher behind former Rockie Brent Mayne when both were in Kansas City in 1992.  Since Randy Johnson bolted for the bay in December, Flash becomes the eldest pitcher in the desert; in fact, Gordon extends an odd streak for Arizona - they will have a pitcher over 40 for their fourth consecutive season (Gordon, Johnson, Terry Mulholland, Orlando Hernandez).  For comparison, the Rockies have employed only two such aged hurlers in franchise history - Jeff Fassero (41) in 2004 and Jose Mesa (40) in 2006.

Signed RHP Jon Garland January 28.  Garland has 7 consecutive seasons with at least 32 starts, 191 innings and 10 wins.  From 2004-06, Garland was sixth in MLB in wins.  The contract is worth $6.25 million for 2009 with an option of $10 million for 2010.  Garland was originally rumored to be traded to Houston before Chicago GM Kenny Williams got cold feet over the health of one Taylor Buchholz.  Instead, Houston dealt Buchholz and two others for Rockie Jason Jennings in what is now considered one of the the best trades in Rockies history.

Poseidon's Gavel: Gordon is a low-risk, high-reward move.  Although he was injured for most of 2008, he carries with him a 2008 World Series ring to go with his 19 years of experience.   He could still be a dark horse weapon out of the Snakes' pen despite decreasing effectiveness.  Gordon sports a 1.42 ERA in 7 appearances against the Rockies in the past three seasons...The Garland signing proves Arizona's FO isn't ready to give Yusmeiro Petit even a spot at the back of the rotation.  Garland, a former All-Star who has been as reliable and consistent as any pitcher this decade, adds a lot of weight near the back end of the Arizona rotation.  This protects against letdowns by youngsters Max Scherzer and Travis Blackley as well.  Interestingly, Garland has never faced the Rockies in his career.

Verdict:  Both signings are strong moves to add solid depth that will temper the losses of Johnson, Brandon Lyon and Juan Cruz.  Thisimproves the stock of the Diamondbacks, but the overall flux of players thus far this offseason should produce a relatively stagnant result in the standings.

In: 2B/SS Felipe Lopez, RHP Garland, RHP Gordon, LHP Scott Schoeneweis

Out: 2B/SS David Eckstein, LHP Johnson, RHP Lyon, RHP Connor Robertson

Free Agents: RHP Cruz, LF Adam Dunn, 2B Orlando Hudson


Los Angeles

Signed LHP Randy Wolf Friday.  Wolf agreed to a one year $5 million deal with an additional $3 million in incentives in order to return to Los Angeles, where Wolf played in 2007.

Texas Rangers signed OF Andruw Jones to a minor league deal Sunday for $500k with up to $1 million in performance bonuses.  Los Angeles will earn half of what Jones makes.  So the Dodgers can earn $750k off Jones if he learns to hit the ball and not the buffet.  Hey, they'll take anything they can to help pay off the $3.7 million they owe him annually through the next six seasons.

Signed OF Manny Ramirez.

Poseidon's Gavel: Wolf brings sorely needed experience to the Dodgers' rotation.  After losing Penny and Lowe going into 2009, Los Angeles is leaning heavily on the gimpy leg of Chad Billingsley, the live but young arm of Clayton Kershaw and perhaps Jason Schmidt, who has only 6 starts since 2006.  Wolf was a necessary signing and the best LA could realistically do to bolster their rotation through free agency.... While the $750k the Dodgers may save from Andruw Jones pelting the ball in Arlington may allow a small amount of financial flexibility, it won't greatly impact the fortune of the division.  Still, if you're a Dodger hater, you still have a reason to root for Andruw to continue his epic career collapse.

Verdict:  Wolf can't save the Dodgers rotation from being one of the worst in the division.  After all, Wolf is projected to have an ERA hovering around a mediocre 4.50.  The Dodgers will still need strong showings from their young arms to maintain competition within the division.  And retaining Manny Ramirez would help.

In: LHP Wolf, RHP Guillermo Mota, C Brad Ausmus, IF Mark Loretta.

Out: RHP Brad Penny, RHP Chan Ho Park, RHP Derek Lowe, RHP Scott Proctor, RHP Takaski Saito

Free Agents: OF Ramirez, IF Nomar Garciaparra, C Gary Bennett, LHP Joe Beimel, RHP Mario Alvarez


San Diego

Signed OF Cliff Floyd Friday.  Floyd signed a 1 year $750k contract plus incentives, a $2million pay cut from 2008.  The 36-year old was a DH for the AL Pennant winning Tampa Bay Rays but will be forced to compete with youngster Chase Headley for playing time in LF.

DFAed RHP Matt Bush Friday.  Bush was a former first overall pick in 2004, ahead of SS Stephen Drew, RHP Justin Verlander, and RHP Jered Weaver.  After failing miserably with the bat, Bush logged less than 8 innings as a reliever in 2007 before missing 2008 with an injured elbow.

Rumored interest in RHP Livan Hernandez.  The Friars would like a veteran SP to join the back end of their rotation.

Poseidon's Gavel: Floyd fills a void on the bench for the Padres, but don't expect him to hinder the growth of Chase Headley, and Adrian Gonzalez won't have many days off at first base.  His at-bats and production have been declining since his renaissance year in 2005, so don't be surprised if be makes less noise with is bat than another aged slugger that went to die in the Petco OF.  Padres fans aren't very excited about the signing...Bush has had a rockier minor league career than any first overall pick since Josh Hamilton.  He has a live arm and he just turned 23 yesterday, so if he can recover from his injury, he has time to reach the majors.  Bush's legal problems haven't helped either...As for Livan - have fun with him...

Verdict: While there was reason to believe the Giants could surprise people in 2008, the Padres show little reason to improve surprise in 2009.  After all, their most impactful addition so far has been David Eckstein - Floyd won't strike the fear in the NL West.  Bud Black's  number 3 starting pitcher, Cha Seung Baek, failed to have an ERA below 5.00 in Petco Park last season.  It's not looking good in SoCal.

In: C Henry Blanco, IF Eckstein, RHP Mark Worrell, OF Cliff Floyd

Out: SS Khalil Greene, RHP Trevor Hoffman

Free Agents: None


San Francisco

Offered one-year contract to 3B Joe Crede Saturday.  No word on financial terms, but Crede is supposedly looking for $7million.  After all, he's "All-Star caliber," at least according to his agent Scott Boras.  The Minnesota Twins have also shown interest in Crede but have yet to offer a contract.

Offered one-year contract to IF Rich Aurilia Saturday.  It is a minor league contract worth $1million if he makes the team, so Aurilia is mulling over whether to settle for the deal.  The Phillies are also rumored to be courting Aurilia.

The latest Manny Ramirez rumor.  Jayson Stark reports that an unnamed official with proximity to the Giants suspects that Frisco has a bigger chance to bring in Manny Ramirez than most experts believe.

Poseidon's Gavel: The Giants are currently projected to start 22-year old Pablo Sandoval and 25-year old Travis Ishikawa in their corner infield, but their inexperience at the two power positions is a weakness.  There is no need to lean so heavily on a 22-year old; signing Crede could mean a move to first base for Sandoval, and Aurilia - who managed a .745 OPS in 2008, close to his career average - would provide protection should Sandoval return to earth in 2009...

Verdict: Watch out for Frisco.  With their aggressive offseason additions and bullish rotation, the Giants aren't far from being able to compete for the NL West division crown. If Brian Sabean manages to ink Manny Ramirez and Sandoval picks up in 2009 where he left off in 2008, they are immediately in position to take the weak NL West.

In: LHP Jeremy Affeldt, SS Edgar Renteria, RHP Bob Howry, LHP Randy Johnson, IF Juan Uribe

Out: SS Omar Vizquel

Free Agent: IF Rich Aurilia

UPDATE: Rich Aurilia has agreed to the minor league contract with the Giants.  He should make the 25-man roster and buffer the inexperience in the corner infield.