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Thursday Rockpile: Leaving no stone unturned, Rockies look into Justin Upton and Gavin Floyd

As Andrew Martin posted last night, yesterday brought a flurry of Rockies related notes from the GM meetings. My guess is that the quick developments of the week, those that saw four relatively competitive NL teams (Atlanta, Florida, Los Angeles and San Diego) make significant moves, and the dwindling prospects of bringing Jorge De La Rosa back have pushed Dan O'Dowd into the fray to feel out all possible alternatives to building a competitive 2011 team at the price the Rockies can manage.

The price point seems to be the key for the club, even though it seems to be getting lost on most fans who would have the team spend money that doesn't appear to be there. Last night, however, brought us wind of the Rockies interest in two players who are not only All-Star caliber, but also within salary bounds, the Diamondbacks' Justin Upton and the White Sox' Gavin Floyd

What adding that punk Justin Upton would mean to the Rockies.

Dan Uggla is expected to earn from $12 million up to $14 million in arbitration this winter. Buster Olney reported earlier this week that this price was beyond what the Rockies were able to pay. Justin Upton, meanwhile, will earn $4.46 million in 2011, a figure that the Rockies indicated to Troy Renck would push the overall player payroll to $86 million, which is a bit more than the $85 million figure we heard, but close enough for the Monforts to see it as feasible.

So, let's review what we've learned in the Rockies pursuit of a bat:


  • Dan Uggla - $12 million, not feasible within the Rockies $85 million budget
  • Victor Martinez - potentially feasible within the Rockies $85 million budget
  • Justin Upton - $4.5 million, feasible, but just outside the Rockies $85 million budget


Doing the math, the Rockies must have set aside some money in their budget specifically for a catcher in 2011, from which Martinez would have drawn, which is why they would have felt they had a shot at him before the Tigers (who just shelled out $16.5 million for a reliever yesterday) and Red Sox expressed a desire to get into a bidding war for his services. Meanwhile, the team didn't set aside money to pursue a second baseman, so Uggla's acquisition would have prevented the team from filling said catcher post or acquiring a quality starter.

So the Justin Upton news is interesting to me on multiple levels, first because the implication of adding him pushing the Rockies over budget is that they would add not only Upton, but still pursue a quality starter and a catcher via free agency or separate trades. With Uggla and Martinez, their acquisitions would mean taking money, and presumably quality, from other positions. That doesn't seem to be the case here.

The cost in trade for Upton would be steep, as they seem to be looking for five young players or prospects (and may not be willing to trade Upton within the division at all, according to Jon Heyman, who seems to be unaware of his team friendly contract status). I said a couple of weeks ago that I'd never want to see the Rockies trade more than three players or prospects for any one MLB player and that I'd only go up to three for a select few, but Upton might be the exception. Playing armchair GM, I'd try and keep Jhoulys Chacin and Wil Rosario off limits (or maybe include one of the two in a four for one deal) but otherwise, I'd be very flexible for somebody of his caliber. A Tulo, CarGo, Upton heart of the order for the next three or four seasons would be the best in the MLB (probably why the D-backs don't want to trade him to us).

What about Gavin Floyd?

Floyd is also very intriguing to me as a De La Rosa replacement. At $5 million in salary in 2011, Floyd comes in at such a reasonable cost that the Rockies could afford to trade Ian Stewart plus for him and then put the savings into a replacement third baseman. Despite relatively low win totals Floyd's been a four plus WAR (according to FanGraphs, 3.5 according to B-Ref) quality starter the past two seasons, which is a borderline All-Star, and he easily slots as a number two starter in a National League rotation. 27 years old, Floyd's in his prime and bargain priced for the next two seasons. So what's not to like?

Adding both would drain the minor league system in ways I'd never would have considered, but these are two clear impact players that would transform the Rockies into a team that projects to win around 95 games over the next couple of seasons and the financial flexibility involved with their contracts should give the franchise a buffer to make additional moves while they rebuild the farm.

Before you get too far overboard with speculation

Any one of these moves (add them to potentially trading for James Shields or Matt Garza or Mike Napoli) is unlikely on their own, but the volume of rumors suggests that the Rockies will make at least one impact trade this winter.