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Wednesday Rockpile: Is Acquisition of "All-Star" Ty Wigginton Worth it; Roster Pieces Falling Into Place

It's been a crazy few weeks for Rockies fans, and yesterday was no different. The act of following the acquisition for utility infielder Jose Lopez last week with the signing of utility infielder Ty Wigginton yesterday has understandably left some people confused, most notably Fangraphs' Dave Cameron.

Here's his reasoning:

It would be hard to find two more similarly skilled players in the game than Lopez and Wigginton. They are both slow-footed right-handed infielders with some power and no patience. Lopez is a decent enough defensive third baseman who can fake it at second and has experience at first as well. Wigginton has experience at all three spots, though he’s awful at nearly all of them.

Giving Lopez $3.6 million for one year to see if he can thrive in Coors Field, while serving as a backup corner infielder who can also play second, was a decent enough idea. Giving Wigginton that same amount of money for two years to duplicate what they just had is, well, not.

That pretty much covers my initial reaction to the Wigginton deal. However, I thought that I'd evaluate him as fairly as I could before roundly critizing this move. ATF's fanpost detailing the opinion of Camden Chat writer Stacey Long was very helpful in shaping my analysis.

What Ty Wigginton is:

1. An All-Star! No really, in 2010 and everything. He was hitting .252/.334/.434 (108 sOPS+) with 14 HRs and 45 RBI at the time, which because of the AL East translates roughly to .334/.434/.666 and 25 HRs in the NL West. Or something like that. Of course, Wigginton followed that up with a weak .244/.286/.394 (88 sOPS+) second half with 8 HRs and 31 RBIs. In all that's a .248/.312/.415 (.316 wOBA, 95 wRC+), 22 HR, 76 RBI year.

2. Right-handed -- which would reduce the Rockies' supposed vulnerability to left-handed pitching, so that's nice. I say supposed because the Rockies hit better (or at the very least as well) off lefty starters in 2010 (111 sOPS+) than they did righties (107 sOPS+).

3. A decent hitter against lefties (Career 117 wRC+) and righties (100 wRC+), which again fits what the Rockies were looking for in terms of a hitter. He's got okay power (.446 career SLG), but it isn't great production from an offense-first position like first base.

4. A journeyman -- the Rockies will be the 33 year-old's sixth franchise in eight years.

What Ty Wigginton is not:

1. A high average hitter -- his career average is .267 though his OBP is close to league average (.326). His career 19.1% strikeout rate also shows that his contact skills leave something to be desired.

2. A good infield defender -- either by the eye test or by UZR (-7.7 in 2010, -11.1 in 2009) -- or a real option as a reserve outfielder: six innings in two years is not experience in the outfield. This signing likely means that Colorado would need to either give Cole Garner a shot in the OF, move EY2 there, or acquire another free agent to fill the void.

3. Fast -- he's only got 12 stolen bases in the last five years, lending credence to his lack of defensive utility.

What we don't know:

1. How much he'll be helped by the move from the AL East to the NL and a fantastic hitter's park. Wigginton has shown lots of pop (four 20 HR seasons in his last five), so the speculation that he could be a more productive version of Melvin Mora is certainly intriguing to me.

2. How Wigginton will perform in a platoon role. As I mentioned above, he hits pitchers well from both sides, but his advantage against left-handed pitching is pretty small overall, leading me to believe that he'll be used in more situations than in a pure platoon with Helton/Stewart.

3. If Wigginton's PAs be limited to less than 350, where they belong. For reasons outlined above, Wigginton is not an everyday player, especially not over Ian Stewart. However, Jim Tracy has differed with me before and I'm afraid that it will happen again. O'Dowd obviously thinks very highly of Wigginton, and the high amount of the contract would seem to indicate that Wigginton is being tabbed for a large role in 2011.


Jim Armstrong indicates that the Rockies see Wigginton as an impact bat. If by impact they mean league-average but below positional average, then yes, Wigginton is an impact bat. The Renck article seems to indicate that Wigginton will receive a lot of playing time. As Cameron pointed out yesterday, Wigginton is a very similar player to Lopez in skill-set. Lopez is younger by about five years and has more defensive ability (particularly at second, where I think he will be the starter) while Wigginton is probably a better overall bat.

Here's the question though: is paying $3.5 million for Wigginton (plus a second year at $4 million) to be a slightly more valuable Melvin Mora worth it? In the sense that one more marginal win and insurance from injuries may be the difference between Rocktober and the October debacle of 2010, it very well may be.

I tend to believe that the Rockies are hoping for an Aubrey Huff - type bounceback year by either Wigginton or Lopez, with the winner being slotted in at second base and the loser backing up Helton, etc. but still playing a big role. In any case, with this deal Colorado has likely insured themselves against replacement-level play in 2011 from their infield at risk of suppressing a potential break-out year by a prospect like Chris Nelson or Eric Young Jr.

A breakdown of where these moves leave the roster is after the fold.

Off-Topic .

Michael Young? Seriously?

As if this situation wasn't crazy enough, rumors are flying that the Rockies are interested in trading for Rangers 3B Michael Young, who is scheduled to make $16 million each year from 2011-2013. For many reasons, most of them payroll related, this wouldn't be a great idea. These rumors are not serious, I think, but it would add to the aforementioned infield glut at considerable expense to Colorado.

Yes, Young is a better player in the infield than all incumbents except Tulo and perhaps Stewart, but the marginal benefit of such a move (probably hovering around one win) is simply not worth the cost. Obviously the Rangers would need to eat some salary or take back big money (like Cook and Lopez) in return to have such a deal make any sense.

According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Rangers have told Young that he won't be traded.

Roster Crunching

With both Wigginton and Lopez added to the roster, here's what I have as Colorado's 2011 roster:

What the Rockies Already Owe in 2011

Player Name Service Time 2011 Salary Additional Min. Obligation Years After 2011
Todd Helton 13.059 $10,600,000 $9,900,000 2
Jorge De La Rosa 6.015 $10,500,000 $11,000,000 1
Aaron Cook 8.02 $9,250,000 $500,000 0
Huston Street 6 $7,300,000 $8,000,000 1
Troy Tulowitzki 4.033 $5,500,000 $152,250,000 9
Rafael Betancourt 7.079 $3,775,000 $0 0
Jose Lopez 5.14 $3,600,000 $0 0
Ty Wigginton 7.169 $3,500,000 $4,500,000 1
Ubaldo Jimenez 3.087 $2,800,000 $5,200,000 1
Chris Iannetta 4 $2,550,000 $3,800,000 1
Ryan Spilborghs 4.082 $1,925,000 $0 0
Manuel Corpas 4.076 $3,500,000 $250,000 0
Brad Hawpe 6.054 $500,000 $0 0
Octavio Dotel 11.113 $125,000 $0 0
$65,425,000 $195,150,000

Remember, buyouts are in italics. For the purpose of accuracy I'm assuming that all club options are declined.

Arbitration Eligible

Player Name ML Service Time 2010 Salary 2011 Salary Diff. from 2010
Jason Hammel 3.153 $1,900,000 $5,400,000 184%
Matt Belisle 5.02 $850,000 $3,200,000 276%
Ian Stewart 2.154 $406,000 $2,250,000 454%
Felipe Paulino 2.163 $415,000 $1,750,000 322%
Total $3,571,000 $12,600,000 309%

For more details on my reasoning for projected arbitration awards as well as an explanation of each category, check out my offseason preview.

Pre Arbitration

Player Name ML Service Time 2011 Salary
Seth Smith 2.119 $425,000
Carlos Gonzalez 2.06 $450,000
Franklin Morales 2.018 $406,000
Dexter Fowler 2.005 $406,000
Eric Young Jr. 1.017 $406,000
Jhoulys Chacin 1.01 $406,000
Jonathan Herrera 0.155 $406,000
Esmil Rogers 0.129 $406,000
Matt Reynolds 0.045 $403,000
Mike McKenry 0.027 $401,000
Total $4,115,000

This roster assumes EY2 hanging on as the 5th outfielder (so Cole Garner could be a logical replacement). These salaries are for the most part just estimates of where I see their contracts shaking out, but the difference is very minimal given their small salaries.

That's a full 25 man roster and a current Opening Day payroll projection of $82,140,000, but realistically Colorado still has two roster spots to fill (displacing McKenry and Rogers) and around $3-5 million to spend on them for a final payroll range of $84-86 million.

The first slot, backup catcher, won't be going to rumored target Ronny Paulino, who signed with the Mets for $1.3 million. The second would be a relief pitcher, whether it be a lefty like Brian Fuentes (probably too expensive), Pedro Feliciano, and Joe Beimel or a righty such as Colorado native Jesse Crain. Colorado could also go with in-house options at either position and be relatively fine, especially in the case of the bullpen.

Other News

Jim Tracy has been released from the hospital, having been diagnosed with a mild heart arrhythmia. Hopefully all is well for the Rockies skipper.

In Troy Renck's blog post that rumored Colorado getting Paulino as a backup catcher, there is a note that Rockies 1st round draft pick Kyle Parker must make a decision by January 15th whether he will be reporting to Spring Training or going back for more football. Barring a severe injury in his bowl game, it appears that Parker will be joining the Rockies by that point.

In addition, Adam Everett is mentioned as yet another potential infield backup, to which I say, please no, while the team mentions that they have a yet-to-be revealed plan for handling Todd Helton's playing time and are sending new hitting coach Carney Lansford across the eastern seaboard to work his magic on young and talented but struggling Rockies hitters.