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The State of the Rockies: Offseason Review

Well, the regular season is nearly upon us, Rowbots! Expectations are sky-high and the level of optimism both locals and the national media have demonstrated for Colorado seems to be grounded on more than just rainbows and unicorns. Though the Rockies probably have copious depth at those positions too.

Over the last few months, I've chronicled the Rockies' offseason moves as they looked to build upon their 2009 Wild Card berth. Perhaps the biggest offseason stories from my point of view were the Rafael Betancourt arbitration process, wherein I spent a lot of time and energy writing about a guy who ultimately re-signed with the team (and for about the same as he made last year) and Yorvit Torrealba's foolish game of chicken with Dan O'Dowd, in which he lost himself about $5 million.

When those are your biggest stories, you know it was a pretty boring offseason. Not that I didn't to try and spice it up a little bit with Brad Hawpe trade rumors, even making it widely known that the Rockies would consider parting with Alan Johnson. To my great surpise, no rival GM (no, not even Dayton Moore) took my bait. However, I'll do my best to make reading about the Rockies' offseason an interesting experience for you, my loyal readers.

Here is what, after five long months, Dan O' Dowd and his staff have wrought:

The Dearly Departed (out of the organization)

Only Atkins, Marquis, and Torrealba would be considered by the national media as "losses", with only Marquis being labeled a "significant contributor". Despite their overall lack of production, all the players on this list had their moments in the sun for the Rockies, so I thank them for their service and wish them well on their new teams. My favorite memory of each player:

Garrett Atkins (non-tendered, signed by BAL): we'll always have 2006, Garrett
Jose Contreras (signed by PHI): his excellent debut performance
Alan Embree (signed by BOS): winning without throwing a pitch
Josh Fogg (free agent, cut by NYM): this game
Jason Marquis (signed by WAS): representing the Rockies at the All-Star game; that and his playoff magic.
Matt Murton (sold to Japan): looking at his smiling ginger face
Joel Peralta (signed by WAS): any time Peralta got us out of a jam, which is more times than you would think
Yorvit Torrealba (signed by SDP): going yard in the 2007 NLCS off of Livan Hernandez

New Kids in Town

Just as very few of the players that departed the organization over the offseason were seen as big losses, neither of these guys acquired over the offseason (yes, there are only two unless Justin Speier makes the Opening Day roster) is projected to have a large role on the 2010 Rockies:

Melvin Mora: a marked improvement over the man whose roster slot he's taking: Omar Quintanilla (and his pixies)
Miguel Olivo: DINGERZ, a strong arm behind the plate, and horrible plate discipline--a fine BACKUP catcher

And that's it. The Rockies are, for better or worse, basically the same team they were a few short months ago.

Of course, the Rockies' starting rotation will also be once again benefitting from the services of Jeff Francis, who decided to rejoin the team after taking a year-long sabbatical in Minsk to work in the prestigious physics department at BSU. The lefty wants to build on his 17 win campaign in 2007 this year. Other goals include passing his learner's permit test and growing a mustache.

Note: Francis will begin the season on the DL due to arm stiffness, likely from the strain of hitting 89 MPH on the radar gun. His spot will be taken by fellow soft-tossing southpaw Greg (Fastest Pickoff Move in the West) Smith. Smith has looked strong in Cactus League action and will be an adequate stop-gap for the Rockies.

Also returning to the team is Jason Giambi to reprise his role as Team Bonding Activity Director while backing up Todd Helton at first and being intimidating in his spare time.

In the bullpen, the Rockies brought back Matt Belisle, the Sultan of Scrap, who has remade himself this spring from a replacement level starter into a FIREBREATHING DESTROYER OF HOPE, as well as designated LOOGY specialist Randy Flores (his best recorded distance is ten feet in case you're wondering).

Closer Huston (Dead End) Street's struggle with stiffness in his right shoulder, caused by carrying the team through the first half of 2009, represents the team's biggest question mark heading into 2010. The choice for Street's roster spot will probably go to wild child lefty Joe Beimel (Team Bed and Bath Coordinator), who was signed to a minor league deal less than two weeks ago.

UPDATE: It will be prospect Esmil Rogers that will take the final bullpen slot, not Beimel, as the long man.

I make my season predictions and the Rockies' 2010 ODP after the jump...

Note about my predictions: please don't take any of them to Vegas as they are (mostly) unscientific. Or the bank for that matter (though I'm not sure why they would want predictions anyway). However, if you are in the gambling mood and happen to be within the state of Nevada in the next two days, I'm pretty confident that the Rockies will beat their 84 O/U win line. For what that's worth. 

Predicted 2010 NL West Standings

Colorado Rockies 94-68
Los Angeles Dodgers 88-74
San Francisco Giants 81-81
Arizona Diamondbacks 78-84
San Diego Padres 73-89

Many analysts are portraying the NL West as a close race in 2010. It won't be. The Rockies will begin the season with a strong start with a balanced pitching and hitting combination, taking an early division lead that they will not relinquish after May. Colorado will coast into the playoffs behind the stellar play of All-Stars Troy Tulowitzki and Ubaldo Jimenez.

The other playoff teams (and awards) will be:

AL East: Yankees
AL Central: Twins
AL West: Rangers
AL WC: Rays
NL East: Phillies
NL Central: Cardinals
NL WC: Dodgers

AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez
NL MVP: Albert Pujols
AL Cy: Zack Greinke
NL Cy: Roy Halladay
AL ROY: Brian Matusz
NL ROY: Jason Heyward

So, in other words, very close to last year's results in the NL and a bunch of the favorites in the AL with pretty safe picks in the awards races too. I sure am a big risk-taker. To be honest, that's all I feel comfortable predicting with any confidence, since the playoffs seem like such a crapshoot. However, here's one way that they could play out:

The Rockies defeat the Cardinals in the divisional round once the Cardinals realize that you need more than just four star players to defeat the Rockies' patient lineup and groundball-inducing pitching staff. In the NLCS, the Rockies match up once again against the Phillies, but this time the Rockies' bats come to play and Colorado advances after a hard-fought seven game series win.

The World Series sees the Rockies matched up against the upstart Rays, the one team whose depth very well could be more deep than that of the Rockies. Ultimately the Rockies fall a little short of the top of the mountain, losing in six games, but are still be primed to dominate the West for years to come.

2010 Optimistic/Bold Rockies Predictions

While I do have some reservations about a few players on the team, thinking that they will perform below expectations (Francis, Street, Hawpe, Barmes, and CarGo), here are a few players that will have a very good 2010:

  • Ubaldo Jimenez and Troy Tulowitzki will both be worth over 6 WAR
  • Ian Stewart will become a complete hitter, and the result will be an All-Star caliber season
  • Jason Hammel and Jorge De La Rosa will both be better in 2010 than they were in 2009, both notching seasons of over 4 WAR
  • Seth Smith plays his way into the starting lineup on a regular basis and Chris Iannetta catches over 100 games

2010 Opening Day Payroll

At the beginning of the offseason, I predicted a $83.46 million ODP for the 2010 Rockies. The end result is actually remarkably close to that figure.

For this chart, I put both Smith ($403k) and Rogers ($403k) on the roster, leaving on the salaries of Francis, Street, Greg Reynolds, and Taylor Buchholz as DL players. Also, please remember that a * after a player's name means that they avoided salary arbitration and a % means a DL player.

Without further ado, your 2010 Colorado Rockies ODP:

Under Contract

Player Name ML Service Time 2010 Salary Add. Min. Obligation Years After 2010
Todd Helton 12.059 $16,600,000 $33,600,000 3
Aaron Cook 7.02 $9,000,000 $9,750,000 1
Brad Hawpe 5.058 $7,500,000 $500,000 0
Huston Street* 5 $7,200,000 $15,300,000 2
Jeff Francis 5.04 $5,875,000 $0 0
Jorge De La Rosa* 5.015 $5,600,000 $0 0
Rafael Betancourt* 6.079 $3,775,000 $3,775,000 1
Troy Tulowitzki 3.033 $3,500,000 $25,750,000 3
Clint Barmes* 4.122 $3,225,000 $0 0
Manuel Corpas 3.076 $2,750,000 $3,750,000 1
Miguel Olivo 6.171 $2,000,000 $500,000 0
Chris Iannetta* 3.029 $2,000,000 $6,350,000 2
Jason Hammel* 2.153 $1,900,000 $0 0
Jason Giambi 14.082 $1,750,000 $0 0
Ryan Spilborghs* 3.082 $1,300,000 $1,925,000 1
Melvin Mora 10.088 $1,300,000 $0 0
Ubaldo Jimenez 2.087 $1,250,000 $8,000,000 2
Taylor Buchholz* 3.14 $1,055,000 $0 0
Matt Belisle* 4.019 $850,000 $0 0
Randy Flores* 5.025 $650,000 $0 0
Yorvit Torrealba 8.03 $500,000 $0 0
Alan Embree 15.059 $250,000 $0 0
Total $79,830,000 $109,200,000


I readjusted the salary of all pre-arbitration players to in response to Tracy Ringolsby's article on the subject.

Player Name ML Service Time 2010 Salary
Seth Smith 1.119 $407,000
Ian Stewart 1.154 $406,000
Carlos Gonzalez 1.06 $406,000
Franklin Morales 1.051 $406,000
Greg Smith 1.034 $406,000
Dexter Fowler 1.027 $406,000
Matt Daley 0.166 $404,000
Greg Reynolds% 0.114 $403,000
Esmil Rogers 0.023 $403,000
Total $3,647,000

This means the Rockies' ODP will be $83.477 million--so I was only off by about $17,000 from my October prediction. Of course, the Rockies' payroll only increased by that much because of three pitchers on the DL, so it doesn't really count. I'm still working on my mad contract prediction skillz and should have them ready in time for next offseason.

The $83.477 million figure would represent a $8.25 million (11%) increase from last year's ODP and would be the largest payroll in the team's history.

And with that excellent roster in place, we can now turn our attention to baseball that counts. Finally.