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Wednesday Rockpile: It's Time to Say Goodbye to Hawpe

After that debacle last night, the Rockies have reached their low point this season in terms of divisional deficit (10). As a result, it's looking more and more like I'm going to eat my words about the 2010 NL West division champion. So be it. The consolation prize of a wild card berth is still conceivably within reach, but I'm not holding my breath.

And so, I choose to focus on the future. Right now, the most interesting near-term issue for the Rockies is the fate of Brad Hawpe. The former All-Star was spared the roster ax when Taylor Buchholz conveniently had back stiffness last night and was placed on the DL, allowing Jhoulys Chacin to be added to the 25 man roster, but Hawpe's days as a Rockie still appear to be numbered.

Namely, the Rockies are currently carrying only six relievers in order to keep Eric Young Jr. on the roster, and will likely rectify this inequality soon. According to GM Dan O' Dowd via Troy Renck on the subject, "We have a bunch of great guys. But this is a performance-based business".

That would seem to point towards Hawpe leaving the team, as the OFer has lacked his traditional slugging prowess this season. He's still an average hitter (100 wRC+ this season), just not for a ton of power (.430 SLG). Given his wooden outfield defense, Hawpe just hasn't provided a good enough offensive package to justify his $7.5 million salary this year (0.4 WAR). It's safe to say that Hawpe is the team's fourth-best outfielder in terms of performance and yet is by far the highest-compensated. Then again, this has been true for quite some time. 

The fact that Hawpe is on August revocable outright waivers should clear the way for his departure from the Rockies organization. Renck posits that Hawpe's $2.2 million remaining salary will scare teams away and that he will clear, making a trade a great possibility. I've been driving the trade Hawpe bandwagon since May of last year, when he was at the peak of his trade value and the Rockies weren't in contention. After the playoff run last year, a Hawpe trade still made too much sense not to occur in the offseason. I felt then that Hawpe was the type of player who would decline quickly due to his lack of speed and long swing, quickly sapping his trade value to other teams...and unfortunately I was right.

And now? Now the Rockies will be lucky to receive anything of any value in a trade for Hawpe. Heck, the best case scenario with him might involve him being claimed on waivers and the Rockies letting him go and receiving some salary relief ($2.7 million if you count his $500k buyout for his 2011 option). "Jeff, you're insane, Hawpe's going to be a Type A free agent", you might say. Unfortunately, in order to receive compensation picks for Hawpe leaving in free agency, two unlikely things have to happen.

Namely, Hawpe needs to receive sufficient interest from a team (it would likely be an AL team with an open DH slot) so that he declines the Rockies' offer of arbitration. Otherwise Hawpe will be of little worth to the Rockies as an asset this offseason. An arbitration settlement for Hawpe next season would result in a minimum of a $6 million salary for the slugger, not a palatable option for a 4th outfielder/1B backup with Hawpe's defensive resume.

I think that an AL team will want to look at Hawpe next year as a 1B/DH option, but they won't be willing to surrender a high draft pick for the privilege. No, in my opinion this has turned into a Garrett Atkins situation for the Rockies in that Hawpe is an asset that the Rockies have held onto for too long so as to render his value virtually worthless. Sure, Hawpe is a better player than Atkins was last year, but he's also declining pretty heavily against his career offensive numbers, playing at a position of depth for Colorado, and making way too much money for the production the Rockies are receiving.

The fact that the organization is so committed to its players is great, but at some point the Rockies need to be able to flip its major league homegrown talent at the zenith of their value rather than at their nadir.

It's time to say goodbye, Rockies fans. Maybe as soon as tomorrow.

Other Links

Renck has another mailbag, in which the Denver Post writer addresses questions about prospects, Tulowitzki, Street, and the Rockies' lack of waiver trade deadline activity.

Patrick Saunders writes about the Coors Field gameday experience and analyzes the Rockies' fanbase in the process (are Rockies fans too polite?). He rails against the wave, so there's that.

The CBS Power Rankings haven't ruled out a Colorado run, but they aren't optimistic.

I posted this in the Rockpile comments yesterday, but it really does bear reading so I'll post it again. Minor league writer Mike Ashmore writes a thorough and engrossing account of minor league life: Investing in the Future. It is well worth the time to read.