Here's the playoff math as I see it:
As I mentioned in the yesterday's Rockpile comments, it will likely take 92 wins to have a better than average chance of taking the NL Wild Card. This means that the Rockies will need a finishing kick of 27-10 AT MINIMUM to bring back Rocktober. Have the Rockies had any such streak this season? Well, no. Nor have they played well enough to lead me to believe that such a streak is very probable.
However, I am both a believer in the talent level of this team and in the fact that they play very well at Coors Field. Colorado plays 15 of its next 21 (and therefore 22 of its last 37) in Denver, where they've won two of every three they've played. What I'm saying is that the Rockies have a non-zero chance of pulling this thing off.
However, in the 95% or greater chance that the Rockies aren't playing deep into October, one of the major issues this offseason for Dan O'Dowd and company will be to value Jorge De La Rosa's services against the needs of the club in 2011. As JDLR tells the Denver Post:
"I would love to come back. I really like it here," De La Rosa said. "But I don't know if it makes sense for them to bring me back."
Therein lies the rub. Does it make sense to bring back JDLR next year. He hasn't been healthy for the majority of 2010 (and when he has been on the mound the results haven't been consistent), so it's tough to know what exactly the Rockies have in De La Rosa going forward. The linked article reports that the lefty declined a two-year, $9 million contract before this year.
Colorado already has $48.2 million committed to the 2011 team, which does not include the salary due to players in pre-arbitration or arbitration one-year deals. Included in this unknown future expense will be likely large arbitration-based raises to Ian Stewart (a Super Two player), Jason Hammel, and newfound relief ace Matt Belisle.
This past offseason, those expenses were nearly $20 million towards the 2010 Opening Day payroll. We should expect a smaller number this year due to a reduced number of arb-eligible players and the possibility of a Clint Barmes non-tender. Ultimately, I see the Rockies needing to replace or re-sign anywhere from 3-6 players this offseason (Giambi, Mora, Beimel, JDLR, Francis, Barmes, Olivo). That's Assuming a payroll constraint of around $80-85 million, Colorado will have $12-18 million to spend on these players.
The simplest way would be to exercise Francis' ($7M) and Olivo's ($2.5M) 2011 options, but that leaves the Rockies with about $3-9 million to spend on the other four slots. Colorado could help its situation by finding a taker for Aaron Cook's contract, by getting Francis to sign for less (whether it be for a single or multiple years), and by simply filling holes with the farm system (EY2, Nelson, Matt Reynolds, Chacin, Rogers, etc.). I think that one or more of these eventualities will come to pass (giving the Rockies some extra room to manuever), but there still are two holes to fill: one is a back-up corner infielder to spell Helton (I'm not much of an Eldred believer myself) and the other (more important by far) is finding an impact arm for the rotation.
The thing is, De La Rosa is a great fit for the needs of the 2011 Rockies: a power pitcher with top of the rotation stuff and a lefty to boot. A rotation of Jimenez, JDLR, Hammel, Chacin, Francis sure looks good for next year--but can the Rockies afford it? My thinking is that De La Rosa is the kind of rare talent that you pay for. His skill set is rare, his injury-plagued 2010 might have kept him in Colorado's price range (think 3/$25-30M), and the Rockies' window of contention is still open wide. Now is the time to be spending payroll flexibility on elite talent and rely upon the farm system to provide the depth.
If I'm Dan O'Dowd, I take the plunge on JDLR this offseason.
Jim Armstrong writes about Colorado's great home performance thus far (40-20).
Armstrong notes that Rafael Betancourt has groin soreness and is out of commission for the near future. This is a similar injury to one that knocked him out for five weeks last year when he was pitching for Cleveland. Let's hope that it isn't quite so serious this time around.