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Wednesday Rockpile: Four Rockies Scheduled for Salary Arbitration

In a day otherwise bereft of Rockies news, this blurb on MLB Trade Rumors about the four Colorado players eligible for salary arbitration this off-season is front page news. They are Dexter Fowler, Seth Smith (1st time for both), Ian Stewart (2nd), and Ryan Spilborghs (3rd).

As you may remember, I've written at some length about salary arbitration before, so I'll keep this brief-ish (but if you're interested in more please click the above link). My three main beefs with the arbitration system are that it evaluates players improperly (emphasizing "traditional"/fantasy stats at the expense of value metrics like WAR or even OBP), it creates unnecessarily unpleasant tension between employer and employee (the object of an arbitration hearing from a team's point of view is to point out the player's faults), and most importantly, it creates an excessively ramped up salary scale

Arbitration eligible players can live high off the hog for the duration of their eligibility from one good year in the past, as the minimum salary a player can receive from arbitration is 80% of last year's salary. So yes, that means that Stewart's terrible 2011 campaign will net him at least $1.83 million in 2012 because his 2011 salary was $2.2875 million. Spilborghs was worth -1.1 fWAR this year, but he's guaranteed at least $1.56 million if the Rockies keep him through arbitration. It's a system that forces teams to spend heavily retaining average young players -- and if your team has a surplus of such players it can easily cripple your budget.

I'm hoping against hope that Spilborghs doesn't make it to his hearing in February still under Colorado's control, but if he does return the cost will be anywhere from $1.6-2.4 million. For a player who was among the least valuable in MLB the past two years, that's way too much. The same goes for Stewart, but at least he has the potential to be worth his contract.

Smith and Fowler are another matter, because as 1st time arbitration eligibles and ML average starters they will be valued pretty attractively for Colorado. Both should be slotted to make between $2-3 million, which is still a bargain given their expected production for Colorado in 2012.

I'll be sure to revisit this topic later in the off-season when the team's plan becomes more clear.

In prospect news, Tim Wheeler got off to a slow start in the Arizona Fall League, but he went 2-6 with a grand slam on Monday and went 1-4 with two steals in last night's game.

For those who are interested, I just got my computer back in working order, so that means that you should expect the Fall 2011 PuRPs list to be unveiled starting next Monday the 17th.

Baseball-Reference Nugget of the week: sponsored by the locked-out Denver Nuggets

Super-reliever Rafael Betancourt was worth .0272 rWAR/IP (1.7 in 62.1 IP), leader in the clubhouse among Rockies pitchers with at least 50 IP, narrowly edging out Matt Lindstrom (.026, 1.4 rWAR in 54 IP). In other words, on a per-inning basis Betancourt was Colorado's most valuable pitcher in 2011. Rex Brothers had a .0275 ratio in 40 IP, so he was pretty darn good too. Leading the starters was the unfortunately injured Jorge De la Rosa (.0271, 1.6 in 59 IP), who edged out Jhoulys Chacin, who had .022 rWAR/IP (4.3, 194).