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Tuesday Rockpile: GM Meetings Offer Opportunity for O'Dowd

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Second Base and Free Agency

Rockies fans saw another in a line of potential free agent targets sign elsewhere yesterday, as Mark Ellis inked a 2-year, $8.75 million contract with the Dodgers. While that seems a bit rich for his abilities and what the Rockies should spent, it does seem to be market value this offseason for a middle infielder. Omar Infante, Jamey Carroll and Aaron Hill all signed two year deals for comparable money.

Remaining second base free agents include Kelly Johnson, who figures to earn as much if not more money than Ellis, and Clint Barmes, who has a decent shot of signing on for a full-time position at shortstop elsewhere. Few second basemen are on the trade market right now, and with the Tigers getting interested in Martin Prado, a deal there is getting more difficult. 

Dan O'Dowd isn't worried.

"We had interest in both players, but we have other things going on and there is a lot of winter left," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said. "We are very comfortable with our in-house options." - Renck

Those options are Chris Nelson, Eric Young Jr., Jordan Pacheco, Jonathan Herrera and Thomas Field. I highly doubt O'Dowd is as comfortable with that lot as he suggests, but he is at least comfortable enough not to enter the one-upping of free agent middle infielders.

With the Free Agency Road looking less maneuverable in O'Dowd's vehicle, the trade route is being touted as the road more likely traveled. We might see some action heating up this week with the GM meetings commencing today in Milwaukee. Renck intimates that the Rockies are heavily interested in free agent Grady Sizemore. But then, so are seven other teams, and Sizemore only fits if O'Dowd gets Frank Wren to bite on a Martin Prado deal.


Kemp in Dodgertown

Matt Kemp Contract A Pleasant Surprise - True Blue LA When finalized, Kemp's contract will be for 8 years and $160 million. That's more than Tulowitzki's package last winter, and actually more than any player in National League history, (though the Yankees have three higher on their payroll right now - Jeter/ARod/Teixeira). This comes from a team fighting bankruptcy.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Matt Kemp have agreed on a huge contract, but why stop there? - MLB News | FOX Sports on MSN Ken Rosenthal suggests it is not only wise but feasible for the Dodgers to make a run at Prince Fielder.

 

More links on MLB labor talks and Rockies prospects after the jump.

New Draft Rules

MLB labor talks -- Sides close to OKing draft tweaks, sources say - ESPN New York Yesterday, Buster Olney wrote that talks were at the "10-yard-line" regarding a restructuring of the draft rules. There would be "slot recommendations" for the first ten rounds. When exceeded the first time, a luxury tax would be instituted. When exceeded a second time, a high (1st or 2nd?) round pick would be lost.

As Mike Axisa pointed out yesterday, this could be trouble if slot recommendations are not increased.

Based on last year's slot numbers, I get a draft spending cap of ~$4.8M using the top ten rounds. 21 teams spent more than that last year.

These are not in stone as the new rules...yet. But if they are, it could seriously damage the talent pool in the minor leagues. One needs to look no further than 2011's Pirates draft. Josh Bell, considered a near-impossible sign as an ultra-talented high school athlete, signed for more than $4.8 million himself...and he was a 2nd rounder. Not only would Bell not be a Pirate, he wouldn't sign to play baseball at all.

Another change is the long necessary edit to free agent/draft pick compensation. It will still exist, but there will be no more first round picks surrendered for the likes of Brian Fuentes anymore. While also not finalized, this alteration is sure to happen.

 

Prospects

Tough Break Keeps Swanner From Rockies Instructs Jack Etkin has an Insider update on #21 PuRP Will Swanner, who essentially missed the last three weeks of the season in Casper with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb as a result of a play at the plate. Swanner had surgery to repair his thumb, but that left him incapable of working with Marv Foley and Jerry Weinstein in an instructional league. A lot of Swanner's value is tied to his position, where he is toolsy but in need of improvement, so the lost time is quite unfortunate.

"Last year I got so much better from working with Marv and Jerry Weinstein," Swanner said. "I consider I got so much growth in those four weeks that I was with them that it just (stinks) that I had to miss out on that."

AFL Scouting: Day 1 | Project Prospect Adam Foster has some complimentary things to say about Tim Wheeler.