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Wednesday Rockpile: Rockies Are Dead in 2011, Let's Turn to 2012

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As if it weren't patently obvious already, last night's loss was an emphatic exclamation point on the terrible 2011 campaign the Colorado Rockies have had. Aaron Cook was lackluster as usual, legions of Rockies were left on the basepaths, and Ty Wigginton played left field while Seth Smith sat on the bench. All that's left to do is play for .500.

The incomparable Jim Tracy:

They got big hit with runners in scoring position and we didn't get any," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. "That's what it boils down to again."

Well, that and the fact that the pitcher on the mound last night has just 4 quality starts out of 14 this year and sports a WHIP of 1.67. The recently demoted (to the bullpen) Jason Hammel may have the worst WHIP in MLB among qualifying players (1.52), but at least he managed 12 quality starts out of 25 total. That's an unfortunate back end of a starting rotation. For this mess of a 2011, the Rockies have spent over $82 million, about 54% of it on pitching.

This brings me to my main point -- Aaron Cook's $10+ million salary will be going away after this season (minus a $500k buyout). So too will the salaries of Manuel Corpas ($3.55 M this year, with $250k buyout), Jose Lopez ($3.6), and yes, Ubaldo Jimenez ($2.8). Players like Ian Stewart and Kevin Kouzmanoff are likely to be non-tendered, while Todd Helton's salary drops by over $5 million. As a result, as you can see with Baseball Prospectus' awesome new compensation tool, Colorado only has $57 million or so committed to next year's roster (to 10 players who will play for them). 

Obviously the Rockies will be using around $10 million to retain their pre-arbitration players like Jhoulys Chacin and Rex Brothers as well as their arbitration cases with Dexter Fowler and Seth Smith. That leaves Colorado with between $15 and $20 million in payroll flexibility going into this offseason and around 5-8 roster spots to fill.

Some of this money will be used to bring back Jason Giambi and Mark Ellis if they desire to return, but I'd imagine that a few million will be used to get a pitcher to shore up the rotation. Yes, this might end up being Kevin Millwood. One of the names floated out there as a hitter, Michael Cuddyer, was listed as an overpay candidate at Fangraphs. Given his age and lack of defensive utility, I'm more inclined to agree than not given the $8-10 million per for three years he seems to be priced at by the market.

Who would you like to see the Rockies acquire in the off-season?



In prospect news, 3B Nolan Arenado, 1B Ben Paulsen, and OF Tim Wheeler (all PuRPs) were selected for the Arizona Fall League. Wheeler was selected as the organization's priority player, guaranteed to get consistent playing time. Colorado hasn't selected the four pitchers that they will send to the AFL yet.

Meanwhile, catcher Wilin Rosario talked about his big league dreams with the Denver Post. Those dreams will likely be deferred until Tulsa's season ends.

Baseball Prospectus has a simple instruction to Jon Heyman: judge a player by his performance, not the company he keeps. It's a great case for why Jose Bautista deserves the AL MVP -- but it could be extended to show why Troy Tulowitzki wouldn't be a bad MVP choice either (though Joey Votto and Matt Kemp would be better ones).