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Wednesday Rockpile: Rockies settling in for a long winter's night

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The Rockies appear to have made most of the moves that their payroll flexibility will allow this off-season. Is the team the front office has built strong enough to contend?

Jim McIsaac

After a flurry of moves in the last two weeks, the Rockies appear to have made most of the moves that their payroll flexibility will allow this off-season. For a good summary of Colorado's off-season moves, take a look at Bryan's off-season breakdown yesterday. For today, I'd like to write about whether or not these moves have made Colorado a playoff contender this year. First, let's look at Colorado's most recent signing.

Boone Logan

In signing Logan, the Rockies spent $16.5 million over three years on a 29 year-old reliever that hasn't thrown more than 55 1/3 innings in any year in his major league career. As RIRF wrote on Monday, the Logan signing is an expensive one for an asset that will not produce a lot of value for the Rockies - Logan's career high in rWAR is 1.0 and reliever performance is notoriously volatile. David Schoenfield of opines that Lefty One Out Guys (LOOGYs) like Logan are being overcompensated this off-season. I don't believe that the Rockies will use Logan as a LOOGY (the role he filled for the Yankees the last few years), instead putting him in a 6th/7th inning role.

Still, what the Rockies paid all that money for is a reliever who has benefited from facing a lot more left-handed batters than righties (he faced the 3rd highest % of lefties for any reliever over the past three seasons). Logically, if the Rockies do use Logan against more right-handed hitters (and more hitters in general), his production should suffer. Though there's not a large gap in between his numbers against righties (they hit .254/.319/.440 against Logan in 2013) and lefties (.221/.274/.377), if he faces fewer lefties he becomes a less valuable rate contributor (albeit more valuable overall due to higher usage).

It's not how I would have spent the money (on a Jeff Baker and back-up catcher), but in Logan the Rockies have gotten a decent bullpen arm who has been very good when he's pitched over the last few years.

Does this move and the other moves Colorado has made put the Rockies in contention in 2014?

It's clear to me that the Rockies believe that they can win in 2014. In signing players like Logan and LaTroy Hawkins to go along with the acquisitions of Brett Anderson and Jordan Lyles, Colorado's strategy appears to be to support one of the strongest rotations (on paper) that the team has ever built with a deep bullpen that will be able to take a lead in the middle of the 6th inning and hold it until the end of the game.

That's a fine strategy...if the Rockies have leads to hold. Colorado should get improved hitting from the first base slot now, assuming a healthy and well-platooned Justin Morneau. Players like Nolan Arenado and Corey Dickerson have the potential to be much better offensively than they showed in 2013, while Colorado could get some positive regression in terms of health for their star players.

Still, that's a lot of ifs - and a lineup that no longer has Dexter Fowler in it still looks mighty leaky, especially the top two slots if Walt Weiss insists upon putting the light-hitting DJ LeMahieu in the two hole. This team was downright pitiful on the road last year (okay, that's almost every year), and I don't see how this lineup will do better this time around. I'm not sold on the rotation staying healthy/effective either - there's a reason that Anderson was available after all.

If the Rockies wanted to contend in 2014, they needed to:

1. Add at least one starter - check. Anderson slots nicely into the middle of the rotation and Lyles provides another depth option.

2. Improve the bullpen - check check. See above for Logan. Hawkins is a decent and reasonably priced reliever.

3. Fill the black hole at first base - check minus. Morneau's a platoon player at this point, albeit a very good one who should start in the majority of games. I'd have gone for James Loney myself, but Morneau should be a nice upgrade on Todd Helton.

4. Improve the bench depth - nope. Fowler's departure opens up an even larger hole on the bench, as projected bench pieces like Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon will instead be starting. I'm not a believer in Brandon Barnes' ability to hit left-handed pitching well either (his career split against them is just .280/.335/.401), and he shouldn't be given any plate appearances against righties (.207/.251/.290). Unfortunately, I think he'll be hitting near the top of the order because he's fast.

Colorado still has Jordan Pacheco slotted as the back-up catcher and Jonathan Herrera as the back-up middle infielder. Josh Rutledge could become a useful piece, as could Kyle Parker in AAA, but I'm not holding my breath on either contributing too much in 2014. It's not a good depth grouping to pair with a talented but fragile core.

I think the Rockies are a better team than they were in 2013, but I don't think that they're going to be the 15 or 16 wins better that it will take to make a run at postseason contention. If the Rockies want to make the playoffs with this team, they'd better be very lucky with health and make smart in-season decisions.

Los Links!

Troy Renck has details on the contracts of Morneau and Logan. Both deals are back-loaded, with Morneau receiving $5 million (plus bonuses for health/production) this year and Logan getting $4.75 million. If you read the article, you'll see that Morneau doesn't know what ironic means.

Per Patrick Saunders, Carlos Gonzalez is very excited to be manning center field in 2014. It's an efficient use of the star, who is probably Colorado's best defensive outfielder. Expect UZR to hate his outfield defense. CarGo spoke to the media about this during his Precious CarGo Toy Drive.

Kyle Boddy of the Hardball Times breaks down the pitching mechanics of all the pitchers taken in the first round of the 2013 draft, including top Rockies prospect Jonathan Gray. Boddy thinks that Gray was the best arm in the draft.

In case this hasn't been linked before, Eric Garcia of the Fangraphs community breaks down the projected lineup for the Rockies in 2014. The lineup he suggests the Rockies should use is pretty close to my ideal lineup given Colorado's personnel on hand.

Landon Jones at Beyond the Box Score writes at length about Ubaldo Jimenez, free agent.

Also at Beyond the Box Score, Chris St. John writes about evaluating Double A hitting prospects based upon their walk and strikeout rates. Potential 1B/OF solution Kyle Parker is among those analyzed and he is given a 72% bust ranking.