The Colorado Rockies enter the non-tender deadline on Tuesday with decisions to make on eight arbitration-eligible players. Some of those decisions, such as the one involving solid reliever Adam Ottavino, are easier than others. An enigmatic catcher, a pair of valuable but injury-prone starting pitchers and an expensive platoon outfielder are among the other players on the list.
What the Rockies do on Tuesday could shape their plans for this month and beyond. Players who are non-tendered and don't return will vacate their roster spots, perhaps paving the way for Colorado to be active in the Rule 5 Draft and/or the free-agent and trade markets next week at the annual Winter Meetings.
Here's a breakdown of the Rockies' arb-eligible players with 2015 salary projections in parentheses, courtesy of MLB Trade Rumors.
Will be tendered
Adam Ottavino ($1 million)
He's good, he's durable and he's affordable. Ottavino -- who, like several others on this list, made the league minimum in 2014 -- was worth almost $7 million as a result of his 1.3 WAR campaign, according to Fangraphs. The 29-year-old right-hander struck out more than a batter per inning and finished with a 3.06 xFIP out of the Rockies' overworked bullpen. Provided he is used properly, there's no reason to think Ottavino can't continue to be a solidly above-average reliever, so a $1 million price tag remains a huge bargain.
Jordan Lyles ($2.5 million)
After being one of the worst starters in baseball in 2012 and 2013 with the Astros, Lyles' first season with the Rockies was a resounding success. The 24-year-old righty was worth just shy of $9 million during a campaign in which he posted a career-best 3.98 xFIP and maintained a strong ground-ball rate. One cause for concern is that Lyles walked batters at a higher rate than he had during any of his first three big league seasons, but $2.5 million is a small price to pay for even a No. 5 starter, let alone a guy who was probably Colorado's third-best in 2014.
Michael McKenry ($1.5 million)
The man known as "Quadzilla" broke out in a big way in limited action for the Rockies last season, hitting .315/.398/.512 and accumulating 1.7 WAR in fewer than 200 plate appearances. Like Lyles, McKenry was worth around $9 million based on his production, but he did it while primarily serving as a backup. If he's allowed to start more in 2015, it's entirely plausible that McKenry will exceed $10 million in value, a development that would be huge for a team desperately in need of positive contributions both offensively and defensively from its backstops.
Rex Brothers ($1.3 million)
Brothers wasn't very good in 2014. In fact, the 5.59 ERA and -0.4 WAR posted by the 26-year-old left-hander cost the Rockies roughly $1.8 million in value. However, Brothers was a massive bargain during his first two-plus seasons in the big leagues, and his 4.53 xFIP suggests improvement is on the way simply based on better luck. If the Rockies can fix his delivery issues that popped up at various times throughout the season, Brothers will be worth every bit of his projected price tag for 2015. If he doesn't, it's possible next year could be his last in Denver.
Drew Stubbs ($5.7 million)
Stubbs is an expensive platoon outfielder, but the reward for keeping him for this price tag outweighs the risk. The 30-year-old Texas alum was tremendous at home in 2014, parlaying that into a .289/.339/.482 line and 2.5 WAR. Stubbs' production was worth in excess of $13 million, which is certainly good for a guy who was paid a third of that total. The gamble Colorado faces with keeping Stubbs is that in 2012 and 2013, he was worth significantly less than what he'll earn next season. And it appears he'll have to keep up the insane production at Coors Field to have a shot at living up to his hefty raise; Stubbs was a .211/.283/.333 hitter on the road. The good news is that Stubbs performed adequately, though certainly not great, against right-handed pitchers, suggesting he can remain valuable as a full-time outfielder in the case of an injury.
Likely to be tendered
Tyler Chatwood ($1 million)
If Chatwood was healthy, this would be a huge no-brainer. The 24-year-old right-hander was arguably the biggest bright spot for the Rockies in 2013, posting a 3.15 ERA in 20 starts after beginning the year in Triple-A. Chatwood pitched well -- he owned a 3.64 xFIP in 24 innings -- upon his return from the disabled list early last season, but the 2008 second-round draft pick was shelved in May with an elbow injury that eventually required Tommy John surgery. The Rockies will be paying him to sit out most, if not all, of the season while rehabbing, but a strong bounce-back year from Chatwood in 2016 would ensure that money would be well spent.
Wilin Rosario ($3.6 million)
What happens when an atrocious defensive catcher who is widely regarded as one of the best young power hitters in the league has a down year at the plate? He turns into a non-tender candidate. It doesn't help Rosario's cause that he was thoroughly outplayed by fellow arb-eligible backstop McKenry, but simply deciding not to offer "The Bull" a contract would probably mean the Rockies are giving up too soon. Platooning Rosario at first base with veteran Justin Morneau is an option for Colorado, as is trying to get whatever it can for the 25-year-old slugger. Trying to make it through another season with him as the primary catcher should not be, although Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich recently indicated otherwise.
Should be tendered, but who knows
Jhoulys Chacin ($4.9 million)
Similar to Chatwood's situation, a clean bill of health for Chacin would make this decision an easy one. Chacin, 26, is already one of the five best pitchers the Rockies have ever developed and is a season removed from posting a 3.47 ERA in almost 200 innings, and his ERA away from Coors Field was below 3.00 entering 2014. Unfortunately, Chacin pitched hurt from the beginning of two of the last three campaigns and has battled mechanical issues throughout several others. Chacin's repeated "dead arm" issues are a major concern, but the right-hander is said to be at full strength mere months before his final season under team control. If Chacin is ever going to put it all together, 2015 might be the year. That possibility alone means the Rockies would be ill advised not to tender him a contract given their difficulty building a pitching staff worthy of contention.
The Rockies' payroll -- estimated to be at $95 million, but possibly higher according to a hint Bridich may or may not have dropped to Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post -- will play a large part in the decisions made on Tuesday. If ownership is willing to eclipse the $100 million figure, each of the eight players listed will more than likely be tendered. If Chacin or Rosario in particular are non-tendered, it will be an early indication that not much more money will be pumped into the on-field product at 20th and Blake.