2011 NL West Offseason Review: Colorado Rockies

Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez compare extensions.

The Colorado Rockies had visions of grandeur last season after their 2009 playoff appearance. I was convinced the NL West would be a two-team race last year, but between the Dodgers and Rockies rather than the Giants and Padres. The Rockies, like the Dodgers, had a disappointing season, ending with 83 wins. Will they return to the playoffs in 2011?

Five Questions

Colorado Rockies
2010 Record: 83-79
Division Finish:
3rd Place, 9 GB
2011 at Dodger Stadium:  
May 30-Jun 1, Jul 25-27, Aug 19-21
2011 Dodgers at Coors: Apr 5-6, Jun 9-12, Aug 26-28
SB Nation blog: Purple Row

1) Will the Rockies' starting pitchers stay healthy?

In 2009, the Rockies got 155 starts from their top five starters, and won 92 games and a playoff berth. Last season, the Rockies got 127 starts out of their top five starters, and won 83 games, with no Rocktober. They signed Jorge De La Rosa to a two-year deal, plus potentially two more option years, but he has averaged 142 innings over the last four years, with a high of 185. Aaron Cook has averaged 143 innings over the last two seasons. If 23-year old Jhoulys Chacin can pitch like he did last season over a full year, the Rockies will have a very good starting five. If those five stay healthy for a full season, the NL West is likely the Rockies' division for the taking.

2) Did the Rockies need to lock up Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez now?

Colorado was busy this offseason, signing their two best offensive players to long-term extensions. Troy Tulowitzki was already signed for three more years, with an option for his age 29 year, but the Rockies gave him seven more years with a guaranteed $132 million. That doesn't seem like much of a discount over the kind of contract Tulo would have received in, say, three or four years if the Rockies wanted to extend him then.

Carlos Gonzalez parlayed his fantastic 2010 into a seven-year, $80 million deal that bought out three free agent years. Those three free agent years came at a cost of $53 million, an average annual value exceeded on this winter's free agent market by only Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, and Cliff Lee. Hey, if Gonzalez continues to hit like he did in 2010, good for him and Colorado will have received a great deal. Or, Gonzalez could see his BABIP fall from .384 to something like the .333 he had in 2009 (when he hit .284/.353/.525, a 118 OPS+), and that $80 million could seem like quite a burden.

Don't get me wrong; both Tulo and CarGo are very good players, and I would love to have them on the Dodgers. It just seems, from afar, that the Rockies assumed a ton of long-term risk while not getting much of a discount that a team would like when providing long-term security. That said, there is something assuring as a fan knowing that your best players would in town for years to come. If the Dodgers signed Clayton Kershaw to a 10-year deal tomorrow, I'd spend a long time celebrating before I even thought about questioning the money.

3) Do the Rockies have the best bullpen in the division?

Perhaps. They made a couple of trades to add to their stable of quality relievers, and have assembled quite a crew. They have five relievers currently under contract for 2011 (and beyond), and here were their strikeouts per nine innings in 2010: Huston Street, 8.6 K/9; Matt Lindstrom, 7.3; Rafael Betancourt, 12.9; Matt Belisle, 8.9; and Felipe Paulino, 8.1. If Franklin Morales can give them anything from the left side, in addition to Matt Daley, et al, the Colorado bullpen should be formidable in 2011.

4) Which versatile infielder playing at second base this season will have the higher OBP: Juan Uribe or Jose Lopez?

The Rockies traded minor league pitcher Chaz Roe to the Mariners for Lopez this winter. Lopez, who played third base last year in Seattle after four years at second base, hit .239/.270/.339 in 2010 after hitting .285/.313/.453 in the previous two seasons. Lopez has a career line of .266/.297/.400, an 86 OPS+, while Uribe has hit .256/.300/.431, an 85 OPS+. In 2010, Rockies' second basemen combined to hit .246/.306/.327, so if Lopez can hit anywhere close to 2008-2009 levels he should represent a nice improvement over last year.

5) Have the Rockies ever won the NL West?

No.

Offseason Moves

Rockies Trades This Winter
Team Traded Acquired
Blue Jays
Miguel Olivo c
$25,000
Astros
Clint Barmes if
Felipe Paulino rhp
Mariners
Chaz Roe rhp
Jose Lopez 2b
Astros
Wes Musick lhp
Jonathan Aristil rhp
Matt Lindstrom rhp
A's
Clay Mortensen rhp
Ethan Hollingsworth rhp

Olivo had a $500,000 option buyout due, but the Rockies traded him for $25,000 to the Toronto Blue Jays, in Toronto's offseason of flipping catchers. The Blue Jays declined Olivo's option, but netted a supplemental draft pick when Olivo, a Type B free agent, signed with Seattle. So, essentially the Blue Jays bought a draft pick for $525,000.

Rockies Contracts Signed This Winter
Pos Player Type Total Contract 2011 Salary
SP Jorge De La Rosa FA 2 years, $21.5 million (+options) $10,500,000
IF Ty Wigginton FA 2 years, $8 million $4,000,000
SS Troy Tulowitzki Ext 7 years, $134 million (+option) $5,500,000
OF Carlos Gonzalez Ext 7 years, $80 million $4,000,000
RP Rafael Betancourt Ext 1 year, $4 million (+option) $3,775,000
SP Jason Hammel Arb 2 years, $7.75 million $3,000,000
2B Jose Lopez Arb 1 year, $3.6 million $3,600,000
RP Matt Lindstrom Arb 2 years, $6.6 million $2,800,000
RP Matt Belisle Arb 1 year, $2.35 million $2,350,000
3B Ian Stewart Arb 1 year, $2.2875 million $2,287,500
RP Felipe Paulino Arb 1 year, $790,000 $790,000

Betancourt was already signed through 2011, and his extension was for 2012 with a mutual option for 2013. The Rockies also signed Jason Giambi to a minor league deal, which will guarantee $1 million if he makes the team, plus an option for 2012. Colorado brought in third baseman Joe Crede, outfielder Willy Taveras, and jack-of-all-trades Alfredo Amezaga as non-roster invitees to spring training as well.

 

Rockies Players Lost
Pos Player New Team
RP Manny Corpas rehab (elbow surgery)
3B Melvin Mora Diamondbacks
RP Joe Beimel Pirates*
SP Jeff Francis Royals
RP Octavio Dotel Blue Jays
P Samuel Deduno Padres
OF Jay Payton still out there
*Minor league deal

Corpas, who is expected to miss all of this season after elbow surgery, was released in November, with the Rockies eating his $3.5 million 2011 salary and $250,000 2012 option buyout. Deduno was designated for assignment on January 24 to make room on the 40-man roster for Clay Mortensen. The Padres claimed Deduno off waivers on Sunday, January 30.

Here's my guess as to the Rockies' 25-man roster, with a few assumptions mixed in:

2011 Rockies Under Contract
Pos Player 2011 Age* 2011 Salary
C Chris Iannetta 28 $2,550,000
1B Todd Helton 37 $10,600,000
2B Jose Lopez 27 $3,600,000
3B Ian Stewart 26 $2,287,500
SS Troy Tulowitzki 23 $5,500,000
LF Seth Smith
28 team control
CF Dexter Fowler 25 team control
RF Carlos Gonzalez 25 $4,000,000
IF Ty Wigginton 33 $4,000,000
OF Ryan Spilborghs 31 $1,950,000
IF Eric Young Jr. 26 team control
1B/PH Jason Giambi** 40 $850,000
C Jose Morales 28 team control
SP Ubaldo Jimenez 27 $2,800,000
SP Jorge De La Rosa 30 $10,500,000
SP Aaron Cook 32 $9,250,000
SP Jason Hammel 28 $3,000,000
SP Jhoulys Chacin 23 team control
CL Huston Street 27 $7,300,000
RHP Rafael Betancourt 36 $3,775,000
RHP Matt Lindstrom 31 $2,800,000
RHP Matt Belisle 31 $2,350,000
RHP Felipe Paulino 27 $790,000
LHP Franklin Morales 25 team control
RHP Matt Daley 29 team control
gone Manny Corpas

$3,500,000
Totals (18 players, including Giambi)
$81,402,500
*Age as of June 30, 2011
**Giambi is on a minor league deal

Thanks to Baseball-Reference.com and Cot's Baseball Contracts.

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