I suppose that I spoke too soon when I wrote yesterday that nothing had happened on the Rockies beat while I was in Chicago for the holiday. Yes, they didn't sign or trade anybody, but elsewhere in the baseball world a few signings went down that have a ripple effect on Colorado.
First of all, outfielder Dave Roberts has signed (or in any event will sign) with the Giants. How about that San Francisco youth movement? I gave a lukewarm endorsement to the Rockies' rumored pursuit of Roberts earlier on this offseason, but the team's interest in signing free agent regulars declined pretty sharply after the hard numbers involved started circulating. Colorado must still look to add some more possibilities in center field, but at this point any roster changes are far more likely to come about by means of trade. Roberts is an okay player as steady unspectacular veterans go, and the Giants locked him up for three years, $16 million at least according to this report. That's certainly more years and probably more money than the Rockies ever would have ponied up, and the Giants are a better fit for Roberts anyway. In three years' time Colorado certainly would hope the only role for a guy as venerable as Roberts would be as a bench player; in the notoriously hitting prospect-poor San Francisco system, Roberts is the young guy pushing the vets for more playing time. He's 34.
Whenever I write about an outfielder perceived as a good glove in the NL West, I feel compelled to mention how weird the parks in this division are, as I did the last time I wrote about Roberts. I mean, seriously, even leaving Coors out of the equation, Petco, Chase Field, and AT&T Park all have some seriously demented outfield layouts. Dodger Stadium is the only yard in the division designed with an eye towards geometric normality, and that in and of itself has made it maybe the biggest rarity of all in this day and age. Remember when all of the parks in baseball, except the clunky old landmark stadiums, were 400 to center and symmetrical, with the power alleys and the foul lines the same distance from home on either side? Remember when outfield fences made it all the way from one corner to the other without drastically changing height and composition every 20 feet? As far as the true impact of having a guy who has been around the division a couple of times and knows all the bounces, I don't imagine it's significant enough to even be measurable. Even with the unbalanced schedule. Especially if the only claim to fame the player has is his work afield, which certainly isn't true of Roberts, a good OBP guy and the creator of the most famous stolen base in this era of baseball history. Seriously, though, trying to figure out in my head how many times a season a strict defensive replacement type would run into a situation where playing on the road in his division a ball was hit somewhere only a fielder with established local knowledge would be able to turn into a difference-making play is making me go all cross-eyed. I think not a lot.
Ah, let's see, what else was there? The current local news has it that the Rockies aren't going to trade Brad Hawpe (linked, however briefly, with Pittsburgh and lefty Paul Maholm), Jason Jennings, or anybody else, for the time being. Signings higher up on the free agent food chain (specifically Kip Wells to St. Louis) have increased the chances that Colorado will retain Josh Fogg, to whom they must decide whether to offer arbitration by December 12th. If Fogg comes back and Jennings does not end up getting dealt, that means that the Rockies will return their entire five-man starting staff from last season (rounded out by Aaron Cook, Jeff Francis, and the already re-upped Byung-Hyun Kim). I feel pretty confident that this would be the first time in franchise history that an entire five-man staff had returned for an encore season. Entering the hot stove season the two biggest positions Colorado had to fill were the last spot in the rotation and center field; it's looking increasingly possible that both of last year's incumbents, Fogg and Cory Sullivan, will be holding on to their roles for lack of better options. This puts further pressure on next season's presumptive first-year starters, Iannetta, Tulowitzki, and Baker, plus two guys the Rockies are privately counting on to bounce back huge in '07, Clint Barmes and Kaz Matsui.
A final decision on whether Fogg stays or goes may be made for the Rockies by where the market lands on a new deal for Tomo Ohka, lately of the Brewers. Ohka's is a free agent name much bandied about in connection with the Rockies, Pirates, and Nationals of the world (by which I mean, the po' teams) because of an injury-plagued 2006 and an underwhelming career won-loss record rather out of line with his peripherals. Ohka would probably be a better option than Fogg for Colorado, but given his rather unhappy history with run support issues, he might be better suited for a different landing place. Not Washington or Pittsburgh, either.