Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
2005-10-28 07:44
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Well, that was a fun month seeing how the other half lives (or to be more accurate, the other four-fifteenths). Now that the World Series is completed and a new champion has been crowned, it's time to get back to the business of contemplating Colorado Rockies baseball. Will we be better in 2006? Well, regression to the mean suggests that it's so. The simple fact that Colorado has a ton of young players helps too, as in general players tend to improve somewhat each of their first several years in the league. There's always the health issue -- the Rockies weren't just untalented in '05, they were also rather unlucky on the injury front. Name a good player that Colorado had the rights to at some point during last season, and there's a good chance he spent considerable time on the disabled list. Here I am talking about Todd Helton, Shawn Chacon, Matt Holliday, Brad Hawpe, Jason Jennings, Preston Wilson, and of course, Clint Barmes.

Here's a link you should all bookmark: the complete list of potential 2006 free agents. There are 206 of them, although at least a few (Roger Clemens, for example) are "free agents" in name only. This list includes Mike DeJean, who has already resigned with Colorado. There are very few exciting names here, and we've talked already about how paying millions for players with skill sets easily matched by minor league free agents is a poor use of resources indeed. There are a ton of ex-Rockies on the list if you examine it closely, which just goes to show how many lousy journeymen have briefly moved through Denver in their careers.

So how about our rookies? A piece written from a fantasy baseball perspective is universally negative on the sophomore years of Garrett Atkins, Barmes, J.D. Closser, Jeff Francis, Hawpe, and Cory Sullivan. Probably fair. Barmes didn't get to prove whether he could sustain worthy starting shortstop stats all season because he got hurt, and he was pretty bad after his return. Francis really lost steam in the last third of the season, although as a Rockies pitcher he's pretty much automatically disqualified from fantasy consideration anyway. The rest of these guys, nationally at least, are perceived as placeholders or platoon players. I think Brad Hawpe if healthy has a good chance to be at least a league average starter, and you know I believe in Barmes, but Atkins and Sullivan are going to have to make big leaps. Closser's Rockies career is pretty much over, which is too bad -- I still think he could have learned to play a little defense if they'd just let him play.

Since we have plenty of offseason to work with, we're going to start going down the whole Rockies 40-man roster as it stands right now and look at each guy's contract status, future prospects, and ultimate role. I haven't decided where to start yet so if you have a favorite Gen-R baller, speak up for him. Many of the other Rockies blogs are doing similar work right about now, so I encourage you to peruse the "regular hits" roll over there to the left. Apparently Danny Ardoin has his supporters. Who knew? Personally if I had my pick of the World Series catchers I would take bad-fielding, good-hitting lefty A.J. Pierzynski over great-fielding, non-hitting Brad Ausmus any day of the week. But if there is anything this postseason has proved it's that there is no one formula to success. (Also, the Chicago defense at short, center, left, and third was fantastic. Perhaps the Rockies should play three OBP/speed centerfielders and try to get home runs from their infielders?)

Update: With the playoffs over, the Denver papers are writing about the Rockies for the first time in weeks. The Post breaks down Colorado's plans on the free agent market. Apparently the budget for signings in $9 million, which is considerably less than the money the team is saving not paying Shawn Chacon, Joe Kennedy, Preston Wilson, Denny Neagle, and Charles Johnson. Colorado will concentrate on signing relief pitchers, which seems somewhat reasonable considering how tight the markets for position players and starters are going to be. Oh, but here's some names to get excited about: Elmer Dessens, Jay Witasick (again), Scott Eyre, and Nate Field.

O'Dowd also would like to trade for a lefty specialist -- J.C. Romero and Damaso Marte are mentioned. Marte is intriguing, a talent who's fallen out of favor with Ozzie Guillen in Chicago. Marte was the last man out of the pen in Game 3 of the World Series, and Guillen had so little faith in him that he had starter Mark Buehrle warm up even with a two-run lead. (As it turned out, Guillen was right not to trust Marte, who put the tying run aboard, but Ozzie just had one of those postseasons where everything goes right.) How about a fifth starter? Shawn Estes, Brian Anderson, and Terry Mulholland (how is he not yet retired?) are the names there. Ewww. No mention of bringing back Byung-Hyun Kim, which would be the smart move. Shawn Estes? What, was Jamey Wright just too good?

Finally, Red Sox assistant GM Josh Byrnes, who antagonized O'Dowd with his mishandling of the Kelly Shoppach/Larry Bigbie trade, is to be named general manager of the Rockies' divisional rivals in Phoenix. Traditionally GMs don't deal with teams in their own division unless they absolutely have to, so this move hopefully makes it possible for Colorado to deal with Boston again while not really eliminating another possible trade partner. Could Theo Epstein sign an extension then as his first move under his new contract resurrect the Shoppach swap? The Rockies could sure use a two-way catcher.

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