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Top Rockies pitchers by VORP in 2005:
1. Brian Fuentes, 20.4
2. Aaron Cook, 13.9
3. Shawn Chacon, 12.2
4. Jay Witasick, 10.8
5. Byung-Hyun Kim, 8.9
First of all, there's no use crying over Chacon or Witasick. Chac was traded to the Yankees for two guys who in all likelihood will never play in the majors. It happened, it's over with, let's move on. Witasick on the other hand was dealt to Oakland partly to get rid of Joe Kennedy's contract, partly to land the possibly useful Omar Quintanilla, and partly with the notion that Colorado might turn around and resign him at season's end anyway. The A's gave him an extension, as it so happened. Still, it's nice to be rid of Joe Kennedy.
The top two guys, at least, will be back for the Rockies in 2006. Fuentes, obviously, is a reliever, and Cook only played half a season in returning from his blood clot surgery. Chacon was traded in midseason, and Witasick was a reliever who was also traded in midseason. The upshot of this is that Byung-Hyun Kim was the only Rockies pitcher in the top five by VORP who pitched more than 100 innings (148, precisely). Considering that he was initially another organization's problem whom the Rockies only acquired so that they could rid themselves of a problem of their own (catcher Charles Johnson), 148 innings of basically league-average pitching was a pretty good showing for Kim.
Kim's raw stats mix the good with the bad. A 4.86 ERA is not necessarily bad for a Rockies starter. 6.99 K/9 is pretty good. But a WHIP of 1.53 and 17 home runs allowed, not so much. If you subtract his disastrous 22 1/3 innings as a reliever, things look better -- 4.37 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 6.80 K/9. Byung-Hyun's no superstar and he certainly wasn't worth $6.575 million last year. But at the right price he's a vastly better option than, say, Shawn Estes. Intriguingly, Kim was better at Coors last season than on the road -- .781 home OPS against vs. .860 on the road. Among starters he led the team in strikeouts per nine by a healthy margin, and compared to the likes of Kennedy, Jeff Francis, and Jamey Wright he was actually pretty stingy when it came to allowing home runs.
As of now we know that Colorado has offered Kim arbitration with the understanding that this is only a manuever to allow negotiations between the team and the pitcher to continue. The rules state that a player can't make less than 80% of his previous year's salary coming out of arbitration (with an exception that doesn't apply here). The Rockies have no intention of paying Kim five and a quarter million next season. However, a thorough search of local headlines around the league show not many other teams have declared an interest in acquiring the submariner, or at least not publicly. The only team I've seen linked to BK by name is Kansas City, and that's just idle columnist speculation. Reading between the lines, two other teams that would seem to be desperately in need of affordable free agent starters are Houston and Washington. (The Phillies, interestingly, have decided to move their left-field fence back rather than pursue better starters.)
I don't see how Ray King is going to pick up the slack. Pitching seems to be in high demand and short supply the league over, but Coors places special demands on arms.
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