First Matt Holliday (and not to be forgotten, Willy Taveras), now Troy Tulowitzki. Dan O'Dowd is bound and determined not to let any of his core players reach arbitration, and his enthusiasm to spread around the guaranteed money is engendering goodwill and (probably) saving Colorado cash in the long run.
The Tulowitzki deal is the most nationally notable of the three the Rockies have recently made, since at $31 million it dwarfs the old high given to a player with less than two years' experience, the $23.45 million Grady Sizemore received in 2006. Close Colorado baseball observers, however, should find nothing particularly surprising about O'Dowd's decision to lock up Tulowitzki for the rest of his free-agency period. (The only mildly unexpected thing about the deal is the fact that the Rockies have a $15 million option to keep Tulo off the free market for an additional year -- quite a concession for a guy who could well be worth in excess of $20 million a year by that point.) O'Dowd also quickly moved to get Jeff Francis signed to a deal like this when it became clear Francis was going to be a rotation staple. Tulowitzki took less time to establish his bona fides, but there isn't anyone in the know within the Rockies organization or without who doesn't think he's going to be a force to be reckoned with for years if not decades to come.
The more exciting deal is Matt Holliday's, since in accepting a two-year, $23 million deal Holliday is freely giving up some of the leverage he has against the Rockies. If he wanted agent Scott Boras to engineer a trade out of Colorado before he becomes a free agent two offseasons hence, he never would have taken this deal, as it's quite possible he could have blackmailed his new team into tearing up the whole arbitration pay scale and letting him get his massive raise a season early. This deal announces that Holliday is serious about staying in Colorado, and wants to give them every opportunity in the next two years to meet him halfway on a contract extension suitable for the franchise-class player Holliday views himself as. It's quite possible that it will never be worth it to the Rockies to go quite that high, particularly with so much money still owed to Todd Helton (and the forboding example of Helton's quick decline fresh in their memories). But they have a somewhat cost-controlled Holliday under contract for two more seasons and can reassess their position at midseason '08, next offseason, and then again if necessary at midseason '09.
And Willy Taveras and his one skill is worth just slightly under $2 million, with a lot of incentives thrown into the mix. I don't expect Taveras's improbable rate of success in bunting for base hits will continue long into 2008, but if he gets benched, he won't get paid, and I'm glad that his contract structure suggests O'Dowd imagines such a thing as a very real possibility.