Rockies face tough choices with free agents

September 30, 2010 | 12:22 pm | 21  

The Rockies have a number of free agents and arbitration-eligible players this offseason:

Jorge De La Rosa:
The Rockies picked up De La Rosa as the player to be named later in a 2008 trade that sent reliever Ramon Ramirez to the Kansas City Royals. In two-plus season with the Rockies, De La Rosa is 34-23 with a 4.50 ERA. With some uncertainty in the rotation, the Rockies could use him and De La Rosa has said we would like to stay in Colorado. But whether he returns will depend on what the free-agent market does to his value. He currently projects as a type A free agent, meaning the Rockies would receive the first- or second-round pick of the signing team plus a supplemental pick if they offer him arbitration and he signs elsewhere.

Jason Giambi: Coming off a season in which he played far more first base than was expected. He earned $1.75 million and has been a valuable bat off the bench and figure in the clubhouse. But if the Rockies pursue a right-handed bat to pair with Todd Helton at first base, resigning Giambi seems like a longshot.

Melvin Mora: Took over as the regular third baseman down the stretch and put together a solid season bouncing from third to second to first. He earned $1.275 million and he could return to fill the same role he did in 2010 depending on what other moves the Rockies make.

Joe Beimel: He signed with the Rockies late in the past offseason when he didn’t find a multiyear deal elsewhere. He had a solid season, but showed fatigue down the stretch and was replaced by Matt Reynolds as the late-inning lefty. With Reynolds a near lock to be in the bullpen next year and another lefty, 2009 draft pick Rex Brothers, coming on fast, a Beimel return is unlikely unless the price is right.

Jay Payton: The Rockies like their veteran September callup and could look at bringing him back depending on what other moves they make. Payton, however, has said he isn’t interested in signing a minor-league contract as he did before the 2010 season.

Jeff Francis:
One of the winningest pitchers in franchise history, Francis is in the final year of a four-year contract and earned $5.75 million in 2010. The Rockies have a $7 million option on Francis, but will decline it given his slow comeback from shoulder surgery. As a free agent, Francis does not project as either a type A or B, so the Rockies have no incentive to offer him arbitration. Francis, who was 4-6 with a 4.93 ERA during a 2010 season interrupted twice by injury, could yet return at a lower salary.

Octavio Dotel: A late addition in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers for a player to be named later, Dotel didn’t have much impact on the team as it faded in the week after he was acquired. He has a $4.5 million option for 2011 which the Rockies will likely decline. But if they have room in the budget, the Rockies could take a chance and offer him arbitration. If he accepts, they have another setup arm in the bullpen to pair with Rafael Betancourt and Matt Belisle. If he declines, the Rockies would pick up a supplemental first-rounder as Dotel currently projects as a type B.

Miguel Olivo: The Rockies have a $2.7 million option that increased from $2.5 million and became a mutual option after Olivo played in 110 games. Olivo wants to stay in Colorado and the Rockies have a choice to make at catcher, where Olivo and Iannetta would earn a little over $5 million between them if both players return. The Rockies have plenty of depth arriving from the minor leagues and may elect to let Olivo go or trade Iannetta. Olivo does project as a type B free agent, but it’s unlikely he would reject arbitration and sign elsewhere given his stated desire to remain with the team.

Clint Barmes: Will be entering his final year of arbitration after earning $3.3 million in 2010. Eric Young Jr. took over at second base over the last month of the season as the Rockies sought more offense and speed from the position. With Young, Jonathan Herrera and Chris Nelson all candidates for infield jobs in 2011, Barmes is almost certain to be non-tendered by the Rockies.

Jason Hammel: Entering his second season of arbitration eligibility. He earned $1.9 million in 2010 and will in line for a modest raise after a solid season. The Rockies are likely to retain him as they try to settle other questions in their rotation.

Manny Delcarmen: The Rockies paid a fairly steep price — promising right-hander Chris Balcom-Miller — in a trade at the end of August for the right-handed reliever and have thus far seen little return. His numbers — 0-2, 7.36 — are somewhat distorted by an awful first appearance, but even after that debut, he struggled with his command, the same problem that chased him out of Boston. He earned $900k in 2010 and will be in his second year of arbitration. Given the price they paid for him in the trade, the Rockies likely will try to sign him to a reasonable deal and avoid arbitration to give him a shot at rediscovering the command that made him a dominant setup man for the Red Sox in 2007 and 2008.

Matt Belisle: The workhorse of the Rockies pen this season will be in line for a good raise and possibly a multiyear extension after earning $850k in 2010. The former starting pitcher seems to have found his role with the Rockies and is a lock to return.

Ian Stewart: The Rockies third baseman could end up as a Super Two after this season, giving him an extra year of arbitration. If so, the Rockies will have to pony up for their promising slugger, who had a solid season but showed little progress from 2009.


  • Mike Raysfan | September 30, 2010 | 2:59 pm

    Thanks for posting up all this info Steve. Nice!

    I know much has been said about Francis yesterday and this morning. There is know way to know for sure but, my gut feeling is Francis will be back, at least to spring training.

    Jorge? If I could could say one thing to Mr. O’Dowd, it would be to please re-sign Jorge De La Rosa.

    I probably shouldn’t say this yet. The season is not quite over. It would not surprise me if we have seen Cook’s last performance in a Rockies uniform. Yes, there are some caveats that could keep him here but I will go out on a limb and say he is gone.

    Hammel? I really don’t think he improved that much, if at all, over last season. In fact, in the end, he looked much like the Hammel I saw as a Ray. There is little doubt they will keep him.

    Beimel? Agreed.

    Delcarmen? It’s been no scecret how I feel. Not a trade I would have made. Also not much the Rockies can do unless they feel like taking a loss. They most likely will anyway.

    Belisle? earned every single penny this season and deserves a raise.

    Giambi and Barmes? Agreed

    Olivio? He was listed as #5 as one of the top 10 bargain signings for 2010. With all the catchers in the system, something is going to give.

    Stewart? Harder than Barmes for me to figure out. I agree there is HUGE potential there.

    I really expected a somewhat big trade coming out of spring training this season. It didn’t happen. I’m sure there were multiple reasons some players were getting playing time. It will be interesting to see what happens in this off season and spring training.

    Glad I’m not the GM.

  • Swam | September 30, 2010 | 3:58 pm

    I would think it’s a pretty easy decision to dump Francis, Giambi and Barmes and replace them with Chacin, EY2 and Nelson/Herrera. Remember that the Rox also get a salary break next year after cutting bait with Hawpe. Looks to me like they could sign those with expiring contracts (De La Rosa, Olivo, Belisle) and still get under what they paid out this season.

  • ProgMatinee | September 30, 2010 | 4:07 pm

    at this point, while I think Jorge is decently good…he scares me too. too unpredictable. he’s only ever had 1 really good season and it started out horrible.

    if you can get 2 draft picks by letting him go, i think you have to take that.

  • Mike Raysfan | September 30, 2010 | 4:56 pm

    OMG I couldn’t believe my ears. MLB Tonight just proclaimed the #1 issue for the Rockies to address going in to 2011.

    The starting rotation behind Jimenez.

    Sorry, for me it’s ironic

  • Karl | September 30, 2010 | 5:14 pm

    Signing DLR a must. Then wait out Mora and Giambi depending if Helton’s health really is ok. Both can still hit and since Mr. late night, i.e. Seth Smith disappeared after Hawpe released, I am not sold on him as the 4th outfielder anymore, let alone as quality vet off the bench, which this team will still need next year. What happens to this team mentally? It seems like they have a lot of mental issues. A lot like Yogism, 90% mental and only half physical for these guys.

    If a lot of this team had just performed up to potential, we would not already be talking about offseason, so is the focus to hope potential happens with Iannetta, Stewart and Fowler or to go in other directions?

    A lot of us agree on Barmes, I do wish him well and hope he catches on somewhere, maybe Kansas City or Pittsburgh will take a flier on him?

  • Agbayani | September 30, 2010 | 5:49 pm

    It doesn’t really matter whether they sign De La Rosa himself. The fact is that they pretty much have to sign a De La Rosa type (3rd starter, preferably a lefty) if they want to compete. There’s just no other pitcher in the system who looks remotely ready to fill that role. Before the 2010 season I mightve said Friedrich, but he took a huge step backwards both health and performance-wise this year.

    You’d only keep Delcarmen to avoid the embarrasment of admitting a mistake. Keeping him won’t bring Balcom-Miller back. Dotel? Only if he’s really cheap. Beimel? Same thing.

    Cook should be back since he’s got a big 10 million buck contract next year, and if they traded him I’m guessing the Rox would have to foot about 6 million of that. So if you trade him and sign a similar quality pitcher to fill his role you probably come out even – 4 mill for the new guy, plus 6 mill to Cook’s new team. So it doesn’t really warrant much thought.

    Billy Butler is interesting, and with the Hawaiian kid Kila looking ready, you could pry him loose from the Royals. Good RH bat to split time with Helton, good on base skills, not an awful fielder. But you’d have to surrender something of real value: Nelson? Friedrich? A real prospect like that plus a talented lower level guy like Wheeler. But that makes too much sense for the Royals; they’d rather stick to their Yuniesky Betancourt plan to remain the worst team in baseball.

    My key is this: trust your kids or minimum salary-type vets to fill in the pure backup roles. Don’t pay a Barmes and an Olivo (or an Iannetta; take your pick) a total of 6 million bucks as “insurance.”. Use that money instead to seriously upgrade at a position, or to significantly upgrade a 3rd/4th starter or setup guy (we’re stuck with Cook as a 5th starter, and he’s perfectly adequate albeit overpriced in that role). Some bold moves are needed. O’Dowd played last offseason as if a playoff spot was guaranteed as long as he didn’t have to force a rookie into action if someone got hurt. That turned out to be wrong. You gotta take some calculated risks here and try to get better rather than worrying about getting worse.

  • dustin | September 30, 2010 | 9:25 pm

    De la Rosa is going to command a lot of money from a guy who has yet to put together a full season. However, if you can trade cook and pick up a genuine number 2 starter I think he fits well into our system with a potentially huge upside.

  • dustin | September 30, 2010 | 9:52 pm

    The more I think about it, the more I realize that signing dlr is a must. This guy could very well be our key to the post season. He’s prwoven he can pitch in Coors field and he has the ability to win 20 games a year if he is healthy. That means he slides in the three hole and you sign one more arm you have a potentially very very good rotation with ubaldo, xyz, dlr, chacin, cook/hammel.

    Can’t bring Francis back. I wish him the best but he doesn’t fit in with the Rockies trying to win a championship.

  • reader f/k/a Mike | September 30, 2010 | 10:20 pm

    Agbayani, I like your post except perhaps the bit about O’Dowd last off-season. What would you have done differently, assuming there wasn’t another $5-10 million in the budget sitting around?

    I mean, I probably would not have signed Street to an extension but the one year arb hit would have been about the same. I probably would have liked to have traded Hawpe (wouldn’t we all) except I doubt there’d be takers without picking up a lot of his salary. I would have liked a right hander to split time with/back up Helton, but I think O’Dowd wanted that, too. Maybe he missed somebody, but it’s also possible he tried and couldn’t find a decent player for the right price.

  • reader f/k/a Mike | September 30, 2010 | 10:26 pm

    “Seth Smith disappeared after Hawpe released, I am not sold on him as the 4th outfielder anymore”

    People on this site have overreacted to fluctuations in performance all season; I guess I shouldn’t be surprised if it continues into the hot stove season.

    Smith wasn’t as awesometacular as people thought when he hit .400-something as a PH. and he’s not as bad as he was this season. Sure, you’d like more from a corner OF. But I expect him to bounce back with the bat–perhaps not to 2009 levels, but not as bad as this year. he’s a decent defender and very cheap, so if they need to go with him and a spilly and use the money to upgrade elsewhere, that’s a fair deal to me. And if he’s the 4th OF, that’s quite a sub.

    The team definitely needs to deal with the rotation, as all teams do. But the most important, and most fixable holes are at 2nd and 1st. Those positions really killed them.

  • Doctor_Christopher | September 30, 2010 | 10:29 pm

    As a number of folks have pointed out, this team has to sign DLR, if they can do so for less than 3 years.36 mill. Francis has probably pitched himself out of anything more than a minor league or highly incentivized deal, and he may feel that if he is going to take that it might as well be here where he is comfortable (I hope his shoulder comes all the way back, seems like a great guy and a few years back he was the John Tudor of the Rocky Mountains).

    I wonder if DOD will feel he has to bring back DelCarmen. The arm is good and with enough time maybe Dac can fix him (assuming Dac comes back).

    Mora was a pleasant suprise and I would be glad to have him back but can we expect this production again a year older? Do they just find a comparable piece? Olivio is a tough one because when rested he was productive but do we expect another season like this? It seems to me you cannot have the same tandem again…too much money sitting. Chris still strikes me as the best right handed bat with power, and maybe he can get some time in winter ball at 1B and/or 3B. I like Olivio and as I said before the logic is that having a Latin speaking catcher with so many Latin pitchers makes sense, but is Olviio the guy you want to call games if you are a serious WS contender?

    I guess Steve is right about Beimel, but I cannot think that a serious contender has its two lefties being essentially rookies. Don’t you have to bring back Beimel, especially for a vet presence? Though my worry about both Beimel and Belisle (who is the MVP of the pen and 2nd to UJ as MVP of the pitching staff) is that history says relievers with heavy workloads have a big dropoff next season.

    Payton looks like he can still play but isn’t he and Spilly esentially the same player, but Spilly already signed and younger?

    Everyone else strikes me as either non-resign or non-tenders, which is sad given what Clint Barmes has meant to this team since 04.

    Going to be a very interesting off season…starting far sooner than we wanted to. Lets see if DOD does anything before the playoffs end, especially with DLR. Would be nice to get that resolved quickly.

  • Agbayani | September 30, 2010 | 10:32 pm

    The big mistake: bringing Barmes back at 3.125 million.

    I’ve said it before, but here’s the facts:

    Kelly Johnson signed for 1 year/2.35 million. He would’ve made a big difference this year. 2B was pretty much a black hole for the Rockies. And while Barmes was worse than expected, this really wasn’t a shock. According to fangraphs, factoring in offense and defense, here’s what we had at 2B in Wins Above Replacement player (WAR):

    Barmes: 0.3 (this includes significant time at SS)
    Herrera: 0.3
    EY2: -0.3

    Total: 0.3 WAR

    Kelly Johnson: 5.5 WAR


    Seriously, that’s a 5-win swing. Now Kelly Johnson had a career year, so we didn’t expect that. But still, anyone following this team could see the gaping hole at 2B, and the lack of a plan to fill it.

    Orlando Hudson: 3.1 WAR (signed for 1 year/5 million; that’s what Barmes + Giambi cost us)

  • Steve Foster | September 30, 2010 | 10:47 pm

    On De La Rosa, the Rockies clearly need some clarity and some support for Jimenez. But the Rockies cannot overpay for any player based on what he might do. They can only pay him for what he’s done. De La Rosa has been very good at times, but what is 34-23 and 4.50 ERA in 74 starts worth? Consider that during Jimenez’s current contract, which will run through 2014 after two club options, the Rockies ace will not earn more than $9 million in a single season, and only that much with some serious performance bonuses. It would be better for the Rockies to bring De La Rosa back than not bring him back, but if the team is going to get into bidding war that could pay De La Rosa more than they’re paying Jimenez, DLR must be better and more reliable than he’s been and start pitching into the eighth inning, which he did just once in 2010.

  • Marc | October 1, 2010 | 8:15 am

    Specific to the rotation – I don’t think it’s a stretch to argue that we don’t have a #2 or #3 starter if DLR isn’t resigned.
    With that said, if not DLR …are there FA options out there to fill those holes for less than say $7-$8 million a season?

  • Mike Raysfan | October 1, 2010 | 8:29 am

    Good points Steve. You mean like the situation they are in with Cook and only very limited options available.

    One national talking head show believes it will most likely cost the Rockies around $10m to re-sign Jorge. Based on how much of the season he missed and his performance since returning, I think that is on the high side. (they also picked up on FSN, last night, proclaiming Cook is a lock to be back)

    So, if they don’t resign him where do they turn? Franklin? Greg Smith? As already pointed out, right now, the young guys are just not there. Wait and see who the available LH are and hope they can get one to come here?

    I do have a question for you. Do you believe it is really hard to get some of the bigger name pitchers to come here?

  • Marc | October 1, 2010 | 9:17 am

    Mike –

    You know as well as the rest of us …a least a couple of teams will overpay for starting pitching – look no further than Marquis this season.

    I am relatively certain our front office is working under the guise that DLR won’t be in a Rockies uniform next season

  • Steve Foster | October 1, 2010 | 9:29 am

    Even in the humidor era, big-time pitchers will always be reluctant to come to Denver as free agents. And given their history, the Rockies should be reluctant to commit much to someone who hasn’t pitched here on a regular basis. They do better developing pitchers or trading for pitchers and seeing how they do, then sign them (like Street). Rather than looking at free agent pitchers, the Rockies should explore trades this offseason. There are, believe it or not, teams with excess pitching. The Rays look like a good bet to shop a starting pitcher because they’ve already got a solid starting five with Hellickson, McGee and Moore — three guys who might be better than all but one of their current starters — knocking on the door. And with Crawford likely to leave, they’ll be looking for offense. I’d like to see the Rockies make a serious offer for someone like Matt Garza, who’s getting into his arbitration years and might be pricing himself out of Tampa. He’s the ideal kind of pitcher to put behind Jimenez.

    $10 million is too much for De La Rosa based on his performance and, as you mentioned, the injuries, but I think there’s a really good chance he’s going to get very close to that. The market is just set up that way this year with two other lefties — Cliff Lee and Ted Lilly — likely to draw more teams into bidding than there are left-handers to go around. If the Rockies can get De La Rosa at a reasonable price — to me, 3 years, $24 million is the ceiling but even that seems pretty high — they should keep him. But one thing that’s been in the back of mind during this discussion: the Rockies have not been shy about signing their young players to long-term deals, so much so that they’re sort of stuck with a big contract on Cook next year. Why haven’t they gotten serious about giving De La Rosa a long-term deal? The Rockies know better than anyone what they have and don’t have in De La Rosa, and they haven’t sought to extend him in the past two seasons. That should be a strong clue about what they intend to do.

  • ProgMatinee | October 1, 2010 | 9:48 am

    The fact that De La Rosa is a type A free agent is amazing. As such, the Rockies need to take those 2 picks and run away. Hope that a team just above the cutoff picks him up as their biggest aquisition, like Detroit or Toronto get him. Then the Rockies end up with the 16th or 17th overall pick in the draft plus a pick around 35. Plus the Rockies avoid overpaying for somewhat of an enigma pitcher.

  • Mike Raysfan | October 1, 2010 | 11:11 am

    Marc and Eric, I agree. There will be teams willing to pay top dollar for a LH.

    Steve, wow. Interesting you brought the Rays into the mix. Based on the stories floating about the ownership possibly wanting to cut the payroll by $20m, there is little doubt in my mind that both Garza and Shields will “test the waters”. Now, to add further heartburn, Rafael Soriano has apparently signed with Scott Boras. They will have their own set of issues going into 2011.

    Anyway, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if Garza was a Rockie. Do you think most Rockies fans are ready for another “animated” pitcher?

    If Jorge is sincere about wanting to stay here, I would hope he would be willing to go 3 yrs. and $24m. I agree with your question. Even moreso about being serious, why didn’t they try to sign Jorge to a contract at the end of last season? I also agree that it is a strong indicator. Not one I’m happy with.

    I have to wonder sometimes. Even with the humidor today, how much did the Mike Hampton experience hurt the Rockies. I think in more ways than are printed.

  • Jasper | October 1, 2010 | 12:53 pm

    My take on last year was that DLR and his agent would take only a one year deal, knowing that he would be a sought after commodity this year. That is a gamble, particularly with a pitcher, and DLR has not had as good a season as he did in 09, with the finger injury part of the issues he has had. Now, the market will determine what he is offered. The Rockies will either get him for an arbitration amount, or two draft choices. If he is not back, the team must get someone as good.

    Tulo is correct – the time is now to build a team for the next four years – beyond that, the window may close on Gonzales and Ubaldo – and then again, it may not close. It isn’t a given that the Rockies will not pay enough to keep Tulo, U, and Cargo beyond four years, and if one or more are traded, the return will be substantial anyway. But, now, pitching must be covered by DLR or someone equal, and the team’s ofensive needs must be addressed.

  • b | October 1, 2010 | 1:56 pm

    Lilly got $40/4yrs in 2006 when he was 30 and had a career record of 64-64. DLR will probably command a similar salary. If he’s a type A, I think you have to offer arb and see what happens.

    If that’s getting Francis back (at a discount) or taking a flier of someone like Chris Capuano, I think the rotation will be in okay shape. Especially since the draft picks will offer more future trade value than a fat DLR contract, should they eventually choose a different direction.