The Rockies have quite a bit of money coming off of the books in 2011. Aaron Cook was making $11 million this year and Ian Stewart was making $2.3 million and it appears safe to say that neither of these two will be with the Rockies in 2012. A big bump to the Rockies payroll comes in the form of Todd Helton’s team friendly extension as Helton will make just over $14 million less in 2012 than he did this season.
That is over $27 million that the Rockies have to spend in 2012. Of course, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez will receive a combined raise of about $7 million next year so the Rockies actually have a net of around $20 million to spend on free agent pitching this coming off season.
(This number isn’t exact as a lot of players on the Rockies roster are arbitration eligible and they will make more in 2012 than 2011. Guys like Dexter Fowler and Seth Smith figure to get a raise and guys like Esmil Rogers and Jhoulys Chacin just might get a slight bump also.)
Let’s break out some of the potential names of pitchers who will hit the market in 2012 into a few categories.
Cream of the crop: Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson and Hiroki Kuroda are the best three names hitting the market in 2012. Not exactly ace quality arms but certainly arms good enough to provide the Rockies with 180-200 innings of work. Rockies fans have seen Kuroda quite a few times and I am sure most of the Rockies offense would rather see him wearing purple than Dodger blue. Buehrle would certainly eat innings but not sure he is what the Rockies would want.
Possible back of the rotation starters: Jeff Francis (just had to throw his name into the ring), Aaron Harang, Jason Marquis (his too), Brad Penny, C.J. Wilson and Javier Vazquez. Vazquez was a very interesting name to me last offseaon and I thought the Rockies should have signed him but now it looks as if he is finally over the hill. A couple former Rockies will be available and Wilson is a really interesting name as he is used to pitching in a hitter friendly park. The Rox should avoid Harang because he likes to serve up the long ball.
Injury risks: Justin Duchscherer, Rich Harden, Scott Kazmir, Chris Young and Brandon Webb. If any of these guys could stay healthy they could be a strong help to the Rockies. That is a strong “if”, though.
Available trash: Kyle Davies, Bruce Chen, Freddy Garcia, Carlos Silva, Rodrigo Lopez and Oliver Perez. Pray that Dan O’Dowd doesn’t view any of these guys the way he viewed Ty Wigginton and Jose Lopez last off season.
Pitchers with club or player options for 2012: Chris Carpenter, Ryan Dempster, Roy Oswalt, Jon Garland, Scott Olsen and Adam Wainwright. Some really good pitchers here and more than likely their options will be exercised and they will not hit the free agent market. If the Rockies could somehow land Adam Wainwright coming off of Tommy John surgery I would eat nothing but broccoli for a week.
The one name the Rockies will never get: C.C. Sabathia. Why he would opt out of a contract in which he would make $23 million each of the next four years (2012-2015) is beyond me, but there are rumors he will. Sabathia would be looking for a contract in excess of $100 million if he does opt out and there is no way the Rockies pony up that kind of money.
With $20 million to spend the Rockies could probably get any two of the following: Vazquez, Penny, Marquis and possibly Jackson. They could easily land any of the guys listed as injury risks and could certainly get any of those in the trash heap. My suggestion? Get Jackson and Vazquez and hope for the best. Both will give the Rockies innings and will certainly bridge the gap between the beginning of the 2012 season and when Jorge De La Rosa and Juan Nicasio return from injury. Jackson would stay in the rotation well past that and if Vazquez could find his strikeout stuff he could also lengthen the rotation.
There isn’t a lot to choose from and the Rockies really need their youngsters in the minor leagues to start progressing so they can contribute at the big league level. I don’t want to see the Rockies relying on Kevin Millwood next year.