In the piece I wrote on Monday I talked about which starting pitchers the Rockies should look to sign. In the comments it became apparent that quite a few folks believe our pitching will be OK and that the bigger need for the Rockies in 2012 lies at second and third base.
The assumption here is that Chris Nelson, Ty Wigginton, Ian Stewart, Jonathan Herrera, Mark Ellis and whoever else the Rockies want to force into a position they are not familiar with (hello Jordan Pacheco) is not good enough. The Rockies need someone else at each of these positions. Who is available this coming off season? If the Rockies don’t spend the 20 or so million dollars they having coming off of the books on a pitcher which infielder can they get for that price?
Let’s tackle the light hitting second base position first.
Cream of the crop: Um. Well, this is awkward. There isn’t a second basemen who will be available this off season that I would call the cream of the crop.
Quality starters: Clint Barmes (there is certainly a large part of the Rockies fan base that remembers Barmes much the same way every man remembers his first crush), Kelly Johnson and Omar Infante. One of our brilliant readers brought up Infante on the pitchers piece and he would be an OK fit, but I wouldn’t expect much at the plate. Barmes we have had before and try your best to remember how streaky he is at the plate – and how his cold streaks last a lot longer than his hot streaks. Johnson had a great start to last year otherwise who knows what you are going to get. Essentially this group of guys, none of these guys represents any sort of significant upgrade over what the Rockies already have in Nelson.
Old scrappy guys that the media thinks are great, but they suck: Jamey Carroll, Craig Counsell, Adam Kennedy and Aaron Miles. Yep, they all suck.
Old guys still available: Counsell (double dipper), Orlando Cabrera, Luis Castillo, Carlos Guillen and Felipe Lopez. Yep, don’t want any of them either.
Guys with team/player options: Willie Bloomquist, Robinson Cano, Aaron Hill and Brandon Phillips. Imagine a 3-4-5 of Cano, Tulo, Cargo…makes your mouth water, doesn’t it? Will never happen. Maybe somehow Hill hits the market and the Rockies land him in hopes of getting the 2009 version.
There aren’t going to be many options on the free agent market at second base. Makes sense as second is usually a position reserved for smaller light hitting players which is why if the Rockies are so intent on Eric Young Jr. being their leadoff man they need to spend the next five months working on his defense with him at second.
The list at third base is even shorter.
Cream of the crop: Aramis Ramirez. Ramirez is a flier due to his age and injury history (only two seasons since 2005 in which he had 600 or more at-bats) but he might come cheap. It has been rumored that he will be seeking a multi-year deal and since June 1st he has batted .311/.362/.569 with 23 home runs and 21 doubles for the Cubs. He is average at best defensively and at age 33 he could decline quickly. If the Rockies could net him for two years and maybe 10 million per I think he would be a good get. $10MM would be a pay cut for Ramirez as he is making $16MM this season.
Quality starters: None. Zip. Zero. Number of walks Jose Lopez took with the Rox. Number of bases Dexter Fowler steals. There isn’t much else available which will unfortunately drive Ramirez’s price up.
Injury risks: Eric Chavez and Mark DeRosa. DeRosa couldn’t even get into the San Francisco Giants lineup when he was healthy and that should tell you all you need to know about his bat. Chavez has hit with the Yankees in 2011 but he has only played in 48 games which is actually the most he has appeared in a single season since 2007.
Average Options: These guys are neither old or crappy, they are just average. Wilson Betemit, Greg Dobbs and Wes Helms. In nine MLB seasons Betemit has been worth 3.7 wins above replacement or about a half a win a season. Dobbs has been worth -1.7 in his eight seasons and Helms at -2.4 in his 13 seasons. The first question I have to ask is how these guys have lasted this long in MLB? I suppose it is opportunities with teams like the Rockies in 2012 that keep these guys alive. They are the very definition of replacement level.
Old guys that need to retire: Miguel Tejada, Omar Vizquel and Melvin Mora. I can already see the Rockies fans putting on their lilac colored glasses when they think of Mora. He is going to be 40 next year, people, 40!
If the Rockies could land Ramirez and maybe he would come to Colorado for one year in hopes of playing really well for a second straight season and proving to a bigger market team that he has three more years left in his tank worth about $40MM, that would be great. If that happens the Rockies would be more likely to stick with EY2 and Nelson at second which is probably what they will do anyway. Adding another big bat in the lineup would certainly be helpful and allow the franchise to wait on other young guys to come up in the system.
At both third base and second base there are not a lot of options that will significantly improve the Rockies current roster which means it is probably not likely that they play too much in the free agent market at either position.