Brad Hawpe Hits Free Agency A Few Weeks Early

When we heard that the Rockies placed OF Brad Hawpe on waivers, it came as no surprise. Most players on a 40-man roster are placed on waivers in August, since the process presents no downside for a team. If another team claims the player, the original team can just pull him back. But a player like Hawpe, with a $7.5 million salary, will almost certainly clear and become eligible for a trade with any team. Earlier this week we learned that Hawpe cleared. But the news that broke last night, that the Rockies had released their right fielder, came as quite the surprise.

For the past few years Hawpe has been a cornerstone of the Rockies’ offense. From 2006 through 2009 he finished third on the team in wOBA, with that production never falling below .376. Unfortunately, his defense often sapped his value. Despite producing between 15.2 and 23.7 park adjusted runs above average from 2006 through 2009, his WAR never got higher than 2.7, attained in 2006 when his fielding was average. In 2008 his UZR was -36. In the past three years no player comes even close to Hawpe’s -60.2 UZR and -29.7 UZR/150.

A player with such poor defensive performance needs a heavy bat for a team to justify a roster spot, never mind a spot in the starting lineup. Hawpe obviously had that, and to start 2010 nothing looked different. He went 15 for 42 (.357) in his first month, with eight walks (.460 OBP) and nine extra base hits (.714 SLG) for a .495 wOBA. But from there he struggled. In 80 May PA he produced a .321 wOBA and in June that fell to .269. He hit just two home runs in those 168 PA.

In late June he sat out a bit with soreness in his ribs, so there had to be home that the injury had sapped his production and that some rest would bring him back. But since his return on June 28 he has hit just .203/.314/.365 in 86 PA. He hasn’t gotten a chance to get in a groove, as he’s started three days in a row just once, and started two days in a row just twice before that. Not that he deserved to start more with his production. But some regular can find it tough to get back in a groove if they’re not getting regular playing time.

This leads into the discussion of Hawpe’s landing spot. He’s more valuable to an American League team because they can keep his bat in the lineup and his glove out of the field. But as we’ve seen with a few former NL players, the transition from two-way player to DH is not always easy. Pat Burrell never made the adjustment in Tampa Bay, and Lance Berkman struggled after his move to New York. That’s not to say that Hawpe will react similarly, but it’s a possibility. Thankfully for any acquiring team there’s little risk involved. Hawpe can be had for the league minimum.

The Rockies release of Hawpe might come as a surprise, but that’s only because of his past production. This year his value has taken a serious hit. With the Rockies out of contention his release does make a degree of sense. Chances are that unless he produced a monster year they weren’t going to pick up his $10 million option for 2011. The team set a payroll record this year at over $84 million, and already has almost $50 million committed to nine players next year. That doesn’t include arbitration raises, either. In effect, this is just Hawpe hitting free agency a month and chance ahead of schedule.

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

16 Responses to “Brad Hawpe Hits Free Agency A Few Weeks Early”

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  1. Joe says:

    That Berkman sample is too small to even use as an example really.

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  2. Gary says:

    I can certainly imagine a lot of interest in him for the stretch run. Any chance the r-Sox just pick him up and slot him in at 1B? Otherwise Tampa’s DH Spot, any # of pinch hitting/4th OF roles in the NL. NYY would even be in it for his DH abilities.

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  3. JohnG says:

    White Sox need a lefthanded bat, I can see them picking him up

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  4. Phil says:

    “He hasn’t gotten a chance to get in a groove, as he’s started three days in a row just once, and started two days in a row just twice before that.”
    See: Iannetta, Chris; Young, Eric; Fowler, Dexter; Smith, Seth. Am I missing anyone? Oh, the closers.

    This front office stinks.

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  5. Souldrummer says:

    This seems to me to kind of a polite and decent move by them. Give a guy who has been okay for the org a chance to get some at bats to help him out with free agency.

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  6. Dan says:

    I’m confused. Aren’t the Rockies still on the hook for the remaining salary this season? Not to mention the $500K buyout for not exercising his 2011 option? And don’t they give up any possible compensation picks by releasing him?

    How does this save them money?

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    • don says:

      They’d only get compensation picks if he declined arbitration and someone else took him, which seems pretty unlikely.

      I don’t know how this saves them money, though.

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    • MsFanDustin says:

      Let’s say that they are on the hook for the buyout. Which costs the team more money in regards to the 2011 payroll. $10M salary, or $500k?

      It’s a $9.5M save.

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      • Nathaniel Dawson says:

        But they can just decline the $10 MM option during the offseason. Cutting him now doesn’t save them any money there.

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  7. The Duder says:

    Gogo Seth Smith! Finally!!!

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  8. Jason T says:

    Seth Smith is a platoon guy, historically. I’m a fan, but he’s not an everyday starter.

    And yes, this front office has made mistakes with Ianetta and Fowler. But I’m not nearly ready to say ‘they stink’. How many other teams have that many players on their roster (how many decent teams, not the Pirates) that are home grown? O’Dowd has not had nearly enough patience this season, but the Rockies FO has done a pretty decent job, IMHO.

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    • The Duder says:

      Umm, right. He’s a career .371 wOBA, above average fielder who’s been in a crowded outfield and thus forced to platoon. Every indication shows this kid could and should at the very least have a shot at starting everyday at corner outfielder on any team in the league. I am excited to see him get some stability in his play time, and I’m sure COL is happy to relieve at least some of the tension of that situation.

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      • Thad says:

        Smith actually hit .259/.368/.500/.868 vs LHP in 2009. Small sample size, but he may have potential to improve to say, .275/.340/.460/.800 vs. LHP. Keep in mind that most of his PA vs. LHP are against relievers/LOOGY’s, and not the average/below-average LHP starters of the world.

        .800 OPS vs. LHP + .900 OPS vs. RHP would make him a very legit starting OF.

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  9. algionfriddo says:

    I just don’t see the need for any team to get this guy now. At best he is a pinch hitter. The Rockies waited to long to move him.

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  10. this guy says:

    Atrocious “baseball player”. He belongs nowhere near a pro field without a ticket.

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