As they head into play against the Padres tonight, the Rockies are currently in fourth place in the NL West, five games behind the division leaders. With Troy Tulowitzki on the disabled list, the team has gone into something of a holding pattern to see if they can stay in the race until he returns, but I think that may be a mistake.
Buy Or Sell
The Rockies are very much contenders. They’re a high quality team with some good players, and while they’re five games out of first place, the Padres are almost certainly going to perform worse in the second half than they have so far. The Rockies should absolutely be buyers, and they should be buying sooner than later in order to maximize the amount of wins that a new acquisition can add to their roster.
There are essentially two glaring problems with the team, filling in for their star shortstop notwithstanding – both spots on the right side of the infield. Todd Helton‘s power has vanished, and he’s posting a .307 wOBA, simply not good enough for a first baseman who spends half his time in Coors Field. The man playing next to him, meanwhile, Clint Barmes, has been even worse at the plate, posting a .289 wOBA. The lack of offense from these two spots have created problems for the Rockies.
One of those problems is fixable internally. The Rockies have too many outfielders, except one of them isn’t defensively capable and could be a more valuable player at first base – Brad Hawpe. He was primarily a first baseman in the minors, but was shifted to the outfield because Helton had the position locked down. By moving Hawpe to first base, they could drastically improve their outfield defense and get a better bat in the line-up than what Helton is giving them on a regular basis.
The second base issue can probably only be solved by going outside the organization. Barmes is a decent utility player, but he shouldn’t be starting on a team that has World Series aspirations. The team should be shopping heavily for a middle infielder who can handle second base full time and provide an offensive lift, especially if they can find that in a right-handed bat.
The obvious fit, if they can convince the Marlins that they’re out of the race, is Dan Uggla. He’s a consistent +3 to +4 win player with power and patience who would thrive in Colorado, and at $8 million this year and due for another arbitration raise in the winter, he’s too pricey by Florida’s standards.
There are lesser second base options available as well, but Uggla is the natural fit, and you have to imagine that Dan O’Dowd and Larry Beinfest will have a conversation or two during July.
On The Farm
The Rockies have some quality pitching prospects, always useful chips when trying to make a deal, especially with Florida. From Jhoulys Chacin to Esmil Rogers and Christian Friedrich, there are several good arms making their way towards the majors. Given their rotation depth, the Rockies could afford to part with one of these guys in pursuit of an impact player.
Things are not quite as rosy on the position player front, but the team has so much young talent on the major league roster that it’s not a huge problem.
Colorado isn’t rolling in cash, but they do have some financial flexibility going forward. They have just over $50 million in committed contracts for 2010, and their only significant arbitration cases will be with Barmes and Jason Hammel. Barmes is a non-tender candidate, so assuming the Rockies decline Hawpe’s option, they should have enough room in the budget to be able to fit another impact guy on the roster, such as Uggla.
By locking up Ubaldo Jimenez and Tulowitzki early for bargain rates, the team has given themselves a good foundation of which to build off. Even though they’re in fourth place, I’d like to see the Rockies take advantage of that and make a bold move to win both this year and next.