Earlier this week, I explained the basics of Major League Baseball’s free agency system. Because of the Rockies’ limitations, players like Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford are completely off management’s radar. The following is an evaluation of those players whose names have been associated with Colorado this off season – notice the emphasis on pitching.
Victor Martinez (Type A)
As I mentioned previously, the Rockies are unlikely to pursue any Type A Free Agents, but there has been some speculation about Victor Martinez. Martinez is appealing because he is a switch-hitting catcher and first baseman. He is a career .300 hitter with power from both sides. He is also a terrible fit for the Rockies. A bad catcher can’t be hidden; he touches the ball on every single play. Martinez is a horrendous defensive catcher and would be a major liability in the National League. He is completely incapable of controlling speed on the base paths. In one game this past season, the Rangers stole nine bases in five innings on Martinez. At this point in his career, he shouldn’t play catcher on any team, much less a defensive oriented squad like the Rox. So that leaves one possibility for Martinez, first base. If they are looking to put Helton on the bench, they might as well pick up Type B free agent, Adam Dunn. To top it all off, Martinez is the number one priority for several teams. The Tigers in particular are said to be in heavy pursuit.
Conclusion: Stay away like he has Ebola. Somebody is about to give Martinez a historically bad contract.
Where he will sign: Detroit
Jon Garland (Type B)
Garland is intriguing for several different reasons. First and foremost, Garland eats up innings. He has pitched over two-hundred innings in a season six times in his career. Additionally, he pitched over one-hundred-ninety innings in three more seasons. Coveted Rockies free agent, Jorge De La Rosa, has never thrown over one-hundred eighty-five innings in a season. Also, Garland’s career ERA is about the same as De La Rosa’s ERA in his best season. Garland also has some playoff experience; he pitched very well in two post-season starts for the White Sox during their 2005 Championship season. He is adept at inducing groundballs from hitters and would be a terrific fit for Coors Field.
Conclusion: See if you can steal Garland for a good price. He would be a good match for the Rockies and a more consistent replacement for Jorge De La Rosa.
Where he will sign: Anybody’s guess
Javier Vazquez (Type B)
Out of everybody on this list, Vazquez is the player most likely to be in Denver next season. Javier is a slightly older, more durable version of Garland. In the last decade, he has only missed the two-hundred inning mark twice, and he threw one-hundred ninety-eight innings in one of those seasons. The bad news: he is coming off the worst year of his career. Interestingly enough, the two seasons where Javy didn’t reach two-hundred innings came during the only years he spent with the Yankees. Still, pitching for Atlanta just one season ago, Vazquez finished fourth in the Cy Young race. The Rockies apparently think he can regain that form.
Conclusion: Go for it. Personally, I think Garland is a better fit, but they can probably acquire Vazquez for a discount and he has had some terrific seasons in the past.
Where he will sign: Colorado
Jake Westbrook (Outright Free Agent)
Despite two decent months in St. Louis, Westbrook fell short of becoming a Type B free agent. Westbrook is intriguing and, based on his late season success with the Cardinals, he should garner some interest this off-season. However, buyers need to be wary of Westbrook. There is a long list of teams that have thrown money at a Dave Duncan reclamation project and deeply regretted it. Duncan is some sort of wizard who can spin awful pitchers into gold. The only problem is that turn they back into junk as soon as they leave the Cardinals. Apparently St. Louis is interesting in resigning Jake, but it is no secret that they are cash strapped. They just grossly overpaid for Matt Holliday and the Great Pujols is in the final year of his contract. Westbrook would probably be cheap, but there is a reason for that.
Conclusion: Don’t waste your time on Westbrook.
Where he will sign: St. Louis, but not until at least February.
Hiroki Kuroda (Outright Free Agent)
I had to check the free agent list five times before I was convinced that Kuroda was listed as neither a Type A nor a Type B free agent. Kuroda – a Japanese import – is coming off a career best season in which he threw one-hundred ninety-six innings and finished with a 3.39 ERA. For many, he is a very realistic target for the Rockies. However, he is already thirty-six and he pitched many years in Japan before coming to the United States in 2007. Also, Kuroda is not an innings eater. Twice in his three MLB seasons, he made over thirty starts, but failed to reach two-hundred innings. He does accumulate strike-outs and grounders, but he is not very efficient in achieving these results.
Conclusion: Too old and too inefficient.
Where he will sign: Pittsburgh
Jeff Francis (Outright Free Agent)
Regardless of what the Rockies do with their other free agent options, they should sign Francis to an affordable, incentive laden contract. Francis once had a bright future, but injuries over the last couple of seasons have derailed his career. Still, Francis is only thirty and he has a proven track record of success in Coors Field. It would be a comfortable situation for everyone involved. There is a very good chance that this will happen.
Conclusion: Give him another shot. He gave the Rox some really good years and could do so again.
Where he will sign: Colorado