The De La Rosa Conundrum
Get paid Jorge (Photo: Yardbarker.com)
The Rockies’ number one off-season priority appears to be the re-signing of Jorge De La Rosa. The organization is in love with the lefty’s potential and thinks that his best years still lie ahead. They also just witnessed division rival San Francisco win the World Series with top-notch starting pitching and are hoping to match what the Giants have done. That is a very tall order. Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner, and Matt Cain are outstanding, homegrown products. To think that any Rockies pitcher, other than Ubaldo Jiminez, can match up with those guys is unrealistic.
The Rockies have a different identity. This team wins games with their depth and a pitching staff that eats up innings. For the last four or five years, the organization has done an excellent job of filling the roster with a solid mix of homegrown talent and affordable veterans. The club seems to have learned a valuable fiscal lesson from previously overpaying Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton. They resisted the urge to overpay Matt Holliday, shrewdly trading him for Carlos Gonzalez and Huston Street. After just two seasons, Gonzalez is a better player than Holliday. Plus, he costs about sixteen million less per season and is locked up until 2014. It is imperative that they keep this lesson in mind while negotiating with De La Rosa.
Colorado is right to be as high as they are on “Georgie”. His fastball is electric. He has a devastating curve ball and a dramatic changeup. Last season, he allowed three runs or less in twelve of his last thirteen starts. Plus, he is a lefty. The problem is that every other team in baseball is also aware of Jorge’s potential. For many, he is the second or third best free agent on the market and he is only twenty-nine years old. That is quite a bit of leverage. It is a good bet that some idiot GM is going to grossly overpay for the young Mexican. Also, if Cliff Lee – the top free agent in baseball – gets twenty million a year from the Yankees or the Rangers, De La Rosa’s price tag is really going to soar. The Rockies will probably need to offer him at least ten million a year for five years. That is far too much risk to take for a pitcher who has struggled with inconsistency and injury his entire career. He would also be thirty-four by the end of the contract.
The good news is that Jorge is a Type A free agent, meaning that, if he walks, the Rockies will be compensated with two high draft picks. If by some chance they can lock him up for something like three years at thirty million, they should do it. But, that is a long shot. Colorado should be prepared to take their two picks and rely on a back-up plan. They should acquire a veteran pitcher for half the price of Jorge, reinforce the bench with a bat or two, and pray like hell that Ian Stewart, Dexter Fowler, and Chris Iannetta live up to expectations. If you believe Dan O’Dowd – and you should – this is exactly the plan.
The 2011 free agent class is not a blockbuster group, but there are players who can help the Rockies. Jon Garland is an intriguing possibility. Garland was solid in San Diego last year and his ground ball inducing approach might flourish in Colorado with Tulo playing behind him. The Rox might be able to get Garland for less money and without the long term commitment. They were smart to decline a seven million dollar option on Jeff Francis; the possibility of bringing him back for a third of the money is interesting. When healthy, Francis is every bit as effective as De La Rosa. After battling injuries for the past three years, Francis might still have some healthy and productive seasons left in him. Other free agent pitchers include: Kevin Correia, Aaron Harang, Hiroki Kuroda, Carl Pavano, Javier Vazquez, Jake Westbrook, Chris Young and Brandon Webb. The Rockies could catch lightening in a bottle with any of those guys.
The Giambi Pornstache will be missed in Denver (Photo: Yardbarker.com)
As far as the bench goes, it looks like Jason Giambi and his fantastic mustache will not be returning. I expect the Rockies will wait to acquire veterans for the bench. They aren’t likely to make a move until January or February. Right now, they are pitching minded and who can blame them.