Colorado Rockies: 6 Potential Under-the-Radar Free Agent Targets
In general, the Colorado Rockies are one of the most under-the-radar teams in baseball. The players stay out of trouble (for the most part), upper management is traditionally hush-hush about most of their dealings and off-season spending is never a priority.
This winter, tradition will take a backseat to progress. Dan O’Dowd will be opening up his wallet to acquire starting pitching, bullpen arms and potentially a big bat.
Earlier this month, the Rockies were in heavy pursuit of Cuban outfielder Jose Abreu. The White Sox won the bidding war, dishing out $68 million.
However, the Denver Post’s Troy Renck believes the Rockies involvement with Abreu shows their willingness to spend this off-season.
He’s right. Colorado can potentially be big players in the free agent market, especially because it appears to be much weaker than usual.
While the upper office has the ability to spend, there are a few minor moves that could benefit the Rockies in 2014.
Here are some under-the-radar free agency moves the Rockies should consider heading into next season.
It’s always rare to find a free agent who has experience as an ace and familiarity with Coors Field.
From 2009-2011, Jason Hammel was a staple in the Rockies rotation. While not having great success, he did manage a slew of solid starts. Collectively, Hammel posted a 4.63 ERA and 368 strikeouts in purple pinstripes.
The now 31-year-old right-hander has grown since then. He’s also proved that, when healthy, he has legitimate ace stuff.
The Rockies might want to consider make a move at Hammel. If all else fails and he struggles, they still have Eddie Butler and lefty Tyler Anderson lurking in the minors.
This is a gamble the Rockies can afford to take. After returning from injury in September, Hammel posted a 3.31 ERA with 11 strikeouts for the month.
If the price is right, expect the Rockies to at least inquire about bringing Hammel back to Blake Street.
After an incredible comeback season, James Loney will likely fall out of Tampa Bay’s price range in free agency.
Enter the Rockies.
The 29-year-old first baseman could be an enticing option to take over for Todd Helton. The move would also keep Michael Cuddyer, who fields his position brilliantly, in right field.
Loney will likely fall in the two-year, $8 million range unless he pursues a long-term deal.
Throughout his career, Loney has flown under-the-radar and stayed surprisingly consistent. An introduction to Coors Field at this point in his career could muster a breakout season.
Scott Downs has only improved with age and has proved to be one of the best non-closers in baseball over the last six or seven seasons.
The Rockies bullpen came out of the gate on fire, but had one of the worst ERAs in baseball in the second half. Rockies relievers averaged an atrocious ERA of 4.23 on the season, ranking them No. 28 in baseball.
His chronic shoulder issues and age will lower the asking price in free agency. Downs is worth a one or two year deal if they can keep him under $3 million.
Super utility man John McDonald is never signed for his bat.
McDonald has made a career out of being a defensive replacement and a spot starter. For a team that’s committed 182 errors over the last two seasons, McDonald is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Rockies.
At 39-years-old, Colorado wouldn’t be looking long-term. However, DJ LeMahieu and Josh Rutledge could learn something from the veteran infielder.
McDonald would also give Walt Weiss a strong defensive option if he wanted to rest Troy Tulowitzki.
It’s a minor move that could pay dividends in 2014. McDonald is worth at least $1 million to the Rockies coming off the bench.
For a team that lacked left-handed pitching in the bullpen, Boone Logan provides a durable and dependable option in free agency.
Over the last four seasons in New York, Logan posted a 3.38 ERA and gave the Yankees 176 innings of relief. While primarily used as a lefty-specialist, Girardi began to insert Logan in high-stress situations later in the season.
Logan brings a veteran presence and infectious personality to any clubhouse. With the departure of Helton, this could be exactly what the Rockies need heading into next season.
Logan will likely be one of the more expensive relievers in free agency. However, the Rockies' desperate need for reliable left-handed pitching makes him worth the investment.
After eight years in Milwaukee, Corey Hart is primed to test the free agency market this winter.
Hart is one of the least talked about big bats available this offseason. For an abysmal Brewers squad in 2012, Hart managed to hit .270 with 30 homers and 83 RBI. On any other team, that RBI total would have been significantly higher.
Inserted into a Rockies lineup, those numbers could have looked much different with Coors Field possibly tipping the scales to MVP-worthy.
His ability to play first base and the outfield also fits perfectly into the Rockies’ scheme. When necessary, Cuddyer and Hart could flip-flop, giving each the opportunity for added rest.
Also, integrating Hart into a lineup consisting of Tulowitzki, Cuddyer, Carlos Gonzalez, Wilin Rosario and Nolan Arenado could spark some fireworks in the West.
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