The Colorado Rockies have spent this offseason quietly piecing together a competitive roster, filling holes in the lineup with viable bats and strengthening the rotation.
GM Dan O’Dowd has managed to stick to his low-budget philosophy by chasing under-the-radar free agents and avoiding the big names. Owner Dick Monfort has made it clear that building around arguably the best three-four offensive duo in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez is the right course of action.
With young talent like Wilin Rosario and Nolan Arenado already in place, the Rockies desperately need their notable offseason moves to pay dividends in 2014.
Here are the grades for the Rockies offseason moves thus far.
LaTroy Hawkins Signing
To assess a bullpen that ranked No. 28 in baseball in ERA, the Rockies went ahead and signed veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins to preserve those late-game leads the Rockies habitually blew last season.
Hawkins posted a 2.93 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 70.2 innings for the Mets and will serve as Walt Weiss’ closer in 2014.
The signing was fairly economical, just one year, $2.5 million, but isn’t a sustainable season-long option at closer. Hawkins will turn 41 on Saturday and his health has been in question over the last three to four years. However, the move does allow left-hander Rex Brothers, who was one of the Rockies best arms last season, to slip into a late-game setup role.
Brothers posted a 1.74 ERA with 19 saves and 67.1 innings last season and should be workable option to preserve late-game leads.
The Rockies still have the cap space to go ahead and sign at least one more reliever before spring training.
If Hawkins can stay healthy and mirror his Mets campaign next season, the move should pay off in the end.
Dexter Fowler for Jordan Lyles, Brandon Barnes Trade
Chronic knee problems, inconsistency at the plate and the major league arrival of Corey Dickerson and Charlie Culberson gave the Rockies little choice but to shop center fielder Dexter Fowler this winter.
The Rockies received starting pitcher Jordan Lyles and outfielder Brandon Barnes, shedding about $7 million in salary.
Barnes is known for his glove and is a much-better defensive option off the bench than Fowler. Charlie Blackmon and either Culberson or Dickerson will fill in as reasonable offensive options off the bench.
Lyles, who is just 23, has recorded a five-plus ERA and a losing record in each of his three major league seasons. The Rockies believe Lyles was rushed to the majors and will likely keep the former first-round draft pick in the minors for most of the 2014 season.
The most significant aspect of this move is opening up the $7 million to sign a reliever. If the Rockies go out and sign a noteworthy arm, this move was worth it all the way.
Drew Pomeranz, Chris Jensen, $2 million for Brett Anderson Trade
O’Dowd checked off one of his offseason goals when he traded struggling starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz, minor leaguer Chris Jensen and $2 million cash for Athletics left-hander Brett Anderson. Well…sort of.
Anderson carries with him injury proneness and proven major league success, making this move a tossup for the most part.
Anderson, 25, has started just 22 games for the A’s over the last two seasons, posting an ERA of 4.52 over that stretch. When healthy, his stuff is well above average. During his rookie season in 2009, he recorded a 4.06 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 175.1 innings.
The following season, he posted a 2.80 ERA in 112.1 innings.
While there is a significant amount of risk involved in this deal, O’Dowd didn’t give up much.
Pomeranz, who is the same age as Anderson, has no proven major league success with a career ERA of 5.20. Minor league starter Jensen was also fairly expendable, posting a 4.55 ERA for Single-A Modesto last season.
If Anderson can give the Rockies at least 120 consistent innings next season, this move would prove to be a steal for Colorado.
Justin Morneau Signing
Filling the void at first base left by potential Hall of Famer Todd Helton will officially be Justin Morneau. The 32-year-old Canadian, who is looking to don the relished No. 33 worn by Larry Walker, signed a two-year, $12.5 million deal with the team last week.
Morneau is a former MVP and four-time All-Star looking to rejuvenate his career in the thin air of Denver. He hit .259 with 17 home runs and 77 RBI for the Twins and Pirates last season, numbers that, on the surface, prove to be a slight upgrade from what they got from Helton.
Yet, placing a former MVP in Coors Field is a tantalizing concept. Last season’s stat line will certainly be inflated if Morneau can stay off the disabled list.
In 13 at-bats in Coors, Morneau is hitting a solid .364 with a home run.
The longtime Twin should be a perfect fit in purple pinstripes. Expect an increase in every one of Morneau’s offensive stats next season.
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