The winter meetings are here, a time when the hot stove starts heating up. The Rockies offseason, however, is already boiling over.
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The Rockies started by signing star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to a deal that will keep him in purple pinstripes until 2020, giving him the best shot to be the town's next John Elway. Lost in the Tulowitzki excitement was probably the most unexpected news of the offseason: The club had found a way to convince Jorge De La Rosa, the second-best left-handed starter on the market behind Cliff Lee, to re-sign with the club.
While the Rockies have done a very good job of keeping their core intact, they have yet to address some of their more burning issues. Late last week they traded for non-tender candidate Jose Lopez from the Mariners, a right-hander with power who can spell Todd Helton at first base and also push Ian Stewart for time at third.
For now, the Rockies say that Lopez is in the mix for the perennial second base competition, but Lopez is a long shot behind Eric Young Jr., Jonathan Herrera and Chris Nelson.
Despite signing De La Rosa, the Rockies still have holes. Their starting rotation was adequate in 2010, but Aaron Cook disappointed, and Jeff Francis made progress, but proved that he most likely will never return to his 2007 form in which he won 17 games and was the ace of the National League champions.
Jason Hammel had a breakthrough season, but September was rough on him. He admitted that he was pitching through a dead arm, which raises concern for how well he will bounce back in 2011.
The rotation should be clear at the beginning of the spring. Ubaldo Jimenez, De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Cook and Hammel. However, as teams often find out, rarely does a team have just five starters throughout a 162-game season. Hammel is a question mark, Cook has been on the disabled list at least once in every season since 2007, Chacin will be just 23, limiting his innings, and Jimenez threw 221.2 innings.
So what is the answer? The Rockies need to do what they do best: sign players who are coming off of bad seasons, are castoffs or both. The club has had much success with this model in the past.
There are plenty of those types of pitchers out there. Kevin Correia would have been a prime candidate, except he signed with the Pirates late on Monday night. One name that has been thrown around that would be a good idea is former Diamondback ace Brandon Webb.
Webb may be a slight diversion from the Rockies normal strategy, as he is coming off of a major shoulder injury, but his resume would suggest that even if he cannot return to his exact form, even getting close would put him in a good position to make a run at the fifth starter spot.
The right-hander won a Cy Young in 2006, and finished second in both 2007 and 2008. He seemed to be in the prime of his career before his shoulder failed him on Opening Day in 2009.
Webb's name has been thrown around quite a bit this offseason, but no one has taken a shot on him. It may be that he wants too much money, and to be fair, if Webb is asking for a guaranteed $4 million or something like that, the Rockies should forget about it. However, if he is willing to sign for an incentive-laden contract that starts in the range of $2 million guaranteed, it seems like a move the Rockies wouldn't regret.
At worst, Webb pushes Hammel or even Cook for the final spot in the rotation. If he isn't quite ready to handle the starter load, he could be used as a mop-up guy. Similar to what Josh Fogg was in '09. He is a guy who knows how to get outs, even if he doesn't have his best stuff.
For all of the mediocre starters that are available, the Rockies might just have to take a chance on Webb, if the price is right.
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