Rocky Times (part 2) and more
To bring some closure to yesterday's piece, the reason I argued against the many offensive signings the Colorado Rockies have made thus far is money. The team needs to try and sign young players for their starting rotation, and see what kind of player will work here. Instead of Sidney Ponson, I'm hearing rumors of Kenny Rogers and Pedro Astacio.
Right now, the Rockies could go to Spring Training with five starters. Jason Jennings, two years removed from his Rookie of the Year trophy, is looking to revert back to 2002 form. To do so, he'll need substantial improvement on his 119/88 K/BB, and will need to work on his starts on the road. In 2003, Jennings home ERA was 4.64, while he had a 5.38ERA while on the road. Another three year vet the Rockies are depending on is Joe Kennedy, whom Dan O'Dowd acquired for Justin Speier. Kennedy has gotten slowly worse his whole career, and I can't see how his career 0.96 GB/FB ratio is appealing for Rockies brass. Kennedy did pitch well as a reliever, and may be the first to be booted from the rotation.
I imagine the Rockies will be hoping a pair of top prospects also land starting spots, those players being Aaron Cook and Chin-Hui Tsao. Cook was Baseball America's 2002 top Rockie prospect, even likening the young right-hander to Kevin Brown. While Cook maintained a solid GB/FB ratio, he struggled with a 6.49ERA at home. My guess is that the improved infield defense should help his numbers, but Cook needs to have a K/BB of at least one next year. As for Tsao, he is the 2003 top Rockie prospect, and is a top 50 Major League prospect after my first draft. He was great last season in AA, going 11-4 with a 2.36ERA, allowing 88 hits in 113.1IP, while maintaining a 125/26 K/BB. Tsao struggled in the Majors, battling control problems, as well as giving up 11 homers in 43.1 innings. Most of those came on the road, but I imagine he'll have troubles with Coors this season. He'll be the Rockies first homegrown power pitcher, so his performance should dictate what the Rockies do in the future.
In the last spot, the Rockies have Denny Neagle penciled in very lightly. Neagle only had seven appearances in 2003, starting late and ending early. He was disastrous in those 35 innings, and has a 5.57ERA in the last three seasons. It seems like Coors has effected southpaws Mike Hampton and Neagle more than anything, whether that is a sign or not, I'm not sure. Others contending for a rotation slot will be Scott Elarton, Adam Bernero, and Cory Vance. Also, expect the Rockies to make at least one veteran signing, pushing either Kennedy or Neagle to the bullpen, or possibly Tsao to AAA.
The bullpen looks to be the one area the Rockies may have success in during 2004. Shawn Chacon, a Rockie all-star a year ago, is moving to the closer spot, as the Rockies are looking to take better care of his arm. I still think he'll end up hurt, but if not, he could be a mean closer. The team also had considerable success with lefties Brian Fuentes and Javier Lopez a year ago, as well as side-armer Steve Reed. Of those brought in this offseason, Jeff Tam, Travis Driskill, and Allan Simpson have the best chances to nag a bullpen spot. I also think Bernero will end up here, as he didn't start a game after coming from Detroit a year ago.
To conclude, Dan O'Dowd isn't pushing the right buttons in Colorado. The team has a good farm system, and a good foundation in the Major Leagues, but never wins. It seems that every year there is a significant change to the roster, but I believe ownership should think first to changing the front office.
I received an e-mail today asking about my thoughts on Robbie Alomar, so I wanted to post them here. Like the Rockies, I think Arizona could have used the money for this signing better in the starting department. Alomar's skills are diminishing at a substantial rate, and it's hard to believe he only hit five home runs a year ago. Robbie is simply disastrous against left-handed pitching, yet managers Art Howe and Jerry Manuel allowed him to have 148 at-bats against southpaws during 2003, which led to a .189 batting average. Against right-handers he was .285/.364/.378, which means he has a little value. But what about Matt Kata? Didn't the D-Backs like him enough to deal Junior Spivey?
In all honesty, Alomar is bridging the gap until heralded prospect Scott Hairston makes the Major Leagues. Alomar can't hit left-handers, has no power, little speed, and overrated defense. For their $1M, the Diamondbacks get a player who isn't exactly a clubhouse leader, but also get the team name written on Alomar's future Hall of Fame plaque. I would never have guessed Arizona to make this signing, but there really is little upside here. Look for Robbie to hit .270/.340/.380 in what will/should be his final Major League season.
While I've touched on Juan Gonzalez in past articles, I've never gone into detail on why the Royals made such a good signing. Last season, Juan Gone hit .294/.329/.572 with the Rangers, and while some will argue his power numbers were helped in Arlington, Kansas City is hardly a pitcher's park. Sure, Gonzalez might not be capable of a .350 OBP ever again in his career, but the Royals have Matt Stairs for that department. In Igor, the Royals get an improvement over Raul Ibanez, for cheaper (and they got a draft pick from Seattle!) than Ibanez cost the Mariners. Gonzalez will be helped from playing only left field in Kauffman Stadium, but is hardly a sure-fire bet to stay healthy. But remember, if Igor goes down, Matt Stairs could play left, allowing Ken Harvey more time, or David DeJesus could get the call from AAA. Yes, Allan Baird is finally starting to get it.
I love reporting that team's are finished assembling their roster, and yesterday, the Toronto Blue Jays did just that. J.P. Riccardi signed Terry Adams and Chris Gomez, while designating Pete Walker for assignment and waiving Tom Wilson. Adams' ERA was deceiving a year ago, his peripherals weren't quite as strong as a 2.65ERA would indicate. Don't get me wrong, I'd love having Adams in middle relief, I just wouldn't expect an ERA below 3.25 again. As for Gomez, even Rey Ordonez may have been the better choice, but I don't anticipate he'll be seeing too much time anyway.
OK, here is the Blue Jays roster as I see it...
Bench: Kevin Cash, Dave Berg, Howie Clark, Chris Gomez, Chad Hermensen
Well, that's it for today. On the Vladimir Guerrero front, I'm now hearing four teams, although just the Mets and Orioles hold significant interest. The Marlins and Dodgers also have put in calls to Guerrero's agent. As for Greg Maddux, I will maintain that San Francisco is his destination until he signs elsewhere. Maels Rodriguez and Pedro Astacio will both be showing off for teams in coming weeks, and those are news stories worth listening for. Please, to anyone reading this, stop the Pete Rose stuff! Baseball deserves better air-time than Pete Rose.