Free Agency Report: National League, Part V
We’re now well into the National League portion of our annual look at free agency. Looking for the rest of this series? Of course you are! Not a problem, we’re here to serve:
After the dream season of 2007 that saw the Colorado Rockies ride a ridiculously hot streak all the way to the National League title, this team fell flat on its face in 2008, thanks to a raft of down seasons and injuries to key personnel.
The Rockies led the NL in steals in 2008 with 141, but over 68 per cent of that is gone now that non-tendered Willy Taveras is in Cincy and Matt Holliday has been traded.
The downfall of the Rox in 2008 was pitching, which ranked second-last in the NL in ERA, BAA and WHIP. Youngster Greg Reynolds has promise, but was too hittable at Triple-A, so it was no shock when he was tattooed in the majors. At this point, more seasoning is in order before he’s brought back to The Show. After enjoying such a stellar season in 2007, reliever Matt Herges was beaten like a stepchild in 2008. Small wonder the Rox opted to buy him out. And a season removed from a big 17-win campaign, Jeff Francis took a huge step backwards and finished with a mere four wins.
Don’t expect this team to make a big splash this offseason in terms of taking on contracts. In fact, by adding almost $5 million in payroll in the Luis Vizcaino for Jason Marquis deal, Colorado has pretty well blown its load, as sad as that sounds. It’s the main reason offensive linchpin Holliday had to be traded away as well. The club somewhat made up for the loss of a few key bullpen members by signing Alan Embree, but the Rox don’t have anything major planned between now and Opening Day even though bullpen depth remains a concern.
With their hands tied financially, growth will mostly be organic, but there’s plenty of reason for optimism on that front. Ian Stewart looks ready to be an offensive force; Marquis will (in theory) help stabilize the rotation; Todd Helton should bounce back after missing almost half the season because of his back; Garrett Atkins, Troy Tulowitzki and Francis are all good bets to be better in 2009 as well. Any hopes next season that Colorado will return to its winning ways of 2007 are being pinned on that quartet rebounding and the team’s youngsters taking the next step.
Fortunately, the team only has six free agents (one of which has already signed elsewhere and one of which has been re-signed), but with Vizcaino shipped out in the Marquis deal and Holliday traded away as well, the Rox will have a different look in 2009.
Brian Fuentes, LHP: Sharpened command helped Fuentes to his finest season yet. With three 30-save seasons under his belt, he’ll take his act to Anaheim for two years and $17.5 million to close for the finest team he’s ever had the chance to do so with. Obviously, hopes are high for Fuentes; we’ve even seen him going in mock drafts before Jose Valverde.
Matt Herges, RHP: Former juicer Herges did a good job of limiting the long ball in 2008, but that’s about all that went right. As a result, he’s not exactly being wooed by suitors this offseason.
Livan Hernandez, RHP: Hernandez was bad in Minnesota, and then simply rancid in Colorado. He’s not even an innings eater anymore. It’s definitely time to set him adrift on an ice floe.
Adam Melhuse, C: Melhuse started the season as the back-up catcher on the Rangers, but he couldn’t hit a lick, got hurt and was released. He caught on with the Rockies, and hit well enough at Triple-A to get a couple of calls up to the big club. Unfortunately, he barely got a chance to distinguish himself, so will likely have to scratch and crawl for scraps this offseason.
Scott Podsednik, OF: Podsednik was somewhat productive in a part-time role, but he’s a fringe major leaguer who would probably be in Indy ball if not for his speed and ability to play centrefield. There was talk that Podsednik would be dealt at the deadline, but that never happened. In fact, now the word is that the Rox wouldn’t mind bringing him back as it would be good to have a vet pushing youngsters Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler for a job, but apparently Podsednik has only been offered a non-guaranteed deal, so if someone else ponies up something more concrete, he’ll likely grab it.
Glendon Rusch, LHP: The mere fact that Rusch made it back this spring after missing two years because of a blood clot made for a great story. No, he didn’t win a rotation spot in San Diego, but he did stick as a reliever until the Pads tried to outright him and he became a free agent instead. Rusch resurfaced in Colorado and pitched well enough in a swingman role that the Rox opted to bring him back on a minor league deal, signed last month.
Next: We take our winter vacation in the land of 4 p.m. dinner specials and check in on the Florida Marlins.