Jussel: Rockies need to increase payroll to boost winning

Major League Baseball’s Hot Stove League has been percolating for the past week, and will become red-hot in a couple of weeks when executives from all 30 teams gather for a few celebrations, a few drinks at Happy Hour and, yes, plenty of discussion.

The Colorado Rockies will be represented — if they can afford the expense.

Maybe the staff will find a way to use air miles and use Expedia to pick up a cheap room or two somewhere other than at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, which is surely beyond their budget.

What the Rockies need to understand is simple: They aren’t competing against the Toledo Mud Hens and Durham Bulls. They are competing against the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, among others.

The Yankees spent $209 million last year on payroll and the Red Sox $175 million, according to the Baseball Prospectus.

The Dodgers, who just received a boost from new ownership, are already committed to $198 million next season and aggressively going after free agents like pitcher Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez, each of whom could add another $25 million per. They also just won the bidding on South Korean left-hander Hyun-Jim Ryu for another $25 million.

That means the Dodgers, who happen to play in the same division as the Rockies, may spend $250 million next season on payroll.

Oh yes, the Rockies?

Last season, their payroll was $81 million.

This is, or at least should be, distressing news if you are a Rockies fan.

But here is what could make it even more distressing: We haven’t seen the worst of it, not unless the Rox change their thinking and ways of doing business — and do it quickly.

Last week, the Miami Marlins opened even the eyes of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig by dumping virtually every star player they have in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, with team owner Jeffrey Loria saying he was tired of high-dollar players and poor results.

The situation in Miami, however, while morally and politically incorrect because of a string of promises broken after taxpayers financed a new stadium, isn’t what the Rockies should be paying attention to (after all, they don’t have a bunch of high-dollar players to dump).

What Rockies brass from team owners Dick and Charlie Monfort to VPs Dan O’Dowd and Bill Geivett to new manager Walt Weiss should be paying attention to is what the Blue Jays have done.

Toronto is pulling a Wimpy: “I will gladly pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today.”

The Blue Jays just traded a bundle of prospects for two starting pitchers (Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle) and one of the best shortstops in the business (Jose Reyes). Those three players, again according to the Baseball Prospectus, will make more than $35 million next season.

The Jays also just agreed to a two-year contract with free agent outfielder Torii Hunter worth $26 million.

With the minimum-wage players they traded away factored in, the Jays just added nearly $45 million to their payroll next season.

And, get this, that $45 million is today’s hamburger they will pay for tomorrow.

For all these new players, all the Blue Jays have to do is give ESPN, Fox and Turner television networks thanks.

According to a study done by Carl Calcaterra of NBC Sports, ESPN’s new agreement with Major League Baseball, combined with agreements already in effect from Fox and Turner, will give each major league team an added boost of at least $25 million starting in 2014, with that figure rising to as much as $40 million, pending an increase in revenue to the networks.

In other words, Toronto has just traded for three established stars that they can pay for with revenue they do not have yet, but will have in another year.


Anybody home in Denver?

The Rockies, rumor has it, need pitching.

There are free agents on the horizon, however, not much quantity, in the free agent pool.

Example: The Rockies’ own free agent, Jeff Francis, 6-7 with a 5.58 ERA last season, is the 11th-ranked free agent prospect, according to CBS Sports.

So, the Rockies are going to have to get as creative as the Blue Jays. They are going to have to make a trade or two or three to compete.

Although they aren’t exactly overloaded with tradeable assets, they do have an abundance of outfielders (hello, Dexter Fowler) and a handful of young pitchers who haven’t done much right yet, but are still young enough to correct that maybe in places that aren’t quite a mile high and could be packaged.

Question is, will the Rockies be able to make any headway in Nashville and beyond?

And the bigger question is, do they want to?


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