Jussel: Time for Rox to shift from buyers to sellers
Wait ‘til next year!
The infamous battle cry of da Brooklyn Bums has become the mantra of the Colorado Rockies.
Now, it’s sadly time to bite the bullet, admit this season is toast and turn from a potential buyer of talent into a seller.
The Rox hung around this season because the National League West was terrible, mainly due to the fact that much of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ All-Star cast was on the disabled list.
The Dodgers, proud owners of a payroll three times that of the Colorado squad, are now healthy and in the process of blowing away the rest of the West.
The Rockies, meanwhile, spent July developing four-fifths of a nice pitching rotation, all the while free-falling into a massive batting slump.
Bad timing, sure. More importantly, it hints at the future.
Here is one poor man’s “keeper” list as the team’s mode changes from contention to building:
The Rox spring into next season with a pitching rotation of Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Tyler Chatwood and Juan Nicasio.
Chatwood is 24 years old, Chacin 25 and Nicasio 27, meaning several years of starts each if this season’s lessons take hold.
De La Rosa is the elder statesman at 32 and will be in the final season of his contract next year.
There has been talk of trading De La Rosa, but he cannot be replaced for the $11 million he will earn. And if he is pitching as well next season as this, extend his contract another couple of years at roughly the same price.
Let’s also say the team goes into next season with a healthy Carlos Gonzales, Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer, their starting All-Star trio on par with any middle-of-the-order trio on any team.
There are four other keepers:
Young catcher Wilin Rosario has improved his woeful defense, but his power numbers have dropped (15 home runs this season compared to 28 in 2012), Still, he has hit in the .275 range, a plus for a catcher.
Rookie third baseman Nolan Arenado has shown great defense and gap power but struggled the last month as his average dropped below .250. With him, you’re betting on the come.
Center fielder Dexter Fowler, who like Cargo and Tulo slumped in July because of an injury, is still one of the best defensive players in the game and a unique threat as a leadoff hitter.
And young relief pitcher Rex Brothers is a rare lefty who has hit triple digits on the radar gun and spent two seasons learning to deal with late-inning realities, be it as a closer or setup man.
That’s our keeper list.
That leaves a large list of who could be and should be shipped out.
Assets include relief pitchers Rafael Betancourt and Matt Belisle. Betancourt is still recovering from an appendectomy, but he will be able to help others in mid-August and beyond as a closer or setup man. Belisle needs only a few days of rest, and he also could help others as a setup man. Lefty Josh Outman also is reportedly on the wanted list of a couple of contenders.
Another starter who could be moved is second baseman D.J. LeMahieu, a decent hitter (.271 average into Sunday) and above average in the field. But he has only one home run and 15 RBI on the season. Still, he would look very good in a DH-loaded American League lineup batting ninth.
Another player who could be moved, albeit probably only as part of a package, would be backup catcher Yorvit Torrealba.
There is also the Todd Helton Factor, with first base (or right field if Cuddyer is moved in) needing addressed as a power spot.
If the Rockies were still in the buying mode and contending for a playoff spot, a lot of players would make sense. That would include three-month “rentals” in impending free agents like second baseman Chase Utley, first basemen Kendrys Morales or Paul Konerko, or an outfielder like Nelson Cruz.
None of those players make sense now, however, unless they would sign a multiyear contract with the Rox at a reasonable rate. Morales and Cruz are too young to do that and Utley and Konerko too old.
That’s why it’s time to acquire prospects and maybe even put a few currently in hand — youngsters like Chad Bettis or Eddie Butler — on the mound to prepare them for the next season or to showcase them for trade.
Yes, the Rockies held our attention for much of the season by being in contention. Alas, that time is at an end, and now it’s time to — all together now ...
Wait ‘til next year!
Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor (think Dark Ages) and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one.