Editor's note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason plans of every MLB team before the Dec. 3-6 winter meetings. Our series continues with the Colorado Rockies.
Finish: Second place in National League West.
2007 Opening-day payroll: $54 million
The Rockies are relevant again, both regionally and in the National League, in part because of their improbable run from fourth place in the NL West (on Sept. 16) to the World Series, and also because a well-reasoned organizational plan put the likes of Matt Holliday, Todd Helton, Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe and Troy Tulowitzki on the field together.
Now it's about sustaining momentum for the payroll-challenged club in an offseason in which it will rework several key positions, including, probably, catcher, second base, the middle of the bullpen and the end of the starting rotation. While the payroll ought to increase to about $70 million, that's still well below what the Dodgers and Giants will spend, meaning general manager Dan O'Dowd will have to get creative if Kazuo Matsui and Yorvit Torrealba find bigger paydays elsewhere.
The Rockies would rather not hand the catching job to Chris Iannetta, so they'll look into free agents Paul Lo Duca, Jason Kendall and Michael Barrett. Ian Stewart, 22, is a third baseman by trade, but gets first crack at second base. Should he win the job, the Rockies' infield will read like the linebackers in a 3-4 defense: Stewart is 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Helton is 6-2, 210, Tulowitzki is 6-3, 210 and Atkins is 6-3, 215.
Jason Hirsh and Franklin Morales could win rotation spots in spring training, but O'Dowd is looking for a veteran starter to buy one or both of them more time. The Rockies have been rumored to have interest in Mike Maroth and Brett Tomko and could talk to the White Sox about their surplus of starters. Tomko was very close to signing with the Rockies in September before accepting an offer from the Padres.
Back in June and July, there was a sense Atkins could be had in a trade. Stewart appeared ready – or close – to take over at third and the Rockies believed Atkins could bring pitching help. However, the reality of the Matt Holliday situation – MVP-like numbers, free agency two seasons away, Scott Boras representation – forced the Rockies to reconsider.
Management would love to work out a long-term extension to keep Holliday in Denver, but that's not how Boras works. A year from now, O'Dowd probably will have to consider swinging a big trade – as the Rangers did with Mark Teixeira – for Holliday.
A name you won't hear much about this winter is Helton's, a recent regular in winter and deadline trade rumors. While the Rockies owe Helton about $74 million through 2012 (including the '12 buyout), that kind of payout looks much better on a winner.