Spring Snapshot: Rockies enter season with powerful (and rich) pair

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Every day in spring training until we finish the entire league, Big League Stew takes a brief capsule look at each team we visit in the Grapefruit and Cactus league. Our last stop takes us back to the banks of the Salt River, where the Rockies are hoping to make plans for another Rocktober.

COLORADO ROCKIES

2010 RECORD: 83-79, third place in NL West

BIGGEST ACQUISITIONS: Most of the Rockies offseason dollars went to locking up Troy Tulowitzki (above) and Carlos Gonzalez, but fireballing reliever Matt Lindstrom was acquired for two minor leaguers in a deal with the Houston Astros. Infielder Jose Lopez will look to jumpstart his career after an awful campaign with the Mariners.

BIGGEST DEPARTURES: Catcher Miguel Olivo signed a multi-year deal with the Seattle Mariners while a duo of familiar names  — infielder Clint Barmes and pitcher Jeff Francis — are playing elsewhere this season.

FIVE QUESTIONS TO ASK ABOUT THE ROCKIES:

1. Will Tulo and CarGo be picking up the checks in every road city this season? If their teammates keep reminding them of the offseason deals they just signed, they might. The Rockies committed a total of $237 million to the young duo — 10 years and $157 million to Tulowitzki, seven years and $80 million for Gonzalez — and it's a move that now places a strong emphasis on the Rockies continuing to find and grow their own talent. Both players have a short window to cry relatively poor, though, when the check arrives at their table: The pair will "only" cost the Rockies a combined $6.5 million in 2011.  {YSP:MORE}

2. What's going on with the pitching staff? The Rockies staff ERA in 2010 ranked 12th among the 16 National League teams and that was with Ubaldo Jimenez posting a 2.88 during his Cy-like campaign in 2010. Jimenez has looked good this spring, despite a rough outing against the White Sox on Thursday, but he can't do it all by himself. The Rockies will need a big contribution from 23-year-old Jhoulys Chacin, who looked like a star in the making with a 3.28 ERA in 2010 and consistent and injury-free seasons from Jason Hammel and Jorge De La Rosa. The team is hoping the bullpen will be improved with the additions of Lindstrom and Felipe Paulino, but both pitchers have plenty to prove.


3. Is this Todd Helton's last season? Mr. Rockie turns 38 in August and he's coming the worst season of his career after hitting just eight homers and 18 doubles with a .728 OPS in 118 games. A bad back could spell the end of his career if it acts up again, but he's also signed through 2013 and he did have a great and healthy season as recently as 2009. Helton  says the team's spring training move from Tucscon to Scottsdale has been invigorating — he can now make short bus trips to get more at-bats — and he's been hitting well, too, with an average of .321 through Friday's games. The season's first two months will likely tell us a lot about Helton's future.

4. Can the Rockies put together a full season this year? Colorado made the playoffs in 2007 and 2009, but struggled to repeat in the following years because of a maddening inconsistency. (In 2008, it was a bad first half. In 2010, it was a miserable second.) A terrible beginning in 2009 also cost Clint Hurdle his job and only an unreal run took Jim Tracy and his team into October. With the world champion Giants wielding a top pitching staff in their division and the wild car never a guarantee, these Rockies probably won't have as big a margin for error. Consistency will be key from day one.

5.  Is there an odd-years playoff pattern developing? The Rockies would sure like you to believe that there's something to the 2011 squad making the playoffs after seeing the '09 and '07 teams reach "Rocktober." Check out this funny commercial that the team has been airing this spring.