Editor’s note: Yahoo! Sports will examine the offseason of every MLB team before spring training begins in mid-February. Our series continues with the Colorado Rockies.
2012 record: 64-98
Finish: Fifth place, NL West
2012 final payroll: $84.2 million
Estimated 2013 opening day payroll: $73 million
Yahoo! Sports offseason rank: 27th
Hashtags: #projectfail #rudderless #applemaps #insulting #mashedpotatoelbow #waaaaaaaaalt #ughmanagement #purpleweed #humidorofbaddecisions #why75pitches
Nothing exposes a franchise floating in the ether quite like an offseason of curiosity and indecision, of maneuvers unmade and ill-fated. To call the Rockies a rudderless ship at this moment would be an insult to rudders. This is a ship with a hole the width of its bow.
Walt Weiss may turn out to be a perfectly good manager. He is, by many accounts, a good leader, and the Mike Matheny-Robin Ventura double-shot of neophyte success last season emboldened the Rockies to pluck Weiss from his position as a high school coach. The daily grind, the media obligations, the interpersonal relations – he did all that as a player, and having spent seven seasons as a Rockies special assistant, he understands the organization.
If Weiss is so promising, then, and if he is the man under whom the Rockies expect to crawl out from the rubble of the worst season in franchise history, how can they possibly rationalize offering him a one-year contract? This is not a manager fighting for his job after substandard performance; this is a manager starting a job, and starting a year after the team's starting pitchers put up a collective 5.81 ERA, a problem the Rockies have addressed with aggression this offseason. And by aggression, we mean they re-signed Jeff Francis, who brought down the rotation's overall numbers with his 5.58 ERA.
Otherwise, this Rockies offseason has consisted of some thumb-twiddling, a couple of missed free agents and a trade of potential consequence. When considering whether to trade center fielder Dexter Fowler, coming off his breakout season, the Rockies asked for multiple pitchers in return or a disproportionate return, like Kris Medlen. The Rockies considered going three years on reliever Mike Adams before watching him sign with Philadelphia.
In their biggest deal, Colorado gave up Alex White, one of the centerpieces of the mutually awful Ubaldo Jimenez deal, for relief pitcher Wilton Lopez, who was on his way to Philadelphia until doctors looked at his elbow and wondered whether ligaments or mashed potatoes held it together. His MRI passed muster for the Rockies, and if indeed he remains healthy, it's a savvy move for general manager … oh, might as well start there when discussing the Rockies' long-term prognosis.
Dan O'Dowd is the Rockies' general manager, only he doesn't manage the Rockies. Bill Geivett is the Rockies' senior VP of major league operations, which means he operates the major league team without control over the vital minor league system. The GM-by-committee system, much like the closer-by-committee system, could work if in the right hands. These are not the right hands.
The Rockies are a humidor full of bad decisions, from not budging on the price of their surplus everyday players to Project 5,183, O'Dowd's plan aimed at solving the perils of pitching in Denver. That the Rockies commissioned such an endeavor is in and of itself a good thing, and that they considered the merits of a four-man rotation even more so. Limiting those four pitchers to just 75 pitches, however, ultimately proved ineffective. And not just because the four pitchers they happened to use were no good.
O'Dowd enters his 13th season, and in that time, the Rockies have all of five seasons from pitchers with more than four Wins Above Replacement: Joe Kennedy in 2004, Jason Jennings in '06, Aaron Cook in '08 and Jimenez in '09 and '10. The only teams with fewer such seasons are Pittsburgh, San Diego and Baltimore, and, well, you can see the sort of company the Rockies keep.
No question: It is difficult to develop pitching in Colorado's thin air. And that's a shame, because – this sounds so 1998 – it's the only thing holding back the Rockies from success. A core of Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Fowler and Wilin Rosario is a really, really good place to start. Among Todd Helton, Jordan Pacheco, Chris Nelson and soon-to-arrive prospect Nolan Arenado, they've got a mish-mash of options at first and third base.
Where Michael Cuddyer and his remaining two years and $21 million fit in here is not abundantly evident. For a team that will score runs, he is surplus value – the sort that, at a reasonable salary for his offensive production, would bring something back in a trade. Still, the Rockies are disinclined to do so, and considering the state of their rotation now – Jhoulys Chacin, the recovering Jorge de la Rosa and Juan Nicasio, Francis and one of the Drew Pomeranz-Tyler Chatwood-Christian Friedrich triumvirate – not trading hitting for pitching is active malice.
It's not like there's much coming, either. The closest thing the Rockies have to pitching prospects are the low-upside Tyler Anderson and Edwar Cabrera. And if the payroll shearing stays consistent, Tulowitzki and Gonzalez could take up a combined half of the Rockies' budget by 2015. Whether both remain in a Rockies uniform by then is one of far too many questions surrounding a franchise that bumbled its way from the 2007 World Series to the bottom of the sport in half a decade.
Ultimately, the leadership vacuum goes to the top of the franchise, where Rockies owner Dick Monfort allows his business to traipse along as if guided by Apple Maps. Inefficiencies are rife throughout baseball; management structure is not one of those inefficiencies. Organizations are big, unwieldy and best served by one person overseeing them. Perhaps because Monfort has run his family business with his brother Charlie he is warm to the idea of co-CEOs. It will not work in baseball, and the sooner Dick Monfort recognizes that, the sooner the Rockies will come to not wasting Tulowitzki and Gonzalez's prime years.
Now that weed's legal
Rockies plan: grow revenues
Through "Purple Cheese" strain
Other popular content on the Yahoo! network:
• Wizards' John Wall returns to Wizards practice, impresses
• Irish's Everett Golson looks to follow AJ McCarron's path
• NHL, NHLPA reportedly agree on CBA term
• Y! Shine: Bikinis going out of style