This is part of a series of posts wherein we belittle teams for their bewildering offseason buffoonery, or else extol them their their excellent preseason exploits.

The Rockies’ moves this offseason ooze competence. After making a surprising run to the NL Wild Card berth last season, thanks to the emergence of young stars like 3B Ian Stewart (25 homers), LF Seth Smith (124 OPS+), and CF Dexter Fowler (27 SB), plus the reemergence of former stars like Troy Tulowitzki (32 homers) and Todd Helton (.325 avg), the Rockies found themselves in a bit of a bind this offseason, with ownership unwilling to raise payroll, but natural increases due to arbitration-eligible players scheduled to put them at or over last year’s $75 million payroll before they even made a single move.

General manager Dan O’Dowd and the Rockies front office nevertheless did the best they could with limited resources, saving some money by cutting ties with a bunch of pitchers like Alan Embree, Joe Beimel, and Josh Fogg, selling Matt Murton to Japan for cash, and letting Jason Marquis, Garrett Atkins, and Yorvit Torrealba walk as free agents, and then turning around and signing Melvin Mora (1 year, $1.3M) to back up at third base, Miguel Olivo (1 year, $2M) to push Chris Ianetta at catcher, and re-signing Jason Giambi (1 year, $1.75M) to back up Helton at first base.

These are nice little deals in that the Rockies get experienced veterans who provide experience off the bench and can step into a starting role if needed, but without committing to any big, multi-year contracts. These are not just journeymen bench-riders either, as all three of these players began 2009 as full-time players. Olivo, in particular, had a nice little year for the Royals, slugging 23 homers as a catcher. Although his career .272 OPB is still as putrid as ever, it will be fun to see how many dingers he can hit in Coors Field should he somehow win the starting job.

The Rockies also looked ahead and signed several of their young players out of arbitration years, locking up closer Huston Street to a 3-year deal, inking Ianetta to a 3-year deal with a team option for a fourth year, and signing outfielder Ryan Spilborghs to a 2 year pact. All of these deals are at very reasonable prices, although the one move I didn’t like was resigning Spilborghs. The Rockies seem committed to wasting even more at-bats on him despite his definitively proving last season that he cannot be counted on to pull his weight at the plate if given more than a handful of plate appearances.

Overall, none of these moves will awe you, but the Rockies quietly went about excising a bunch of dead weight while making small improvements and planning ahead for the future when they will be free of horrible contracts to Brad Hawpe and Todd Helton, by locking up some young talent at reasonable prices.

The only real loss was starting pitcher Jason Marquis, whom the Rockies could not afford to keep, but it remains to be seen whether he is really as good as he seemed last season or whether it was all a fluke, and in any case Jeff Francis will be coming back from shoulder surgery to take his place in the rotation so the Rockies might not miss a beat.

One does wish that ownership might have opened up the wallet a bit more to really build some momentum off of a 92-win season, but they did increase payroll by $5 million this season, to slightly north of $80 million, and with the Dodgers in disarray, the Giants still GM’d by Brian Sabean, and the Rockies in possession of a strong, youthful core, it might just be enough to take the division.

Offseason Grade: B

Acquisitions: 3B Melvin Mora, C Miguel Olivo

Losses: SP Jason Marquis, 3B Garrett Atkins, C Yorvit Torrealba, RP Joe Beimel, RP Alan Embree, OF Matt Murton, RP Matt Herges, SP Jose Contreras, SP Josh Fogg

Projected Lineup, Rotation, and Closer

C – Chris Ianetta
1B – Todd Helton
2B – Clint Barmes
3B – Ian Stewart
SS – Troy Tulowitzki
LF – Seth Smith
CF – Dexter Fowler/Carlos Gonzalez
RF – Brad Hawpe

SP1 – Ubaldo Jimenez
SP2 – Aaron Cook
SP3 – Jeff Francis
SP4 – Jorge De La Rosa
SP5 – Jason Hammel

CL – Huston Street

– Hot Offseason Action Index –

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