Scouting the NL West: Colorado

The San Diego Padres had explored a trade for Preston Wilson during the offseason but money was a big issue for the Friars. They instead went with Dave Roberts, a much cheaper alternative. The Rockies have lost two of their better hitters and could be at the bottom of the NL West in 2005.

There was talk of a complete overhaul of the Colorado Rockies this offseason and for the most part that has been true. The top two run producers on the team, Jeromy Burnitz and Vinny Castilla, are gone. There was even exploration into trading the RBI king of 2003, Preston Wilson but injuries and $12 million have kept that from becoming a reality. Lefty Danny Neagle's tumultuous tenure with the Rockies also came to an end and the Rockies could be looking at a lineup filled with youth and hunger in 2005.

Colorado went into the offseason with a number of needs but money concerns, they have $50 million going to six players and four of those are no longer on the team, have limited their options. The team is moving closer on a deal to sign Dustin Mohr and he will immediately move into right field as an everyday player. This is not the deal that many expected as past seasons have seen established Major Leaguers hop on board for a season of rejuvenation with the Rox. They will also announce the signing of Desi Relaford in the near future but roster implications must be finalized before the announcements can be made. One move that would open up a roster spot is trading Charles Johnson to Tampa Bay, a deal which has been discussed for the last three weeks.

The only juggling of note among the pitching staff was moving Shawn Chacon back to into the starting rotation after a failed attempt to convert him to a closer. It is tough to project how the pitchers will fare in the unfriendly confines of Coors Field and it is also unwise to say this is the strength of the club but they do have several pitchers who now have experience in the rarified air. They will have to find someone who can fill the void left by Shawn Estes and his 15 wins. Joe Kennedy is someone to keep an eye on. His home ERA of 3.59 was better than his road ERA (3.73). Who will close for this club remains anyone's guess.

There simply wasn't a budget to fix all that ails Colorado this offseason. Next year, the Rockies will only have the big contract of superstar Todd Helton on the books and can make a run at a few players if they deem it necessary.

This year they want to find out about several rookies. Four positions could be filled by first-year players with Brad Hawpe the most exciting addition. He hit 31 homers in Triple-A, but the addition of Mohr threatens to take at bats from him. The Rockies would like to move J.D. Closser into the catcher spot, Garrett Atkins will take over at third and Clint Barnes will start at shortstop. Relaford could take one of those spots but figures to be the top infield reserve with his ability to play multiple positions.

Colorado may find it tough to improve upon, or even match, their 68-win season in 2004 but if they can establish a core of young players in 2005 and sprinkle in some veterans in the future, this could be a team that can make some waves down the road.

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