Rox confident in plan entering Meetings
Team won't spend big in free agency, will fill from within
DENVER -- The Rockies got all of the excitement out of their system during their late regular-season run and in the National League playoffs. They didn't save much for baseball's upcoming Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn.
The Rockies built a National League championship team by leaning heavily on player development and making below-the-radar trades and free-agency decisions. The strategy isn't going to change just because representatives of all the clubs are in one place.
Going to their first World Series has not made the Rockies complacent, general manager Dan O'Dowd said.
"In this business, either you're humbled or about to be humbled," O'Dowd said. "We realize how special 2007 was for us, but to repeat it we've got a ton of work to do. We just have to approach it on the basis of who we are. We're still a scouting-based and development-based organization. We like free agency, but not to the point that it impedes our ability to hold onto our players, or that it impedes the progress of our players."
O'Dowd's statement means:
As has been the case since the Rockies paid $172.5 million for pitchers Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle going into 2001 and experienced immediate buyer's remorse, the Rockies will stay out of the running for the headliner free agents.
There's no basis to fear that the Rockies will go cheap and deal away some of their young stars now that several of them have hit their arbitration years. O'Dowd spent the early part of the General Managers Meetings in Orlando, Fla., telling teams third baseman Garrett Atkins, in his first arbitration year, is not available in a trade. O'Dowd said the Rockies can fit all their arbitration-eligible players into the 2008 budget.
Though the Rockies will lose out on some of their free agents, they don't necessarily have to rush to fill the void. They've had success filling their pitching needs closer to Spring Training, when successful pitchers often can be had at bargain prices.
Also, after being forced to look within their system when injuries or performance issues dictated changes in 2007 and coming up with gems, they have the option of not shopping at all.
A good example of the Rockies being able to replenish themselves is at second base.
With Kazuo Matsui's signing with the Astros, internal options are Jamey Carroll, who hit .300 in 2006 before tailing off badly in 2007, and organization products Omar Quintanilla, Clint Barmes, Jeff Baker, Ian Stewart and Jayson Nix. Even if the Rockies look outside, the presence of such in-house options means they don't have to spend big dollars or give a long-term contract.
"Anything we lose ... we're in a position where we can potentially fill the spot internally," O'Dowd said. "We obviously have some starting pitching depth issues, but if we had to start the season today, we know who our five starters would be. With the bullpen, we'd like to add some experience in there, and we certainly would like to bring Matt and LaTroy back.
"But looking at the market, some of the contracts that have been signed have been rather large. We're comfortable with our strategy and who we are, and that's not going to change just because we made the playoffs."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.