Rockies pick a foolish way to break the bank

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In reading work from the Denver Post’s Troy Renck and ex-Rocky Mountain News columnist Tracy Ringolsby, I’ve seen dozens (hundreds?) of references to players being too expensive for the Rockies over these last few years. Time and time again that player set to make $6 million, $9 million or $12 million per year was labeled out of reach. It was a constant theme.

And now the Rockies have signed Michael Cuddyer for $31.5 million over three years.

In doing so, they’re replacing a 29-year-old outfielder who has hit .275/.346/.487 the last three years with a 33-year-old who has hit .276/.341/.465 over the same timespan.

Yeah, read that again.

Now, that’s not entirely fair. Seth Smith has been platooned, so his fine slash line has been compiled overwhelmingly against righties. Smith has also taken advantage of playing in Coors Field, whereas Cuddyer has been playing in a very tough environment for power hitters since Target Field opened two years ago. While Smith has the better OPS, Cuddyer has a 117-110 advantage in OPS+, which is neutralized for league and ballpark.

Still, that’s just not much of an upgrade if it is one at all. Both are subpar defenders. Smith moves around a little better than Cuddyer, but he’s never mastered the art of playing the outfield. Cuddyer offers versatility, but really, no team should want him at second or third in much less than an emergency.

The Rockies are a little better today than they were yesterday, but only a little. It seems like there had to be a better way for them to spend their $10.5 million. Trading Smith and a prospect for Martin Prado would soften the blow, giving them a legitimate upgrade at second base to go along with their lesser one in the outfield. But, really, I think it would have made more sense to use that $10.5 million per year on Edwin Jackson instead.

In their defense, the Rockies were in something of a tough spot. It’s hard for them to sign pitchers without overpaying, and their biggest needs on offense were second base and third. Excepting a weak defender in Aramis Ramirez, there were no premier free agents at either of those positions, and really, the Rockies only wanted a one-year solution at third with Nolan Arenado potentially ready in 2013.

Still, Cuddyer wasn’t the answer to any question worth asking. And next time the Rockies can’t afford someone, the $31.5 million they spent today will be a big reason why.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.