The owners of the Colorado Rockies have spent the last decade avoiding big-time contracts. It’s a strategy that has, arguably, produced the best stretch in Rockies history.
For all of the rumblings within the fan base over the last nine-plus years, at least the Rockies’ national media time has not been occupied by chortling sportscasters bemused by another failed, high-priced pitcher coming to Colorado to die a slow career death. The 2007 run to the World Series was followed by a disappointing 2008, but the 2009 Rockies that were knocked off by the Phillies may have actually been the most well-rounded baseball club that Colorado has ever produced.
With the signings this week of closer Huston Street and reliever Rafael Betancourt, Colorado is a step closer to becoming a consistent playoff contender. You read that right; the Monforts are paying for pitching again. Both players received multi-year contracts. That’s another departure from the norm for the Rockies’ front office.
Street is locked up through 2011. The primary loot garnered from the Matt Holiday trade that sent the soon-to-be-pricey slugger to Oakland, Huston will receive $22.5 million for the trouble of playing bullpen sweeper. Betancourt will pocket $7.55 million over the course of his two-year deal.
Last week the Rockies were shelling out $3.25 million to lock up a utility outfielder for two seasons. Ryan “Spilly” Spillborghs has officially become more than a fan favorite with a penchant for stellar defense. Now he’s a well-paid fan favorite with a penchant for stellar defense.
The Rockies backed up that signing with a one-year deal to retain outrageously talented left-handed starter Jorge de la Rosa. His $6.5 million deal is probably the biggest re-signing of the off-season. At times last year, Jorge was the Rockies’ best pitcher. And barring a late-season injury in Hell-A, de la Rosa would have been a series-changer versus the left-heavy Phillies.
Now we see the normally tight wallets of the Monfort brothers opening up for key closer Street and trade-deadline acquisition Betancourt.
In a league that puts the onus on small markets to invent ways to make money, the Rockies have carved out a place for themselves. It all starts with farmed pitching that feeds off of a heavy Central & South American recruiting network. But the Rockies have also brought up a litany of talented North American hitters since the front office stopped spending money after the 2001 season.
In fact, every likely Rockies starting fielder for next season came up through Colorado’s farm system, with the noteworthy exception of Carlos Gonzalez. (Dexter Fowler, Brad Hawpe, Seth Smith, Troy Tulowitzki, Clint Barmes, Todd Helton & Chris Iannetta. Not to mention Spilly, EYJ & Stewie.)
Thing is, Cargo is only in Colorado through the trading of the Rockies’ most trade-worthy, farm-produced commodity since Todd Helton. The same savvy deal that shipped overly expensive defensive liability Holiday to the Athletics and brought Street to the Rockies also netted the struggling but talented Gonzalez.
Cargo opened up a can of whoopass in the late stages of the 2009 season. Now the Monforts have opened up a can of cash to fund their rising Rockies.