December 2009

Reports: Betancourt will stay

Tracy Ringolsby and Jon Paul Morosi of are reporting that righty Rafael Betancourt will accept the Rockies’ arbitration offer. The Brewers emerged as a team that had interest, but were scared off by the fact they’ll have to compensate the Rockies with an early pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. Betancourt is a Type A free agent.

Playing some first base could help Hawpe

Brad Hawpe was primarily a first baseman at LSU, with Todd Helton entrenched as the Rockies’ first baseman Hawpe had to make a change. Hawpe used hard work to become a right fielder, and a productive one. Not only has he been one of the most productive offensive players at his position (last year’s second-half slump notwithstanding), but he developed one of the National League’s best throwing arms from right.

But general manager Dan O’Dowd’s statement that Hawpe could play first base to spell Helton on some days is an idea whose time has come. O’Dowd told the Denver Post, “He’s a legitimate alternative.”

Hawpe has an imposing physique, but that can come at a price in the outfield. There is a wear and tear that goes with covering those distances, making the dives and hitting the walls. With manager Jim Tracy riding Hawpe almost daily as the team climbed out of its early-season hole, he wasn’t rested as much as he needed to be. The physical pounding showed late in the year.

Helton will continue to be the primary first baseman, and he’s a hard guy to sit. But putting Hawpe at first on occasion, then resting him in the outfield on other days, could preserve both players.

The Draft is never far from the Rockies’ minds

The Rockies’ decision to offer free-agent right-hander Rafael Betancourt came as no surprise. Offering right-handed starter Jason Marquis arbitration could be considered one. But, remember how the Rockies were built.

Certainly, the Rockies could end up paying Betancourt $5 million if he accepts, but the club understands that it might have to open the checkbook a little for a proven righty reliever. However, if he rejects, the Rockies will get a first- or second-round choice in 2010 from the club that signs him, and will receive a compensation choice, often called a “sandwich pick,” between the first and second rounds.

Marquis is seeking a big-dollar, multi-year contract, so rejecting arbitration is the likely route. If that deal isn’t out there, he can still negotiate with the Rockies.

Marquis is a Type B free agent, which means the Rockies will receive a sandwich pick. Considering that in many important games the last three years the entire starting team was either drafted or signed by the club, that’s no small issue. It’s how the Rockies can maintain a competitive club despite a tight payroll.