About a month ago I was approached through this blog to participate in a GM-only Strat-O-Matic baseball league (The Franchise League) as one owner to take over a MLB franchise as of January 1. The objective is to act as that team’s general manager and make trades, sign free agents, release players and work within a salary cap of $100 million payroll.

As a fantasy baseball junkie for years, I jumped at the opportunity. This was something right up my alley that I planned on getting involved in sooner or later. Unfortunately the Pirates franchise was already taken by the time I was asked, so I went with the ol’ Colorado Rockies. My primary reason for taking them over was I like their young players and they still had about $30 mil to work with under the cap.

We went live at the new year and since then there’s been a plethora of trades, and I’m talking about a shit ton of deals. I quietly made a couple deals myself that helped turn my rotation into one of the best in the league…in my opinion at least. If you are interested in reading up on the league, here’s the link to the TFL Constitution. And if you’re interested in possibly joining the league yourself in the future, contact me on my email to the right or through the comments section. There’s currently a small waiting list, but some owners have dropped out due to lack of free time to properly run a team.

Anyway, the following is a write-up by my fictional beat writer—Xander Force. I’ll continue to post my updates from The Franchise League throughout the year to see how my version of the Rockies are doing in a salary cap world. Here’s the Rockies outlook for 2011…

 

Rockies focus on pitching this offseason
By: Xander Force

DENVER (AP) – Just one month into Ryan Alexander’s reign as Colorado Rockies owner in The Franchise League, it’s easy to decode his number one philosophy—pitching is paramount.

While the majority of TFL owners were busy turning their entire 40-man roster upside down, the Rockies didn’t panic and methodically made a couple of under-the-radar type trades to quietly put together one of the best rotations in the league.

Strapped with RHP Aaron Cook’s $10 million contract, the Rockies shipped him out-of-town while bringing in RHP Matt Garza and LHP John Danks in separate moves. The Garza deal cost the most as Alexander had to give up perennial All-Star player Troy Tulowitski to acquire Garza from the Rays. Then shortly after picking up RHP Justin Masterson in a small deal with the Phillies, the Rockies turned around and dealt Masterson and others to the Twins for Danks.

Danks (15-11, 3.72) and Garza (15-10, 3.91) will join RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (19-8, 2.88), LHP Jorge De la Rosa (8-7, 4.22) and one of the best young pitches in the game in RHP Jhoulys Chacin (9-11, 3.28) in what should be a loaded five-man rotation in 2011. As for the bullpen, RP Huston Street will be in Colorado once again to close the door on Rockies opponents with Matt Lindstrom serving as the setup man. Manny Delcarmen, Matt Belisle, Michael Dunn and free agent pickups Todd Coffey and J.C. Romero appear to be the other arms to round out the Rockies pen in the upcoming season.

As for the lineup, the loss of Tulowitski will hurt in terms of power and leadership, but the Rockies made a couple of moves to solidify the top of their order. They picked up Japanese star Ichiro Suzuki, who is coming off his 10th straight 200-hit season, in a trade with San Diego to pick up hits at the top of the order. Alexander also answered the big hole at shortstop with Tulo leaving town and dealt infielders Eric Young Jr and Reid Brinac for Phillies All-Star Jimmy Rollins. The former Phillies star will most likely bat second behind Ichiro and in front of budding star Carlos Gonzalez.

Free agent pickup Ty Wigginton slugged 22 home runs in 2010, and the Rockies will be banking on that power and more in the four hole as he will split time at third base and first as he spells longtime Rockies first baseman Todd Helton. Wigginton figures to get a lot of time at first due to Helton’s age and the fact that Ian Stewart needs to see the field a lot this year at third base. Speedy center fielder Dexter Fowler was slated to lead off the season, but will now most likely drop in the order behind the heavy bats thanks to the acquisition of Ichiro and Rollins. Catcher Chris Iannetta will look to have a rebound year deep in the lineup with him or 2B Jose Lopez rounding out the eight hitters in front of the pitcher. A dark horse in this lineup could the extra power at the bottom of the order from Lopez, who needs to revert back to his 2009 where he belted 29 home runs for the Mariners. A change of scenery, especially the thin air in Coors Field may be just what Lopez needs to bounce back.

The outlook for this season will depend heavily on the rotation. If healthy, the Rockies own one of the best young rotations in TFL and the most talented staff in the NL West division. If Colorado can find the necessary power from the Wigginton/Stewart/Helton trifecta, this team should be right there in the division and/or wildcard hunt all season. See below for the Rockies projected rotation, bullpen and lineup.

Starting rotation:
1. Ubaldo Jimenez
2. Jon Danks (L)
3. Matt Garza
4. Jorge de la Rosa (L)
5. Jhoulys Chacin

Bullpen:
Closer: Huston Street
Setup: Matt Lindstrom
Middle Relief: Manny Delcarmen
Middle Relief: Matt Belisle
Middle Relief: Todd Coffey
Middle Relief: Michael Dunn (L)
Lefty Spec: J.C. Romero (L)

Lineup:
Ichiro Suzuki – RF
Jimmy Rollins – SS
Carlos Gonzalez – LF
Ty Wigginton/Ian Stewart – 3B
Todd Helton – 1B
Dexter Fowler – CF
Chris Iannetta – C
Jose Lopez – 2B

Pitcher spot

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