I was actually just coming here to put up the article in which Monfort admits that the Rockies are going to be a farm team for the rest of the league. I'll do so anyway.
As Rockies fans braced for Todd Helton's potential exit this week, there was a bit of good news. ESPN.com ranked Colorado's farm system the second best in baseball. The reality, according to owner Charlie Monfort, is that the Rockies have no choice but to continue to develop young talent because they are not going to be able to keep it.
Failing to move a large chunk of Helton's contract to Boston - as unpopular as it may have been - leaves the Rockies in a difficult position as they try to retain young talent such as pitcher Aaron Cook, closer Brian Fuentes and, most notably, all-star outfielder Matt Holliday beyond this year.
Unless, that is, ownership greatly expands payroll, which it has shown no desire to do.
"It makes it tough. But who knows what's going to happen?" Monfort said. "People are already saying that we are not staying with homegrown guys (because of the Jason Jennings trade). But when we say we are going to stick with them, that doesn't mean through thick and thin for 12 to 14 years.
"That means you keep them while you can go through arbitration and hope that you have somebody coming behind them to take their place because, quite frankly, in this market we can't afford that. If people want to say that we are a minor-league team for the Yankees and somebody is going to pick Matt off for $14 (million) a year (as a free agent), so be it."
Holliday, 27, isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2009 season. Until then, the team can go year-to-year in salary arbitration, as they did this season, but his salary could be expected to take huge swings upward, as it did this winter. Holliday will make $4.4 million this year, and with Helton ($16.6 million), pitcher Rodrigo Lopez ($4.325 million), Fuentes ($3.5 million) and Cook ($3.05 million) will constitute $31.8 million of the projected $55 million payroll, or 58 percent.
Allocating a high percentage of payroll to 20 percent of the roster is not conducive to producing a championship team. The Rockies were motivated to explore trading Helton to create more financial flexibility and address multiple needs. Helton, who has a no-trade clause in his contract, has squashed trade talks after they died this week.
With the Rockies' payroll in the bottom third of baseball, it's going to get more difficult to keep young players as they hit arbitration and free agency.
Fuentes, Holliday, third baseman Garrett Atkins, outfielder Brad Hawpe and possibly Cook - the team can exercise a buyout if he doesn't reach 187 1/3 innings - will be eligible for arbitration after this season, and pitcher Jeff Francis will earn $3 million next year as part of a new four-year contract.
As a result, the Rockies could be forced to make hard decisions, similar to the one faced when they traded Jennings, their No. 1 starter, this offseason to Houston for three young players, after failing to agree on a long-term contract.
"They have made a pretty strong statement with their payroll," Holliday said. "If the payroll remains status quo, it's clear that logistically some of us aren't going to be around."
The Rockies were burned by their monster contracts to Mike Hampton, Denny Neagle and Larry Walker years ago. Starting in 2004, the Rockies tried to reinvent themselves, adopting a small-payroll model perfected by the Oakland A's and Minnesota Twins, teams that frown on long-term deals. Those teams have advanced to the playoffs seven times in the past five years with average payrolls since 2000 that ranked 23rd (Minnesota) and 24th (Oakland), respectively.
Most teams with consistently similar payrolls and financial resources have failed. Tampa Bay has never been to the playoffs. Colorado last appeared in 1995, while Pittsburgh (1992), Kansas City (1985) and Milwaukee (1982) have suffered droughts. All have tried to rebuild through youth.
"If you don't have a lot of money, you might be able to put it together with some real good young players and mix in free agents here or there," said Tony La Russa, manager of the world champion St. Louis Cardinals. "But it's pretty hard to sustain it because as soon as those young guys start making money you can't afford to keep them."
That's the growing concern among Rockies fans regarding Holliday, who hit .326 with 34 home runs and 114 RBIs last season. If the Rockies want to talk about a multiyear contract, Holliday said he'll listen, but the Rockies don't have to do anything. There have been no discussions about a multiyear contract since Holliday hired agent Scott Boras 14 months ago. Holliday takes umbrage with those who say his exit is inevitable because of Boras.
"It's ridiculous. They look at Scott and say he's bad for baseball. But he's great at what he does and he works for me," Holliday said. "It will ultimately be my decision."
Holliday's situation will be watched closely because there's never been a Rockies player like him - an all-star, homegrown outfielder who hits for average and power.
"I am happy because I know my swing now," Holliday said. "I am not guessing if I will be productive again."
Holliday has worked out extensively this winter - he weighs 235 pounds, down 5 pounds from last season - vows to be better defensively and believes the Rockies will be competitive. With whom and for how long is out of his control.
"I think a winning record is a fair goal," Holliday said. "They ultimately have to make the decisions regarding players. Until I am a free agent, I am not going to worry about it."
Just in case any of us were holding out any hope for the future, this should officially put an end to it. They've admitted that they're going to be in a never ending rebuilding mode, that they have no intention of paying anyone they actually develop and that they're fine with the idea of being a farm team for the large market franchises. It's a ****ing travesty, but that's life with the Monforts running the show.
They'll always have shills like good ol' boy Tracy Ringolsby to put their company spin on every move they make and don't make. I remember him ripping the Blue Jays fairly regularly last season for spending money in an attempt to make the Rockies penny pinching ways look good by comparison. Hey Tracy, at least the Blue Jays are trying
Well, the Rockies won't get any of my money for yet another season. I won't put a cent in their pockets until they show something resembling a commitment to winning, which doesn't appear to be anywhere on the horizon.