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Monday, November 5, 2007
Updated: November 7, 3:06 PM ET
Adding playoff-tested starter could help Rockies

By John Shea
Special to ESPN.com

The Rockies were the 2007 Cinderella team, going from last place in the National League West to posting the league's best record after May 22 and winning 21 of 22 games in September and October, including playoff sweeps of the Phillies and Diamondbacks.

COLORADO ROCKIES
Rockies GM: Dan O'Dowd
Manager: Clint Hurdle
'07 record: 90-73, 2nd NL West
'07 payroll: $54.4M, 25th MLB
Runs scored: 860, 2nd NL
Runs allowed: 758, 8th NL
OPS: .791, 2nd NL
ERA: 4.32, 8th NL
Fielding percentage: .989, 1st NL
They fell down to earth in the World Series, but the Rockies far exceeded even their own expectations. In the end, two keys were homegrown talent and a humidor.

Primary needs

They had the league's best batting average and fielding percentage, and their staff ERA was middle of the road. Not bad for a team playing a mile above sea level. But this organization needs to keep pursuing pitchers who are capable of succeeding at Coors Field.

It's possible the Rockies will need to replace second baseman Kaz Matsui and catcher Yorvit Torrealba, both of whom are free agents. The bullpen needs to be addressed, as well. Brian Fuentes struggled in big moments, including the World Series, and Matt Herges and Jeremy Affeldt are both free agents.

Yorvit Torrealba

Torrealba

Free agents

RHP Josh Fogg, 2B Kaz Matsui, C Yorvit Torrealba, RHP Matt Herges and LHP Jeremy Affeldt.

The payroll was $54 million and could top $70 million; many key players are eligible for arbitration, including Matt Holliday, Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe, Willy Taveras and Fuentes.

The Rockies might not be overly active in free agency, but they could use a playoff-tested starter in the wake of getting overmatched in the World Series.

Trade bait

The left-handed Fuentes, who lost his closer's role to Manny Corpas and is due for a big raise via arbitration, could be dealt along with Atkins, who has topped .300 the past two years while collecting 54 homers and 231 RBIs.

Atkins could be replaced at third base by Ian Stewart, though Stewart focused on playing second base in the instructional league.

Farm aid

If Matsui isn't re-signed and Stewart doesn't convert to second, the position could be inherited by sure-handed prospect Jayson Nix. Seth Smith, who made the final out of the World Series, had just eight regular-season at-bats in the majors.

Franklin Morales

Morales

Another World Series participant, pitcher Franklin Morales, had just eight starts. Greg Reynolds could compete for a starting job, and converted reliever Juan Morillo could be part of a rebuilt bullpen.

Outlook

GM Dan O'Dowd said that the Rockies' core will remain intact, but it's hardly an issue because the core players are young and under the team's contractual control.

Only two regulars were in their 30s: Todd Helton and Matsui. The team doesn't need to make major moves, but it'll help to add experienced arms to the rotation and bullpen.

John Shea is the national baseball writer for the San Francisco Chronicle.