Rockies have shown ability to create winner
Colorado plans for future with Tulowitzki, CarGo deals
The Colorado Rockies have taken the fundamentally necessary steps toward assuring their competitive future. These are not inexpensive steps, but they make all the sense in the world.
After signing shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to a seven-year, $134 million contract extension in November, the Rockies announced on Tuesday that they have signed outfielder Carlos Gonzalez to a seven-year deal worth $80 million.
Thus, the Rockies have committed $214 million to two players, but there is no overstating the worth of these two players. Plus, Tulowitzki is 26 and Gonzalez is 25. These are not cases of a club being forced by the market into contracts that are simply too long, extending well beyond projected career peaks and common sense. These are obviously large contracts, but sane and sensible in that they cover the primes of both of these careers but don't extend into middle age.
The Gonzalez contract registers as a small surprise in one way. Gonzalez's agent is Scott Boras. The typical career path for a star player with that representation who is not playing for a big-market team is to go to free agency. But Gonzalez would not be eligible for free agency until 2014. With this deal, he gets a major payday well before he would be eligible for free agency, but on the other side, the Rockies get the security of having him under contract for seven years. And they get him at a price that is, on an annual basis, reasonable by the standards of the contemporary market.
Tulowitzki's value to this club has already been demonstrated. And the Rockies have already demonstrated, through the $134 million contract, that they fully appreciate that value. But Gonzalez had a 2010 season that was nothing short of brilliant.
Gonzalez was obtained from Oakland in the Matt Holliday trade in November 2008. And the more Gonzalez develops, the better this deal takes on legendary status for the Rockies. Manager Jim Tracy demonstrated the necessary patience with Gonzalez in 2009, and that patience was rewarded with Gonzalez playing a major role in the Rockies' remarkable surge.
In 2010, Gonzalez achieved stardom. He took the National League batting title with a .336 average, won a Gold Glove, had 34 homers and 117 RBIs, was second in the league with a .598 slugging percentage and was third in OPS, at .974. He finished third in the NL MVP balloting, behind Joey Votto and Albert Pujols. This was understandable, considering Pujols' overall status and Votto's Reds winning their division, but it could be easily argued that Gonzalez had a season as impressive as anyone in the NL in 2010. His peers voted him as the Majors' Most Outstanding Player in the Players Choice Awards.
Indisputably, Gonzalez has become an impact player. In combination with Tulowitzki, he offers the Rockies a foundation of talent around which long-term success can be built.
These two signings do not come with money-back guarantees of success. In the NL West alone, the Rockies will have to compete with the Giants, whose pitching was strong enough to carry them to the 2010 World Series championship. The Padres also have pitching in quality and quantity, and even with the loss of Adrian Gonzalez, this makes them a difficult opponent. The Dodgers have a considerable amount of talent, as well as major financial resources. One can envision them, with their ownership resolved in a post-divorce-settlement world, once again being perennial postseason contenders.
But the Rockies have demonstrated their own ability to build a winning organization. They have done what franchises that are not the New York Yankees must do -- build a strong organizational foundation in scouting and player development, bring up their own prospects through the system and then make astute acquisitions whenever possible. In those two categories, respectively, we find Tulowitzki and Gonzalez.
In contemporary baseball, spending a large amount of money is no longer news, but spending a large amount of money wisely can still be a newsworthy development. The Colorado Rockies have given themselves a chance for long-term success by correctly identifying two of the best young players in the game and then spending the necessary resources to maintain their services.
This is not only good news for Tulowitzki and Gonzalez, but good news for the entire Colorado franchise and all of its fans.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.