Rockies make off-season deals

Dec 20, 2005 2:49 AM

No offense to Yorvit Torrealba, but acquiring the ex-San Francisco Giants backup catcher in the offseason won’t exactly shake the Rocky Mountains.

But then that’s why the Colorado Rockies are 85-1 at Caesars Palace to win the National League pennant and 175-1 to capture the 2006 World Series. No need to rush on those Series futures. The Rockies opened at 150-1, so patience backers! It could be 200-1 by the time the first pitch is thrown in early April.

While the megabucks franchise vultures pick apart the Florida Marlins like a pinata, the Rockies have stayed within their Happy Hour beer money budget. Management is pushing hard to avoid another April collapse that has set the tone in recent years for long, losing campaigns. Good luck.

All that said, the Rockies might just be a enticing futures risk to win the NL West. Even though Colorado finished last, no team in the division had a better record after the All Star break.

Yes eternal optimists, there are some silver bullet linings in those Coors clouds. Matt Holliday (.307, 19 HR, 87 RBI in just 125 games) could be the cleanup hitter the Rockies have longed for since the glory days of Larry Walker, Dante Bichette and Vinny Castillo in the late ’90s.

At 25, Holliday leads a corps of solid home grown talent all in the same age range. Todd Helton is a perennial All-Star, who is in his prime at 31. The pitching staff is nearly as large as the Broncos, with the big six averaging 6-foot-4, 230 pounds.

Relief specialist Ray King, coming over from St. Louis, is a major addition to the bullpen. The stocky southpaw, at 6-1, 240, has a 1.08 ERA in 12 career appearances at Coors Field. King and right-hander Mike DeJean should be a nice setup duo for closer Brian Fuentes (31 saves in 34 chances).

The Rockies also blend All-Star first baseman Todd Helton (age 31) with the youth (average age 26) of coming stars Clint Barmes , Cory Sullivan, Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe and Holliday. Barmes led the NL in homers and average in April until an injury sidelined him for much of the season. Atkins (.287, 13 HR, 89 RBI) won NL Player of the Month honors last season.

Crafty left-hander Jeff Francis (14-12) is the ace for a much-maligned pitching staff that has to deal with playing in "Coors Canaveral" — baseball’s most hitter friendly ballpark.

High priced free agents like Johnny Damon and Jacque Jones are still available, but don’t expect any to wind up with the Rockies. Manager Clint Hurdle will have to settle with the cards he’s been dealt.

If you’re a gambler, the Rockies may just be your team despite ownership’s tight pockets and looking up in the standings from the cellar.