As you all know by now, Troy Tulowitzki has a broken bone in his hand and was put on the disabled list on Friday, and could be out for about six weeks.  The good news is there was no ligament damage, which would have made his time away much longer.

Now, how does a team with hopes of making a playoff run, which has been struggling to score runs, hope to keep going now that they just lost their best hitter, their clubhouse leader and their cleanup hitter? (Granted as cleanup hitters go, Tulo really isn’t that great.  Hey, nine homers on the year doesn’t scream cleanup basher, even in the post steroid era).

There are few ways. One would be to make a trade and add talent from outside the organization.  This option really doesn’t hold up.  There are few players available that would make a difference.  Plus teams looking to trade talent want to trade fading broken down players, or huge contracts that usually don’t match a players performance.  They also want to get back young, cheap prospects as well, as salary relief.  But the key in making a trade work is to UPGRADE a position over what the Rockies currently have at that position.

Complicating the matters of making a trade is at what position would the Rockies look to upgrade?  If you look at players that are under-performing, you get right fielder Brad Hawpe, first baseman in Todd Helton, and third baseman Ian Stewart.  Second base would be another obvious position.

Let’s take a look at the positions.  Right fielder Brad Hawpe was the Rockies All-Star last year. Hawpe has one more year on his contract in 2011 for $11 million dollars, but there is a club buyout of $500,000 and it’s assumed the Rockies will use that buy out.  Hawpe is a career .283 hitter, and usually finishes right around 100 RBIs and 25 home runs.  This year he’s battled injuries but he’s now batting right at his career BA at .281, but has only had four home runs.

There is no reason to upgrade right field in 2010.  There is no one available that will greatly improve over Hawpe’s numbers, assuming he goes on a hot streak and regains some power.   Next year, Hawpe will be gone, Carlos Gonzales will be in right, and Dexter Fowler will back in center field for the Rockies, and it will be a cheaper outfield, as well as a better one.

Todd Helton has been awful this year, there is no doubt about it.  We are watching a player in full decline.  It’s sad to see the Todd-father as a shell of his once great Hall of Fame self.  (yeah, I said it…he’s a Hall of Famer)  But, his contract is massive.  No team will want to take that on, especially with Helton’s line of .243/.341/.318/.659.  So unless the Rockies plan on putting Todd on the bench, they aren’t going to replace him.  Helton at least still plays a solid first base with the glove, and will be in the lineup.

Second base, has been an area where Rockies fans have wanted an upgrade over Clint Barmes.  Many of us looked at Eric Young Jr’s minor league numbers and his speed, and thought he would/could be an upgrade.  There are of course concerns with EY2’s defense, but from what I’ve seen, at second, it’s adequate.  (But he damn sure isn’t an outfielder).  However, EY2 is injured with a broken leg (stress fracture, right tibia) and hasn’t begun anything beyond riding a stationary bike. 

But second is a position the Rockies could upgrade at.  But there is a catch. 

The Rockies also have depth coming up in the minor leagues at second.  Chris Nelson who was just promoted was a Rockies first-round draft pick. Hector Gomez is a shortstop and currently one of the top-rated prospects in the Rockies system.  However, Gomez has battled injuries, and is currently hurt right now.  Jonathan Herrera has been on the Rockies roster since Dexter Fowler was sent down.  Herrera is considered as a utility player.

The Rockies also have Kaz Matsui in AAA Colorado Springs to play second.  He’s not setting the Pacific Coast League on fire, right now, and the Rockies want him to get some more time there before calling him to the majors.  As much as I love Kaz, and I personally consider him a key cog in the 2007 World Series team, this is 2010, and Matsui, like the rest of us, is three years older.

What players are out there that the Rockies could trade for at second that would be an upgrade over their current stable of players?  Names suggested include Adam Everett, Cesar Izturis, Craig Counsell, Julio Lugo, Omar Vizquel, and Ryan Theriot.  I’d argue that none of these names are better long term than Eric Young Jr and/or Hector Gomez.  I’m not sure if any of these players right now are much of an upgrade over Chris Nelson or Jonathan Herrera.  And none of these name are worth giving up a prospect like a Hector Gomez or an Eric Young Jr to get.

There are two names that have come up that may or may not be available.  Toronto’s Aaron Hill, and Florida’s Dan Uggla. But neither the Jays nor the Marlins have given any indication they are willing to trade/sell, and both of these players will come with price tags in terms of prospects that I’m not sure the Rockies could pay.  Uggla also comes with a pretty good salary as well, making $7.8 million in 2010, and he has one more arbitration year before becoming a free agent.

Aaron Hill has a much better contract at $4 million in 2010, $5 million in 2011, and option years after that.  This doesn’t make him more affordable, in fact it increases his value in terms of prospects the Rockies would have to give up.  I’d say off the top of my head, the Rockies would have to give up Jhoulys Chacin, Christian Friedrich, and Hector Gomez at the very least to get him.  That’s a high price tag.

Which leaves us one position left the Rockies can upgrade at:  Third base, and Ian Stewart.  And that upgrade…is in house.  It’s in fact already on the Rockies roster now.  And his name is Ian Stewart.  Troy Renck of the Denver Post talked about Stewart stepping up in the Sunday Post today.  I totally agree with this well written article.  If there is one player the Rockies need in 2010 to live up to potential it’s Ian Stewart.

So the Rockies answer to how to get better in 2010 is not in a blockbuster trade.  It’s in having players step up and take a greater step forward in their career or more specifically in their year they are having so far.  It’s time for Stewart to be better than a career .243/.330/.446/.776 hitter, and better than he’s done in 2010 so far at .257 and only seven home runs. 

Stewart is/was project to be a .275-.280 hitter with around 30-35 home run power.  He needs to become that player, or the Rockies need to find a third baseman that can become that guy.

Stewart above all the other players is the key now. 

And remember Ian, the spinning ones…are sliders.

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