On the heels of their puzzling trade of Dexter Fowler to Houston, a trade seemingly done to clear payroll space, the Rockies have announced that they signed first baseman Justin Morneau to a two-year, $13 million contract. Though the Rockies had been in pursuit of Morneau for a few weeks now, one can't help but see them as inextricably linked, making the Fowler trade even more of a disaster than it already was.
Let's assume for a minute that the Morneau deal and Fowler trade have nothing to do with each other. That might be hard to do since Fowler was slated to earn $7.85 million in 2014 and Morneau will earn almost exactly that same amount, but try and play along. In signing Morneau, the Rockies just spent $13 million on a first baseman who has been worth 0.4 fWAR over the last three seasons combined. This isn't Morneau the former MVP the Rockies are getting, though maybe they think they are.
This Morneau is coming off of a season in which he posted a yawn-inducing .152 ISO and a .234 wOBA against lefties. This Morneau is an aging platoon first baseman with middling power who is a poor defender at first base. To make matters worse, signing Morneau to play first base means that Michael Cuddyer will have to remain in right field where he is an outright disaster instead of moving him back to first base where he has shown to be at least an average glove. Even in a vacuum, this move appears to make the Rockies worse and cost them a big chunk of their available budget to make it happen.
Out of the vacuum, it still does all those things plus it cost them Dexter Fowler. So the Rockies have that going for them, which is nice. What it doesn't do is make the Rockies better, in the long-term or the short-term. That ultimately calls into question what the Rockies think they are doing. This is a team that is coming off an 88-loss season and decided that they were better off without a quality center fielder in his prime so that they could replace him with a decaying platoon bat and a fringy #5 starter. That all but assures that the Rockies will be flushing another year of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez in their primes down the toilet.
At some point, one would hope that Colorado either decides to really go all in on being a contender and make real, substantial investments to improve their roster or just admit that what they are doing isn't working and blow the whole damn thing up. If history is any indicator, they will just continue to sign fading veterans to short-term contracts and finishing fourth or fifth in the NL West.