The Utility Gets Phillified

The Colorado Rockies’ salary dumping intentions have been somewhat underplayed so far this off season. We first got word that the team was interested in thinning out its payroll when whispers of closer Huston Street’s availability became columnist fodder. These supposed intentions were then put into action over the weekend when the Rockies sent the always useful Ty “The Utility” Wigginton to the Philadelphia Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

The two teams will split Wigginton’s $4 million salary for 2012, and then if Philadelphia decides to exercise Wigginton’s club option for $4 million more in 2013, they will owe Colorado another player or $100,000 in cash. If the Phillies decline Wigginton’s 2013 option, the Rockies will be on the hook for a portion of the $500,000 buyout. In other words, the Rockies have little to gain from the deal other than $2 million less on their payroll.

Last off season, the Rockies handed out six multiple year extensions to their players, the most curious of which was to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who got the deal even though he was already committed to the team to 2014 (with a club option for 2015). The new extension locked him upto 2020, plus a club option for 2021. This is  a stark contrast to the cost cutting measures the Wigginton send off and Street rumours represent.

For the Phillies, the deal should effectively remove them from the Michael Cuddyer sweepstakes. Wigginton isn’t as good as Cuddyer at the plate, but his positional versatility and value in terms of contract comparisons likely make him the better option for a team that just invested $50 million in a closer. It’s expected that Wigginton will fill in for Ryan Howard, who ruptured his Achilles in the playoffs, at first base for the early part of the season, but then could be a very effective platoon player against left handed pitching when not providing cover for Chase Utley, Placido Polanco and the corner outfielders.