Inbox: What's next for Hawpe and Atkins?

Inbox: What's next for Hawpe and Atkins?

What will the Rockies do with Garrett Atkins and Brad Hawpe?
-- Paula Q., Broomfield, Colo.

Could either be traded? Sure. Will it happen? There are forces working against a deal in both cases.

The Rockies are expected to non-tender Atkins, so teams are most likely to wait until Atkins is on the open market and not tied to the arbitration rules. Atkins made $7.05 million last season, and his salary cannot be cut by more than 20 percent if he's tendered an offer. If he hits the market, he can be signed without salary parameters.

It will be interesting to see what Atkins would command in free agency. Scouts from other teams watched his swing last season. All it takes is a couple of teams to think he simply had a bad year, and is not in decline, for him to receive a healthy contract.

The Rockies don't really have to deal Hawpe, who made his first All-Star Game in 2009. Yes, he struggled in the second half of the season, but he has proven to be a good offensive player over the last five years.

The Rockies need right-handed hitting, and they have outfield depth, but Hawpe is signed to a reasonable deal -- $10 million in 2010 with an $11 million club option for '11 that he can void if traded. To deal Hawpe, the Rockies would need a top prospect, such as a right-handed-hitting version of Carlos Gonzalez, plus more. The Rockies can afford to ask a high price and not lower it.

The Rockies may be looking for another big right-handed bat in their everyday lineup. With the idea of farming your own talent and not spending a huge amount on free agents, where do you think that bat will come from and at what position? My guess is through trades, but I'm not sure what position you would upgrade or who you would give up.
-- Jay D., Greenville, Pa.

Jay D. actually sent two e-mails. Jay grew up a Pirates fan, and he fears that this team will end up torn apart because of finances. It's happened time and time again to the Pirates. I think there's less to fear in this case, since the Rockies took the necessary steps to build the farm system.

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(Just maybe the Pirates are going to build their system and give Jay, and me, that long-sought Rockies-Pirates playoff series.)

Anyhow, here's an interesting thought about the right-handed-hitting question: What if the Rockies already have what they need?

This gets back to catcher Chris Iannetta. Even though he fell from .264 in 2008 to .228 last season, he hit 16 home runs and drove in 52 runs in 289 at-bats. The 65 RBIs he tallied in '08 set a team record. A rebound could make a huge difference.

This also brings us to second baseman Clint Barmes, who hit .290 in 2008 and knocked 23 home runs and drove in 76 runs in '09. Imagine the monster season he would have if he put together run production with average.

The Rockies would be smart to explore a Hawpe trade to get that extra right-handed bat. No team should stand pat after success. But if a Hawpe deal isn't possible, the club at least has potential to fill the right-handed hole from within.

With Yorvit Torrealba not coming back, what are our options at catcher with Iannetta? I know Paul Phillips hit .311 last year, but is that a realistic norm? What are the chances we can bring back Danny Ardoin from the Dodgers organization? He always seemed like a great veteran presence and could be a great backup for Iannetta in 2010.
-- Steve T., Littleton, Colo.

To begin with, I'm not going to close the book on Torrealba's return. It all depends on whether he can find starter's money elsewhere. If not, coming back would make a lot of sense. Yes, the Rockies want Iannetta to take control of the job, but Torrealba has a manager in Jim Tracy who knows what he can do with extended playing time.

Would I expect Phillips to hit .311 over a full Major League season? No. But I like the way he handles the bat. If Torrealba doesn't return, it would be intriguing to see what Phillips can do when given a chance at a Major League job.

I don't know how available Ardoin is to the Rockies, but expect them to sign a similar catcher for depth.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.