Aspen Gets Involved in Free Agency
December 2004
by Rene Custeau

     The Aspen Rainmakers were very active this past Free Agency draft as they were able to sign eight players for a total of $9,387,501. This increases their 2005 payroll to $47,942,501.
     “We had only so much money we could spend and we tried really hard to keep our overall costs under 50 million,” replied GM Rene Custeau when asked what his objectives were, “we had to address our relief pitching and get some quality players up the middle: catcher, second base and centerfield. I think we did just that!”
     Last year they only signed a couple of players and it really hurt their team toward the end of the season. They didn’t have the quality players to compete and knew that couldn’t happen again this year. With this in mind, their focus was on getting quality players plus keeping their Free Agency cost under 10 million.
     They picked up three quality relievers to help beef up their bullpen.  They signed Bob Wickman to a two-year deal and he will be their closer.   “It is imperative that we define our closer right from the start. There is no way we can go another season where our pitchers’ roles aren’t
 defined,” said Aspen pitching coach Oscar “My Neck Hurts” Zamora, “we had save expert Mike Williams during our 2003 inaugural season and with his help were able to win over 100 games. We now understand the importance of a closer!”
     They also signed Scott Eyre as their lefty specialist and Bob Howry as a righty specialist. Eyre racked up an impressive 0.95 WHIP against left-handed batters and Howry had a very impressive 0.83 WHIP against right-handed batters.
Zamora added, “we now have the capability to get the one out we need no matter who is at the plate.”
     Having an outstanding catcher is vital in this league and with Mike Matheny on the last year of his three-year deal they inked catcher Brad Ausmus to a multi-year contract. With this surprising signing they now have an abundance of catchers this season and that makes Jason LaRue expendable. He would be a great accusation to any contending team.
      “We love Jason and he has worked very hard for us during the past two seasons,” Aspens bullpen catcher Bob “Monty” Montgomery was quoted as saying, “he has an outstanding throwing arm and can hit for power. We really would like to keep him, but know he is looking for a full time starting job and our organization won’t stand in his way of reaching that goal.”
     They also were able to sure up their future at second base with the signing of Brett Boone. Boone had an off year offensively but we expect that to change for the upcoming seasons.
     “Last year Alex Cora did an outstanding job for us at second base but when you have the opportunity to sign an impact player like Brett Boone you have to move in that direction,” said GM Custeau.
     Custeau then immediately shipped Cora to the Virgina Patriots for a second round draft pick and pitching prospect Buddy Hernandez.
     They also picked up Brady Clark to play in the Aspen outfield who right now is slated to start in rightfield. He may also play a little centerfield because of Ryan Freel’s versatility. Frank Menechino will be their utility man to give Boone, Rolen, and Wilson a day off every once in a while, especially when facing a left-handed pitching.
     BJ Surhoff rounds out their last Free Agent signing. He is an outstanding offensive player who can play a little in the outfield and relieve John Olerud at firstbase.
     Boone, who is considered one of the top defensive secondbasemen in baseball, along with Jack Wilson at SS, Scott Rolen at 3rd, and John Olerud at 1st give the Rainmakers one of the top defensive infields in the league.
     Overall the Rainmakers have helped themselves and should improve from last years dismal 61 wins season. They are still a couple of starting pitchers away from contending again, however when pitching prospects Joe Blanton, Felix Diaz, Jason Stanford, and Jorge de la Rosa blossom look for the Rainmakers once again to pour down on the Brassworld!