Another baseball season gone, and the Colorado Rockies will be watching the playoffs at home. But unlike in years past, there’s reason to be optimistic that next year will be different.
First, I do not believe that the staff as it stands now will be able to pull the team together for a serious playoff run. GM Jeff Bridich has made a series of moves during his time with the Rockies that haven’t exactly panned out quite yet. Most notably, the decision to trade Troy Tulowitzki for Jose Reyes and pitching prospects have produced only drama rather than success. During the offseason, Reyes assaulted his wife in Hawaii and was arrested on battery charges. No criminal case was pursued due to a lack of cooperation from his wife (gee, I wonder why), but Reyes was immediately DFAed, and ultimately released, after his 51 game suspension ended, taking $40 million still owed to him throughout the next season. In addition, Jeff Hoffman, one of the prized pitching prospects acquired during the trade, began his major league career with the Rockies in such a terrible fashion, he was yanked out of the rotation after five starts.
During the offseason, Bridich traded outfielder Corey Dickerson for pitchers Jake McGee and German Marquez. Although shortsighted critics would maintain that it was an uneven trade at the time, it seems both sides did equally as badly, as Dickerson slumped all season long, Jake McGee couldn’t get it together, and German Marquez seems erratic during his first few starts for the Rockies. All in all, perhaps it would have been best to trade Dickerson along with another player in order to gain a player worth making a grab at.
One of the main reasons for the trade was due to an overcrowded outfield. How did this happen? Bridich signed Gerardo Parra to a three year, $27.5 million contract, thereby eliminating the need for Corey, as his defensive prowess was most definitely subpar. However, Gerardo had problems of his own all season long with injuries. His defensive presence was not terribly better than Corey Dickerson’s, and was nowhere near as good as David Dahl, who made a splash when called up from the minors, ending the season with a BA of .315. Compared to Parra’s .253, it seems that Bridich bought himself an expensive bench warmer.
Two free agent signings also made by Bridich were for pitchers Jason Motte and Chad Qualls. Jason Motte signed a two year $10 million contract to pitch for the Rockies. Instead, he found himself doling out batting practice for other teams, ending the season at career high 4.94 ERA. But with that being said, he still didn’t perform as badly as the other pitching acquisition. Chad Qualls was so bad, we began seeing more of Eddie Butler towards the end of the season, and he still has another year left in his two year $6 million contract. All that for an old man who ended the season with 5.23 ERA.
All of that said, Troy Tulowitzki probably played his worst non-injured season of his career for the Blue Jays, and Corey Dickerson came dangerously close to being demoted to the minors. At least the Rockies were able to avoid dealing with that.
Of course, there is the issue of Walt Weiss, who seems incredibly unlikely to return next season for the Rockies. This will be a very well needed change. Click here for previous blog on Walt Weiss’ future.
We cannot turn back time, and there’s going to be a learning curve for Bridich as he works his magic. The news is not all bad.
The main story coming out of the Rockies organization was the debut of phenom shortstop, Trevor Story. Until a thumb injury derailed his season, he was on course for a 40+ home run season, which would have broken the all time record for a rookie. He also was the first rookie to hit home runs in his first four games, and the first player to hit six home runs in the first four games of the season, along with nearly becoming an All Star during his first year, just to name a few accolades. The funny thing is that Trevor is likely not even the best shortstop in the Rockies organization, which begs the question as to what will happen with Brendan Rodgers later on. But in the meantime, the Rockies will most certainly look to Trevor to help bolster the firepower.
Another positive development for the Rockies was the starting pitching. While it’s true that the altitude will skew a game in a hitter’s favor, it’s not impossible for pitchers to succeed as a Rockie. Jon Gray finished his first full season with a 10-10 record, which is nothing to sneeze at, in addition to breaking the franchise record for strikeouts in a game with 16 during a complete game shutout of the Padres. Chad Bettis also recorded one of the two complete game shutouts for the Rockies this season, beating the Giants 6-0. Jorge De La Rosa likely pitched his last season as a Rockie, and didn’t do terribly (though not great by any means). Tyler Anderson made great strides in his quest to remain a major league pitcher, leading the rotation in ERA. Tyler Chatwood broke the franchise record for road ERA, 1.69 for the season. And although Boone Logan, Adam Ottavino, and Chris Rusin provided some consistency from the bullpen not seen in years past, it was the rotation that provided strength that allowed for the team to post a 75-87 record, which sounds bad, but is quite an improvement from last season’s 68-94.
It would also be remiss of me to forget the stars of the team, Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez. Nolan became only the fourth player before age 26 to hit forty home runs and 130 RBIs in consecutive seasons, and Carlos Gonzalez hit his first 100 RBI season since 2010. Both players ended their seasons with a BA over .290, and both will certainly be considered for Silver Sluggers and Gold Gloves this season. Nolan may even earn himself an MVP nod this year, although unlikely due to the team’s standing.
For the Rockies to be successful next season, several things will need to happen to further capitalize on the positives displayed this year.
1. Revamp bullpen
This one is a no brainer. According to ESPN, the Rockies bullpen ERA is a whopping 5.10. Although the altitude can be blamed for some skewing of pitching metrics, when compared to the rotation’s 4.81 ERA, there is some room for improvement. Yes, 4.81 is not great, but most of that is due to Jorge De La Rosa’s failure to launch at the beginning of the season, in addition to Walt’s decision to use Jordan Lyles and Eddie Butler in a role they are most decidedly not right for. Whereas Tyler Anderson started 19 games and ended the season with a 3.54 starting ERA. Tyler Chatwood ended the season after 27 starts with a 3.87 ERA. For a Rockie, that is outstanding. The Rockies will hope to see these numbers improve with more experience under their belts.
Unfortunately, the Rockies do have some tough decision to make regarding offseason acquisitions. As mentioned, McGee, Qualls, and Motte did not deliver what was expected. Carlos “Wild Thing” Estevez could not consistently keep the low numbers he started with this season. And there are still so many bad pitchers being used to plug holes, such as Eddie Butler and Justin Miller, a massive shakeup is needed. Free agency may hold the key, but perhaps trading to teams in desperate need of pitching, such as the Angels, is in order. Lump Qualls and McGee for a position player. Then lump the position player and Butler for a relief pitcher.
Out of the current roster, I would ditch ever relief pitcher outside of Hoffman, Rusin, Ottavino, Logan (assuming he resigns with the Rockies), and Motte. Yes, I said Motte. Although he did not do well this season, he has had World Series experience and can bring a wellspring of knowledge to the organization should the Rockies become true contenders.
But for the love of God, get rid of Eddie Butler.
2. Improve bench
First off, do not be fooled by Daniel Descalso’s above average season. He’s still only a .242 career hitter, and although he did seem to find his stride this season, hitting a career high eight home runs, he did poorly last season and it stands to reason that he will likely do poorly next season.
I do not understand why the Rockies want to keep Christian Adames so badly. Due to being out of minor league options, the Rockies kept him on the 25 man roster to avoid being exposed to waivers, possibly claimed by another team. However, outside of being a halfway decent defensive utility player, he did not contribute much. His bat was nonexistent, posting a .221 BA for the season. I’ve seen this kid play live for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox; he’s really not that good. Expect to see the Rockies DFA him now that the season is over.
Underachieving players such as Ben Paulsen and Rafael Ynoa have already been DFAed and outrighted to AAA, a sign that bench improvement is a priority for the organization. Jordan Patterson and David Dahl made the most of their call ups, hitting very well during their time in the bigs. Others, such as Stephen Cardullo, will likely be kept as depth so that their skills can be better honed. But without at least one more right handed outfield bench player, it seems likely that the bench will be underwhelming, given the eight man bullpen being used.
3. Resign Mark Reynolds and Boone Logan
Boone Logan played an incredible season of baseball out of the bullpen and deserved to be resigned. Whether or not he accepts will remain to be seen.
Mark Reynolds was an offseason signing that went well for the Rockies this season. Initially planned as a platoon parter with Ben Paulsen, Reynolds hit for the highest batting average of his career, ending the season early with an injury at .282. Defensively, he’s no Nolan Arenado, but was definitely serviceable at the position. Although plagued with injuries throughout the season, he still played 118 games and can serve as an inexpensive, yet relatively reliable, plug to fill the first base hole. This is all assuming that Carlos Gonzalez is not moved from the outfield to first.
4. Forget Nick Hundley
Nick Hundley’s trade to the Rockies will always confuse me. I had high hopes for Michael McKenry, but the Rockies had more hopes set on Wilin Rosario, who turned out to be useless at any position. No matter how it happened, Tony Wolter’s being claimed off waivers turned out to be a much needed addition.
Although he started the season off slow after his debut, Tony turned out to be a more reliable bat than Hundley, and was most certainly more reliable defensively. Not only that, but his transition to catcher is still relatively recent and is very skilled at second base. Tony Wolters has starter written all over him, and Nick Hundley is yesterday’s news. This is possibly the biggest no brainer outside of the bullpen.
5. Trade Parra
I will never understand what Bridich saw in Parra when he signed the guy to a three year contract. But no matter what it was, there’s a definite need to remove one of the outfielders. The Rockies obviously know this, which is why so many of them made appearances at first after Mark Reynolds’ injury disabled him for the remainder of the season.
Trading Parra and taking a small bite out of what is still owed to him may be best. Lumping him with current bullpen players in a trade may be enough to land a true ace for the rotation, or even a few additions to the bullpen that can finally keep it together in high leverage situations. Either way, Parra needs to go.