At hot stove time, there are some moves that make sense for the Rockies
As the calendar now has flipped from October to November, we now also flip the calendar from the 2019 MLB season to the 2020 MLB season/offseason hot stove discussion. Starting today, teams can now officially sign free agents to major-league contracts as the MLB’s free agency period opens up. This is good news as we can now start to officially focus on what the Rockies need to do this offseason to improve their ball club for the 2020 season.
Improving is something every team in baseball will look to shoot for this free agency period. But for the Rockies, there are some bigger areas than others they will need to improve upon. It also does not hurt to strengthen areas that are already strong, which is why this offseason will be a very interesting one for the Rockies as there are so many interesting names out on the market for the choosing.
Before I get to this year’s wish list for the Rockies though and areas of the team that need the most improving, let’s run down some roster moves the Rockies made while you might have been away in October.
First, here are some players the Rockies waived within the past week or so. Pitcher Tyler Anderson was waived (claimed by the Giants), third baseman Pat Valaika was waived (claimed by the Orioles), and pitcher Sam Howard was waived (claimed by the Pirates). The team also elected to release pitcher D.J. Johnson. Some of these moves were bigger than others. Quite frankly, though, none were too surprising or that impactful for the club. Anderson was injured this season, Valaika had no spot on this roster moving forward and Howard struggled for most of the season, as did Johnson.
As for players that are electing free agency this offseason from the Rockies, that list includes right-handed pitcher Chad Bettis, catcher Drew Butera and first baseman Yonder Alonso. You can also add pitcher Chris Rusin to the list of free agents. Again, not too surprising most of those guys are electing free agency. Many of those guys might even get signed back by Jeff Bridich, but time will tell.
The biggest plus for the Rockies this offseason should be that they don’t have a huge name hitting free agency. A lot of teams, such as the Nationals and Astros, will have to focus on signing back big-name free agents who could be leaving their rosters. The fact the Rockies don’t have to do that would suggest to you that the Rockies should now be allowed to focus on players outside the organization to sign. Starting with the teams biggest need, pitching.
In 2019, the Rockies in were absolutely dreadful in the pitching department. Rockies starting pitching last season was ugly and the team’s bullpen was a tremendous disaster if not worse than the team’s starting pitching. The Rockies finished last in ERA from their starters and third-to-last in ERA in their bullpen. Somehow, though, I still have slightly more confidence in the team’s starting pitching over the team’s bullpen.
Don’t get me wrong, the Rockies still need to add a starter or two possibly this offseason. But at least the team has Jon Gray and German Marquez to bolster the their rotation. However, the Rockies bullpen will need a big makeover and that’s why the Colorado’s greatest need this offseason should be bullpen help.
Lucky for the Rockies front office, there are some really interesting names on the market this offseason. Starting with a key piece of the Yankees bullpen from the past couple of seasons.
The biggest target for the Rockies this offseason should be Yankees reliever Dellin Betances. Betances was injury plagued for most of the 2019 season. First, he had issues early on with his shoulder that lingered most of the season. Then once he returned late in the season, he partially tore is Achilles tendon. Basically, he never pitched in 2019.
So why would the Rockies want him if he was so injured? There are three reasons. One, Betances is a heck of a talent when he’s healthy. His fastball/breaking stuff would work great at Coors Field. Two, he’s been pretty healthy for his entire career. Three, the Rockies can probably get Betances for cheaper but still make him happy.
Betances coming off an injury plagued season will probably get low balled by a lot of teams wanting him. If the Rockies can just overpay slightly for Betances, they could get a steal as Betances normally would have been around Aroldis Chapman money this offseason had he not been injured.
After Betances, there are some other interesting names and guys that could bolster the team’s bullpen, such as Will Smith or Sergio Romo. Bottom line is, the Rockies will need to sign one big-name bullpen arm and stockpile some of the other names available.
Now getting to the Rockies starting pitching. Assuming Gray and Marquez get healthy this offseason, the Rockies should be in the market for a No. 3 or 4 starter. Again, it would be great if the Rockies get could sign a big-name free agent pitcher such as Stephen Strasburg, Gerrit Cole, Zack Wheeler, Hyun Jin Ryu or Madison Bumgarner. Chances are that most of those guys will get top-dollar money that the Rockies can’t afford this offseason.
Therefore, the Rockies should set their mind on getting at best a No. 2 rotational guy or middle of the rotation pitcher that has some value. Pitchers like Michael Pineda, Wade Miley, Homer Bailey, Gio Gonzalez and even Matt Harvey should be the group of pitchers the Rockies go after. All of them would strengthen the teams rotation, while being cheaper than the top tier group of guys.
Again, the bottom line is the Rockies need to add some depth this offseason. Once you do that, hopefully Kyle Freeland figures things out and you can round out a decent rotation in 2020.
Positionally for the Rockies, they’re actually pretty set. Like I mentioned above again, the Rockies don’t have any huge free agents leaving. So going into next year, you probably have most of your starting nine already. And depth-wise, you’re probably mostly set. The real question will be, what will the Rockies do with Daniel Murphy this offseason?
After a somewhat mediocre first year with the Rockies, do they want him to play in Colorado in the last year of his contract or do they want to part ways? I tend to lean that the team will keep him one more season and if he struggles again, they trade him at the deadline this upcoming season. Me personally, I would seek a trade partner for Murphy. He’s not that far removed from great seasons, but he just hasn’t seemed like a fit so far in Colorado. His defense is shaky and he never really made a huge impact last season.
I would call some American League teams that are contenders to see if they need DH/1B help this upcoming season for one year. That would also allow me to move Ryan McMahon to first base and play Brendan Rodgers at second base on Opening Day.
Outside of letting go or moving Murphy, the only real impactful position players I can see the Rockies chasing is anyone that can add depth this season. Someone like Logan Morrison or Justin Bour would make a lot of sense at first base (if the Rockies move on from Murphy). At catcher, Russell Martin or Francisco Cervelli in a backup role would be interesting to me behind Tony Wolters.
Elsewhere in the infield, Eduardo Nunez or Martin Prado would make a lot of sense because of how versatile they are and they don’t need to play every day. In the outfield, the Rockies are pretty set. Again, I don’t see the Rockies adding a big name player unless a trade or something unforeseen happens.
As the hot stove gets fired up today, we will hopefully start to see the Rockies make some big-time moves and moves that will improve the ball club for 2020 and beyond. Don’t be surprised if it’s quiet at first on all fronts from the Rockies. I expect most of the big name players to get signed first before some of the other lower-tier players get signed. Free agents usually do this to wait for the big money guys to sing to establish their market value.
Hopefully, the Rockies can get into the discussions on some decent names this offseason, especially in the bullpen/starting pitching market. GM Jeff Bridich has some work cut out for him over the next four or so months going into spring training. It all starts today, though, as the Rockies try to return to Rocktober form in 2020.