Aaron Judge? Carlos Rodon? 15 guys the Rockies should sign this winter
The Colorado Rockies are in need of a lot of help as they try to climb out of the National League West’s cellar.
Going from 68 wins to the postseason is a far climb and the Rockies certainly have a lot of holes to fill. On Tuesday, DenverFan published a story pointing out Colorado’s biggest positional needs both next year and into the future. Considering the Rockies need pitching, an outfield bat and catcher it’s worth looking at who around baseball are free agents at those spots and how they could fit the Rockies.
Headlining the list of names that would fill in great at Coors Field is likely AL MVP Aaron Judge and back-to-back All-Star left-hander Carlos Rodon. Some of the best in the free agent class, like Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Trea Turner and Carlos Correa, have not been included in this ranking due to poor fit.
Here’s the list sorted by positions and best player:
Aaron Judge, 31, 2022 (New York Yankees): .311/.425/.686/ 10.6 rWAR/11.5 fWAR
Very famously, the right-handed hitting four-time All-Star hit 62 home runs in 2022, setting the American League record for most long balls in a season. What if he played at Coors Field for 81 games? It’s a fun rabbit hole worth exploring, and Baseball Reference believes that number to be 68 when projecting for park factors. Is the question fun enough for Dick Monfort to shell over $300 million for the California native?
Judge has played 101 games in centerfield over the past two seasons instead of his regular right field slot. For being such a big bopper, Judge has actually been a plus-defender in every one of his seven big league seasons. He would fill a significant need for the Rockies positionally in either center or in right, with Charlie Blackmon moving to DH for the remainder of his pro career.
Judge is injury prone, though, and it’s only in the last two seasons that he’s been able to play in over 120 games, only doing that one time earlier in his career too. His probable MVP season is by far his best one yet, and he’ll likely never have a year as good. But even Judge near his peak would be incredible to watch in Colorado. His baseball-leading OPS of 1.111 was .092 points better than second-place Yordan Alvarez who had a 1.019, the difference between Alvarez and fifth-place Jose Altuve. Similarly, Judge lapped everyone on homers; the difference between his 62 and Kyle Schwarber’s second-best 46 is the same from the Phillies slugger to Nolan Arenado’s 21st-best 30.
Of course, the backend of Judge’s contract could be bad, but he, next to the already locked-up Kris Bryant, would be a top-tier middle-of-the-order duo of two MVP winners. And at only 31 years old, it gives the Rockies a pretty decent window. Besides, baseball has no salary cap, and this isn’t my money. So do it, Dick!
Brandon Nimmo, 30, 2022 (New York Mets): .274/.367/.463, 5.0 rWAR/5.4 fWAR
A far more plausible big-money commitment the Rockies could make this winter is to the Wyoming native. The left-handed hitter had a career season in 2022, playing over 95 games for just the second time in his career. The oft-injured centerfielder is a solid defender with a big stick. He’s not a bopper like Judge, hitting only 23 homers in his seven big league seasons, but he racks up extra-base knocks.
He’s been about 30% better than the league average hitter over his career, and fancy stats suggest he should stay hitting the ball hard and into holes for years to come. There’s already smoke that Nimmo could be the Rockies’ biggest target of this offseason, and he’d be an excellent pickup.
It is worth considering that he’s the Mets’ longest-tenured position player and a fan favorite. He will likely cost upwards of $115 million, and the hometown discount isn’t coming since Scott Boras is his agent.
Jurickson Profar, 30, 2022 (San Diego Padres): .243/.331/.391, 3.1 rWAR/2.5 fWAR
Once the top prospect in all of baseball, the switch-hitting Profar seemed to finally figure it out this past season. In nine big league years, the utility man that mostly fielded left for the Padres had never been more productive. It was one of just three of his above-average hitting seasons, while he’s always decent with the glove no matter where he plays.
It could be an iffy move to get a player as up-and-down as Profar, and he may not project well at Coors Field, but there’s no doubt he’s a solid player.
Andrew Benintendi, 28, 2022 (Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees): .304/.373/.399, 3.2 rWAR/2.8 fWAR
A former All-Star, Gold Glover, and World Series winner, the left-handed left fielder is a highly accomplished winning player and still in his 20s. He nearly won the AL Rookie of the Year in 2017 with a 20 homer, 20 steal season. Benintendi has never played in the National League, but coming off a strong season where his power was down to just five homers. Still, his average popped above .300 for the first time in his career, and his walk rate rose, there’s a question of what happens if the homers return? Benintendi could have future All-Star seasons in him; he’s coming off one this past year with the Royals before a trade deadline deal to the Yankees.
Kevin Kiermaier, 32, 2022 (Tampa Bay Rays): .228/.281/.369, 1.1 rWAR/1.1 fWAR
A three-time Gold Glover, this centerfielder is one of the finest defenders in the sport. No doubt he’s past his peak, and he was held to just 63 games this past season due to injury. There’s a risk here. But the 10-year Tampa Bay Ray is a great player when healthy. The home run numbers have fallen flat the past few years as his power has dipped, and it’s hard to say if he’ll continue to be a league average or slightly better than bat, but his defense is a treat. And the Rockies have never had a defensive centerfielder close to this good.
Joey Gallo, 29, 2022 (New York Yankees/Los Angeles Dodgers): .160/.280/.357, 0.2 rWAR/0.6 fWAR
The left-handed hitting two-time All-Star is a unicorn in many ways. He’s led baseball in strikeouts and walks and has twice hit forty home runs. He’s also pretty athletic, a decent defender, and worth giving a shot. He’s coming off nearly a year and a half of just okay baseball but was an All-Star for the first half of 2021. He could be a helpful power bat that the Rockies badly need and in a place that Colorado could really use. He’s a buy-low, sell-high candidate.
Michael Conforto, 30, 2022: did not play (injury)
When the left-handed hitter last played, he was the worst version of himself, and then he missed all of 2022 injured. But even at his worst, he’s a capable starter. At his best, he’s been an All-Star, capable of okay corner outfield defense and 30 home runs. He’ll probably be sought after this winter despite his long layoff.
Carlos Rodón, LHP, 30, 2022 (San Francisco Giants): 2.88 ERA, 178 IP, 52 BB, 237 K, 12 HR, 5.4 rWAR/6.2 fWAR
Rodon is coming off two straight great seasons. He’s proven to be a bonafide ace, making 30 starts this past season. He’s still pretty young for a starter on the market, and he’s missed major time due to past injuries, which has saved his arm for the future. He could hold up and be the best pitcher in this class, worth $30 million a year or more.
In 152 career starts, he’s almost always been a plus-pitcher. Over the past two seasons, he’s been 27-13 with a 2.67 ERA and a WHIP under 1.000. He would instantly solve the Rockies need for an ace, pushing Kyle Freeland and German Marquez down the order.
Taijuan Walker, RHP, 30, 2022 (New York Mets): 3.49 ERA, 157.1 IP, 45 BB, 132 K, 15 HR, 2.6 rWAR/2.5 fWAR
Formerly one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, the mostly always solid starter also has age on his side. He was an All-Star in 2021 and had a very good follow-up season with a 12-5 record and a 3.49 ERA. Walker has never been the No. 1 guy on a great team, but adding his arm would be a productive step for the Rockies staff, who badly need another competent starter.
He’ll be worth about half of what Rodon gets, and you get what you pay for. Still, both guys are enormous upgrades.
Martín Pérez, LHP, 32, 2022 (Texas Rangers): 2.89 ERA, 196 1/3 IP, 69 BB, 169 K, 11 HR, 5.0 rWAR/3.8 fWAR
Another former top pitching prospect, it took the left-hander all the way until now to figure it out. He had an All-Star season and seems to have changed his career since adding a cutter and developing a sinker a few years back.
Noah Syndergaard, RHP, 30, 2022 (Los Angeles Angels/Philadelphia Phillies): 3.94 ERA, 134.2 IP, 31 BB, 95 K, 14 HR, 1.8 rWAR/ 2.2 fWAR
Syndergaard has always had filthy stuff, and he’s finally rebounded from a Tommy John surgery a few years back. He’s a league-average starter, and that’s needed in Colorado. He’s also fun and has a personality that the Rockies could use. On a good night, his 98 mph heater and sweeping curveball could be no-hitter worthy, and he’s got good bang for buck after bouncing around the past few seasons.
A former All-Star that is toward the end of his unlikely career as a former minor league free agent. He could still eat some innings, help the Rockies do better than what they’ve got, and let them experiment with some of their backend arms from this year in the bullpen. That’s the worst-case scenario. The best is 2.93 EA over 165 innings pitched, like he did last year. In nine of his eleven seasons, he’s been above league average on the mound. A capable arm that can pitch deep into innings would be a huge improvement for the Rockies.
Willson Contreras, 31, 2022 (Chicago Cubs): .243/.349/.466, 3.9 rWAR/3.3 fWAR
The absolute best thing the Rockies could do this winter is sign the three-time All-Star coming off one of his best seasons. He gives you 20 homers a year from behind the dish, plus defense at backstop and an ability to play corner outfield. He’s a clutch hitter, a World Series winner, and has a big name—that’s important. The only position the Rockies haven’t had an All-Star at in team history is catcher.
His body has taken a beating behind the plate and at it, leading the league with 14 hit-by-pitches in 2020, following it up with the same number in 2021, and in 2022, it exploded to 24. Contreras is the only everyday catcher easily getable for the Rockies, and only J.T. Realmuto has caught more games since the start of 2018.
There could be a bidding war for Contreras, but it’s earned. Very few players can do what he can, and the Rockies have never had anyone like him.
Gary Sánchez, 30, 2022 (Minnesota Twins): .205/.282/.377, 0.9 rWAR/1.3 fWAR
Look, he’s not the best defender, but he has smacked 154 homers over the past eight seasons, twice hitting for over 30 longballs in a year and two more times smashing over 20. Maybe the 401 RBI in precisely 666 games will scare the Rockies off, or his mediocre 2022. But he’s undoubtedly one of the better hitters at his position and would be a step up for the Rockies.
Christian Vázquez, 32, 2022 (Boston Red Sox/Houston Astros): .274/.315/.399, 2.1 rWAR/1.6 fWAR
On Wednesday, he called the entire combined no-hitter, the second no-no ever in the World Series, and has already been crowned a champion once. He moved from the Red Sox to the Astros at the deadline he had one of his better seasons. He’s always been a good defender, and he’s had three seasons at the plate decent enough to keep him in the lineup every day. At worst, he’s a perfect platoon guy, and he’ll be helpful for multiple years.