Colorado Rockies Offseason Needs

Colorado Rockies offseason
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The Colorado Rockies offseason began at the end of September and fans are very anxious about what awaits the franchise. The team made only small moves between the end of 2019 and the unusual 2020 season, but that probably isn’t sufficient after two straight disappointing seasons. The team has a few glaring needs going into a critical 2021 season.

Colorado Offseason Needs

Lineup Decisions

Assuming no huge trades occur, the lineup will have at least two or three gaps to fill. Of course, that assumes the front office wants players who will be no worse than average on both offense and defense. Every position except one had at least one option with positive WAR, but that isn’t good enough to compete for the division.

The most obvious hole is at catcher. Three players crouched behind the plate in 2020 and combined for -1.2 WAR. Tony Wolters was the biggest drag in the past season. His slash line was just .230/.280/.270 with a wOBA of only .249. That translated to a wRC+ of 37 and -0.6 WAR on FanGraphs. His catching didn’t help the team either with -2 DRS and -1.7 framing. Wolters has failed to improve in almost any way, so it would make perfect sense declining to offer arbitration and replace him with a combination of Elias Diaz and prospect Dom Nunez. The 25-yeard-old Nunez is particularly interesting after hitting .244/.362/.559 with 17 home runs for Triple-A Albuquerque in 2019.

The Rockies should also think about moving Charlie Blackmon out of right field if the designated hitter remains for 2021 and beyond. Yes, he was a Gold Glove finalist for this season, but his defense has never been the strongest aspect of his game. His DRS was -1 in 2020. That is the sixth consecutive season with negative outfield defensive metrics, and that probably won’t get better as he ages. Switching Blackmon to DH would be smart so he can focus on maintaining his offensive output. A full season for Sam Hilliard would be a fine replacement while Colorado grooms its next crop of outfielders.

Pitching Needs

The Rockies need so much help with its bullpen after the spending spree from 2017 failed miserably. Jake McGee, Bryan Shaw and Wade Davis received over $100 million combined while producing almost no value. None of them even made it through the full three years for which they originally signed. That remains a glaring and borderline fireable failure for Jeff Bridich. Daniel Bard is a minor victory, but he is 35-years-old. There is no way to accurately project his next few seasons with such an unusual career path featuring years away from the field. He could easily falter and force more awkward decisions.

The team desperately needs left-handed reliever Ben Bowden to be ready for the next campaign. Left-handed relief isn’t as unique with rules addressing the minimum number of batters a hurler should face, but it’s still something teams need. Bowden is a former second-round pick from the 2016 Amateur Draft and looks like an outstanding option. He threw 26 Triple-A innings in 2019 with a 1.05 ERA and 1.22 FIP. That is outstanding considering that the Pacific Coast League is a beneficial environment for hitters.

Then there is a handful of players who will jockey for roles. Jose Mujica, Antonio Santos and Jesus Tinoco. All three are right-handed pitchers who have started in the minor leagues, but don’t stand out in any major way. They are a cheap trio with less than 60 major league innings combined. The rotation is solid at the moment, so at least one is probably converted to relief.

How the Team Will Address Holes

All of this assumes that Colorado will look internally for its personnel. Its current front office is one of the league’s least active since Bridich assumed the role of general manager several years ago. It has largely worked as the rotation has been constructed through the draft and there are interesting prospects littered throughout the organization.

However, this could be an offseason unlike any we’ve ever seen considering the alleged financial difficulties 2020 has caused. Many teams are slashing internal personnel costs and considering how many players aren’t worth a raise via arbitration. Even if some players are retained, there is no guarantee they aren’t traded at some point for younger future assets. Bridich isn’t a fan of trading most of the time, but it could be the only option to restock the organization and save money.

With that in mind, there is a very real chance that Jon Gray will be among those linked to trade rumors at some point. Gray is only one year away from reaching free agency and might benefit from a change of scenery; his production has fluctuated wildly in recent years. The former third-overall selection from 2013 has two seasons with ERAs below 4.00 and four above 4.50. He has some great career numbers including a 23.8% strikeout rate, but he looks like another Coors Field pitching victim. It’s quite feasible he fetches a decent player or two in return given his peripheral stats.

The Extreme Solution

And that brings us to Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado. Arenado has been in a cold war with the front office ever since he signed a massive contract through 2026 and management made no other significant moves. He is one of the best defensive third basemen ever, but his dissatisfaction is a huge thorn in the side of Rockies’ leadership. The problem is that he can opt-out of his contract after 2021. Any interested team will be very concerned he just leaves after only one year. It isn’t easy to swallow, but the Rockies might trade Arenado for marginal talent, pocket the savings, and just spin the return into something more exciting than what it is.

Story doesn’t have the same contract baggage, but he is a year away from free agency and should command a salary north of $20 million annually. His 17.9 FanGraphs War in 2,541 plate appearances makes him one of the best hitting shortstops in baseball. The problem is that the team might not want to pay him what he’s worth. The front office might rather trade him while his value is the highest.

Trading these two and possibly Gray would essentially signal the team has no intention of competing for five-seven years. They would fetch potentially fantastic returns if all three are moved, but fans would have very little to enjoy. It’s hard to imagine the team fulfilling its offseason needs without a significant trade, but a major rebuild isn’t what they want to see either. The problem is that this front office has failed to pick a consistent direction and stick with it. That lack of conviction and intelligent decision making has forced what could be an extremely painful winter for Rockies faithful.

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