Rockies Inquire about Jeff Niemann

Brad White

The Rockies search for starting pitching has led to the inevitable call to the Rays to inquire about their stable of young arms, specifically Jeff Niemann.

The Colorado Rockies need starting pitching. To that end, they have reached out to the pitching-rich Rays to ask about Jeff Niemann and others, reports Buster Olney of ESPN. While Olney notes that no advanced talks have occurred so far, the two teams could be a good match.

The Rockies have a number of positions that they could look to deal to bring in an arm like Niemann and the Rays are one of the few teams with enough depth to be willing to deal an experienced starter.

Niemann has over 500 innings under his belt and a solid 4.08 ERA, but he ranks fifth on the Rays starting pitching depth chart and he struggled with injuries last season. He is also getting more expensive.

He settled for $3M to avoid arbitration this off-season and he has just one arbitration season remaining before free agency. Given his cost and the depth of their rotation, the Rays are very likely to deal him if a reasonable offer comes along and Colorado can almost certainly fill some need that the Rays have.

TampaBay has defensive master Jose Molina behind the plate, but the 37 year old is rather offensively-challenged. He hit just .223/.286/.355 last season and that is very much in line with his career numbers. The Rockies are rumored to be shopping veteran backstop Ramon Hernandez and he could make sense to pair with Molina.

However, the better fit for the Rays may be Jordan Pacheco. The 27 year old is under team control until 2018, while Hernandez is owed $3.2M. That cost would probably not be a deal-breaker, even for the cash-strapped Rays but it does lessen the appeal Hernandez has. Pacheco is certainly the superior hitter as well. He hit .309/.341/.421 last season in 505 plate appearances. His catching is not great, but he can also play first and third and the Rays are famous for their love of versatility.

The Rays could look to trade for an outfielder/first baseman like Tyler Colvin or Michael Cuddyer to bolster their depth at those positions. Of the two, the right-handed Cuddyer is probably the better fit since Tampa has already signed the left-handed hitting James Loney to first. Both players would add extra depth but with super-utility man Ben Zobrist around, that may not be a high priority for the Rays.

The Rockies interest here is not surprising and they certainly have the right pieces to swing a trade with Tampa Bay. Until things process further, it is impossible to gauge what the two sides are thinking, but the possibility is definitely intriguing.

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