The Rockies are a team that would seem like a prime-candidate to enter a rebuilding phase, yet for reasons that are hard to see, they've only dipped their toes into that pond. The past seven months have been full of mixed signals, and alternating from trading talent away, to adding what appear like unnecessary pieces. After a season in which the Rockies went 68-94, there aren't a lot of reasons for hope going forward into 2016, but their future is bright.
The Free Agents
Colorado's big ticket free agent this offseason was Gerardo Parra. He wasn't one of the most sought after outfielders on the open-market, but he was able to land a guaranteed 3-year contract worth $27.5 million. For a team that's not likely going to contend in 2016, that's a surprising amount of money to commit to anyone. If Jeff Bridich's goal was to add a starting outfielder so that he could trade Corey Dickerson away, then why not sign Austin Jackson or Marlon Byrd? Players who wouldn't need a three-year commitment, but who could provide some value in the outfield (Both Jackson and Byrd were more valuable than Parra in 2015 by fWAR, and bWAR).
The Rockies also signed Chad Qualls and Jason Motte, who both had good seasons in 2015; of course those seasons took place largely outside of Coors Field. While they'll likely help improve the Rockies' bullpen in 2016, a team like Colorado shouldn't be looking to acquire mid-level relievers, unless their ultimate plan is to trade them for more controllable prospects. That being said, barring elite performances from Qualls and Motte, no team would pay a premium in terms of prospects for either one of those pitchers.
While the importance of the bullpen has increased in recent years (which Motte has a clear understanding of), the Rockies are not a few relievers away from fielding a winning team.
Since Troy Tulowitzki was traded, nearly everyone in baseball was waiting for Colorado to start unloading their outfielders. As the months went by, and the Rockies didn't trade anyone, it was beginning to look like they might not go into a full rebuild; and while they still haven't done that, they did trade Dickerson to the Tampa Bay Rays.
After signing Parra, the Rockies had a surplus of outfield talent, and it was finally time to pull the trigger on a deal; the only problem was that the deal didn't seem to make much sense.
In exchange for Dickerson (along with a minor leaguer named Kevin Padlo), Tampa sent back Jake McGee, and a minor league pitcher named German Marquez.
Unlike Qualls and Motte, McGee is an elite reliever; but again, does acquiring him really help the Rockies? The answer would appear to be no, unless their plan is to trade him in July for a prospect haul. Relievers typically don't bring back a huge package, but McGee is under control through the 2017 season, and a team might be willing to part with a top-level prospect for a high-leverage reliever.
Reasons to worry
Quick, name five starting pitchers on the Rockies............done yet? While you may have come up with a few, it seems unlikely that pitchers like Chad Bettis, Tyler Chatwood, Chris Rusin, Jordan Lyles, and David Hale were sitting in your memory banks waiting for this moment. Colorado currently has eight starting pitchers listed on their depth chart, and not many are projected for success in 2016.
|Jorge De La Rosa
Only two of Colorado's eight starters are projected for an above average fWAR, although Bettis is close enough to call it three. While they have undoubtedly upgraded their bullpen with McGee, Qualls, and Motte, they simply haven't done enough to truly make those additions matter; especially given the strength of the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Giants.
There's also the Jose Reyes problem; who's seemingly lost all his former value. In 519 plate appearances in 2015, Reyes posted a slash line of .274/.310/.378 with a wOBA of .300 and a wRC+ of 80. His defense is no longer elite, and with a domestic violence issue, his upcoming availability is in question.
Reasons for Hope
While the next couple of seasons might not be fun to watch for Rockies fans, they have an above average farm system, and several of their prospects are likely on the cusp of making it to the big leagues. Trevor Story could step in for Reyes if he's suspended, or simply too awful to justify a starting spot in the lineup. Story's primary position is shortstop, but if he proves to be valuable, and Brendan Rodgers develops into the player that made him the number three overall pick in the 2015 draft, one of them will need to move to second base.
In addition to Gray, the Rockies also have Jeff Hoffman who was acquired in the trade for Tulowitzki. He's not likely to be called up soon, as he has just one year of professional baseball experience, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that he could be a September call-up.
While he's not a household name in terms of prospects, the Rockies have an intriguing catcher named Tom Murphy, who's hit at every level he's been sent to since 2012 (including a brief stay in the majors in 2015). He's listed third on the depth chart, behind Nick Hundley and Dustin Garneu, but based off his minor league numbers, and his impressive audition last season, he undoubtedly deserves a fair share of AB's in 2016.
Bridich will also be trading Carlos Gonzalez in the near future. While he could have traded him this offseason, with the sheer number of outfielders available in free agency, teams might have been reluctant to add $37 million in payroll over the next two seasons while also having to part with elite prospects. However once July approaches, and GM's become more desperate, Bridich should have no trouble extracting the value he wants in return for Gonzalez; further adding to their minor league depth.
Next season will likely be another losing year for Colorado, but with a significant amount of talent in the farm, the Rockies could be a threat in the NL West soon.