The Colorado Rockies finished 2020 in fourth place in the National League West for the second consecutive season. Two years removed from their most recent postseason appearance, the Rockies find themselves stuck between a rebuild and playoff contender going into the winter. Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, German Marquez, and Scott Oberg are the only players under contracts extending beyond next season. Gold Glove-caliber shortstop Trevor Story along with on-again, off-again rotation ace Jon Gray, are both heading into their free-agent seasons.
Marquez and Antonio Senzatela both are coming off solid seasons at the top of the Rockies starting rotation while Kyle Freeland rebounded nicely this year from a horrific 2019 season. Beyond that, the starting rotation is a serious question mark. They will need to outpitch division rivals in Los Angeles and San Diego for any chance to reach the postseason.
Colorado is two decades removed from its most notable blockbuster free-agent signings. The ill-fated multi-year contracts to starting pitchers Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle seem to stand as lessons learned from the risks of signing high-caliber free agents to pitch at their mile-high altitude. The Rockies were virtually invisible last winter and there is little indication that this offseason will be any different. The club already exercised the option to make infielder Daniel Murphy a free agent last week. The move leads many to believe this could be another quiet winter for the Rockies. Expect any free agent signings to be relatively small pieces to incorporate into their roster of mostly homegrown talent.
Keys to the Offseason
Strengthen the Bullpen
General manager Jeff Bridich has not been shy of offering multi-year contracts to relief pitching in recent seasons. Strengthening their bullpen should be a focus again this winter. Wade Davis, Jake McGee, and Bryan Shaw were all signed to bloated free-agent contracts that backfired. This year, the free-agent market is deep in late-inning relievers. There is plenty of depth to be had to put around the returning average middle relief help next spring.
Trade or Extend Story
Story, who turns 28 years old November 15, is owed just over $18 million in the final year of his current contract before heading into free agency a year from now. The Rockies extension to Arenado last year signaled his place as the club’s franchise player. Story will likely command a similar contract when he hits the market with fellow 2021 free agent shortstops Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, and Javier Baez a year from now. The Rockies most likely need to move Arenado’s contract to free up the cash required to extend Story. Dealing Arenado may be a far more complicated transaction to pull off. It could leave the team to deal Story for a boatload of prospects this winter.
Add Veteran Starting Pitcher
Gray was shut down on September 4 with a right shoulder injury, leaving his status up in the air going into next season. Adding a veteran starter to join Marquez, Senzatela, Freeland, and 2019 rookie Ryan Castellani should be a target for the club. The lack of a 2020 minor league season has set the Rockies back with the development of Ryan Rolison and other prospects emerging in their system and a veteran is needed to bridge the gap. Bridich has a history of sticking with the talent they have developed through their own system, but there is no doubt this current roster can use an additional veteran starter.
Mike Fiers – 1 year, $8.2 million
Fiers’ profile is not ideal for Coors Field, yet the 35-year old right-hander would be one of the highest-caliber starters signed to play in Denver in recent seasons. He’d fit well in the back half of the Rockies rotation as they bridge the gap to Peter Lambert‘s return from Tommy John and the emergence of future young starters in 2022.
Shane Greene – 2 years, $12 million
Daniel Bard was one of the ‘feel-good’ stories of 2020. However, there is a very good chance he will not figure into the team’s future plans. Greene was solid in that role for Detroit just over a year ago. He could earn that ninth-inning role again for the Rockies if not providing a solid set-up option for Bud Black.
Brock Holt – 2 years, $7.5 million
History would indicate Colorado is always going to give their own prospects the first shot at starting positions. Holt’s ability to play the super-utility role for the Rockies gives the team a dynamic player who can fill any infield or outfield positions when the kids need rest. The offensive boost Holt can potentially see playing half his games at Coors Field could be just enough to give his career a second life.
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