The Rockies were bit hard by the injury bug in 2013 and found themselves reeling after a hot start to the season. Now, they'll look to bolster their lineup to make that springtime success last all year long.
Arbitration Eligible Players
- Wilton Lopez (4.038): $2.2MM
- Juan Nicasio (2.124, Super Two): $1.7MM
- Mitchell Boggs (4.007): $1.5MM
- Josh Outman (4.036): $1.4MM
- Jonathan Herrera (4.001): $1.2MM
- Manny Corpas (5.125): $1MM
- Jorge De La Rosa, SP: $11MM
- Rafael Betancourt, RP: $4.25MM mutual option ($250K buyout)
- Matt Belisle, RP: $4.25MM mutual option ($250K buyout)
On May 1st, the Rockies were in the NL West driver's seat with a 17-11 record after a hot start to the year. Things eventually petered out from there - the Rockies finished in fifth place at 74-88 - but it was a taste of what could be for the Rockies when they're firing on all cylinders. Everyone deals with injuries over the course of a 162-game season, but Colorado had some of the worst luck of anyone in 2013. The top of their order was a mess as Carlos Gonzalez (played just 110 games), Troy Tulowitzki (126), and Dexter Fowler (119) all missed significant time. Closer Rafael Betancourt was also out of commission for much of the year, a big letdown on the heels of a strong 2012.
The Rockies aren't just keeping their fingers crossed for good health though. They'll have to go shopping this winter for upgrades in multiple areas and fixing the bullpen is at the top of the list. Rockies relievers had a combined ERA of 4.26, the worst in the National League. Betancourt's health woes were certainly a factor, but far from the only one. Wilton Lopez regressed sharply after a career year in Houston and even though one would be inclined to pin that difference on the move to Coors Field, his home/road splits in 2013 were mostly similar. Setup man Matt Belisle (4.32 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 in 2013) hasn't looked like the same guy who signed a two-year, $8.1MM deal two offseasons ago and no one would be surprised if the Rockies gave him his $250K buyout rather than bring him back for $4.25MM next year. There are also a handful of arbitration eligible relievers with varying levels of uncertainty about their future this winter in Mitchell Boggs, Manny Corpas, and Josh Outman.
Part of the bullpen's problem was that Colorado relievers were simply overworked. The starting five (particularly the backend) was unreliable, forcing the pen to toss a National League high of 555 2/3 innings. The Rockies can comfortably roll with Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa, and Tyler Chatwood at the top of the rotation, but they've got a lot of question marks beyond that. Juan Nicasio, who is arbitration eligible as a Super Two this winter, pitched to a 5.14 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 31 starts last year. If they open up the wallet a little bit, guys like Roberto Hernandez will be on the open market for the taking. If they dig a little deeper and are willing to lay out a deal with plenty of incentives, they could get creative and get in the mix for Tim Hudson who, as MLBTR learned last week, is about a month away from returning to full health. One notable caveat here - it's impossible to say what kind of deal Hudson will fetch given all of the variables in play. The question marks are there, but starting pitching is thin all over baseball.
The Rockies were actually decent in terms of power last season but they don't have a lot of big bats they can count on. Healthy seasons from Tulowitzki and CarGo are a must but Bill Geivett & Co. are going to seek another slugger. A healthy Corey Hart would provide some pop (and versatility in the field) at a lowered price after missing all of '13, but he wants to stay in Milwaukee and he's willing to take a discount to make that happen. Mike Napoli will also be out there and if the Rockies want to get creative, they could sign him and dangle Wilin Rosario on the trade block.
Hoping to see a mile-high blockbuster this winter? Things tend to change pretty quickly when the hot stove gets warmed up, but it doesn't sound like Colorado is going to put Gonzalez or Tulowitzki on the block. Last month, Troy Renck of the Denver Post heard from club officials that the possibility of either one getting moved is very small and the likelihood of both getting jettisoned is nil.
If they have a change of heart, however, those stars could bring them an awful lot in return. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports sees the Rangers as a logical partner thanks to their young pitching and middle infield surplus. In this hypothetical, Jurickson Profar would supplant DJ LeMathieu or Josh Rutledge at second base and eventually go to the other side of the bag if Tulo is shifted to a different position. Rosenthal hears that CarGo is more likely to be moved than the shortstop and it's worth noting that he has some serious fans in the Mets' front office.
Fowler could also serve as trade bait if someone is willing to roll the dice on him, but it would thin out their outfield if they don't bring in a reinforcement there. As it stands, right fielder Michael Cuddyer is ticketed to replace Todd Helton at first base, which likely means that either Charlie Blackmon or Corey Dickerson will get to play everyday. It's hard to see them starting together in 2014 - Blackmon's defense (particularly in center) leaves much to be desired and Dickerson is entering his sophomore year.
In a recent letter to season ticket holders, owner Dick Monfort noted that Cuddyer's move to first base opens the door for the club to go out and get a big bat in right field. If Monfort is as serious about bringing a championship to Denver as he says, he can spend the necessary dough to get someone like Shin-Soo Choo or Carlos Beltran. If the Rockies want to spread the cash around a little bit more, they'll find a quieter market for Nelson Cruz. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that they can always change course and keep Cuddyer in the outfield if they find a quality first baseman at a good value.
The Rox have a lot of holes to fill but last season's hot start, however brief, proved they can be competitive in the NL West and have a puncher's chance at the playoffs.