Colorado Rockies Rumors

Colorado Rockies trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Notable September Call-Ups

Today’s flurry of transactions has been driven by September call-ups as teams look to expand their flexibility with expanded rosters. Only players who are on the 40-man roster can be activated, of course, meaning that several organizations have had to designate or outright players to clear roster space. On the activation side of the equation, we always see big name prospects reach the bigs in early September, though many of the game’s best big-league ready youngsters have already been elevated this year.

We already noted Hector Olivera‘s promotion earlier today, and you can see all of the day’s promotions at the MLB.com Transactions page. Here are some more of the notable call-ups (for various reasons)…

  • Zach DaviesBrewers — Acquired in the Gerardo Parra deal, Davies is heading into the Milwaukee rotation for his first big league action. The rebuilding Brewers figure to have multiple rotation spots open in the long-term, making Davies’ late audition one to keep an eye on. Be sure to check out the MLBTR Podcast episode featuring the young righty.
  • Miguel CastroRockies — Another recent trade acquisition, Castro was one of the two main pieces (along with fellow righty Jeff Hoffman) who went to Colorado in exchange for Troy Tulowitzki. It’s not clear what role the Rockies have in mind in the near-term, but they’ll get an early look to see whether he will be a part of their plans for 2016.
  • Dalton PompeyBlue Jays — Pompey opened the season with a chance to solidify himself as Toronto’s everyday center fielder, but offensive struggles saw him slide all the way to Double-A. Pompey nonetheless rates as one of baseball’s best prospects, and he’ll again have the opportunity to show the Blue Jays that he can be a long-term piece.
  • Javier BaezCubs — It’s been a difficult season for Baez, who has dealt with the tragic death of his younger sister and then a broken finger but hit well late in the year at Triple-A. Baez’s light-tower power and exceptional bat speed make him one of the game’s most intriguing power prospects, and a huge September could lead the Cubs to pencil him in as their second baseman in 2016.
  • Joey GalloRangers — Speaking of the game’s top power prospects, Gallo wowed the baseball world when he .260/.362/.580 with five homers through his first 14 big league games earlier this year. But, he went 6-for-37 with 22 strikeouts over his next 11 games and was optioned to Triple-A, where his struggles continued. Gallo posted a very three-true-outcomes batting line in 53 games there: .195/.289/.450 with a 39.5 percent strikeout rate in 228 plate appearances. He has as much power as anyone in baseball, but the strikeouts are a concern.
  • Marco Gonzales, Cardinals — The 19th overall pick back in 2013, Gonzales debuted with the Cardinals in 2014 and tossed 34 2/3 respectable, if unspectacular innings. He’s dealt with injuries in 2015 and hadn’t pitched in the Majors this season prior to September. The Cards threw him right into the fire tonight, and things didn’t go well (four runs in 2 2/3 innings). Gonzales could be in line for a rotation spot next season, although with Adam Wainwright returning and Jaime Garcia’s option likely to be picked up, he could begin 2016 in Triple-A again.
  • Rob Refsnyder, Yankees — Refsnyder had a nice season at Triple-A (albeit a bit light in the power department), and Yankee fans have been clamoring for him to inherit the everyday second base job for quite some time. A platoon with Stephen Drew may be more likely, but Refsnyder will get his first extended run on a big league roster this month and hope to impress the team as Drew heads into free agency.
  • Trevor Cahill — Cahill joins the Cubs on a mission to show some semblance of the form he displayed from 2010-13 with the A’s and D-Backs, when he very much looked the part of a mid-rotation starter. Since that four-year stretch (when he notched a 3.72 ERA in 751 innings), Cahill has an ERA just under 6.00 and has been released by the Braves and opted out of a deal with the Dodgers after floundering in Triple-A as well. He’s still only 27.
  • Matt MooreRays — Moore’s return from Tommy John was dreadful, but he flat out dominated Triple-A hitters following a demotion to get his control back in check. Moore had a 3.30 ERA in Triple-A but held hitters to a .207/.273/.333 batting line with a 43-to-8 K/BB ratio in 30 innings, including an Aug. 22 start in which 16 of the 18 outs he recorded came via strikeout.
  • Andrew Bailey, Yankees — The right-hander was a young, ace closer for the Athletics but saw his career fall apart due to injuries after being traded to the Red Sox. He’s thrown well at Triple-A this year after joining the Yankees on a minor league deal, and he’ll now get his first chance at the big league level since way back in 2013.
  • Allen CraigRed Sox — Craig has fallen off the radar after three outstanding seasons with the Cardinals from 2011-13. He’s probably not in Boston’s long-term plans, but a nice September could make it a bit easier for the Sox to generate a little trade interest. Craig batted .274/.368/.350 in Triple-A this season, and while the average/OBP are nice, he had just 18 extra-base hits (14 doubles, four homers) in 399 PAs there.
  • Rex Brothers, Wilin Rosario, Rockies — Formerly two key contributors for the Rockies, both have wilted recently, and both could be viewed as change-of-scenery candidates this offseason. Their September performances, for that reason, are worth keeping an eye on.

West Notes: Zduriencik, Profar, Morneau, Angels

Over at Fangraphs, Jeff Sullivan takes a look at the just-ended tenure of former Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik. Seattle changed course in the middle of his tenure, says Sullivan, with the organization moving from a focus on finding value and prioritizing defense to a grab for power bats. The club also failed to develop its best-regarded talent to its full potential, Sullivan notes, even if it’s hard ultimately to pin down a cause for that failure. All said, whatever the reason, Zduriencik was never able to turn the club into a regular contender.

Here are a few more notes from out west:

  • Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar could join the big league club in September, GM Jon Daniels acknowledged yesterday, as Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. While the former top prospect still is not ready to play the field — he’s recovering from a series of significant shoulder problems — he could hit and run. Texas is considering an Arizona Fall League placement, if Profar seems ready to begin making full-speed throws.
  • First baseman Justin Morneau could still suit up for the Rockies this year, as Nick Groke of the Denver Post writes. Manager Walt Weiss said that the situation was different than most injuries, given Morneau’s somewhat tricky neck and concussion issues. Morneau has previously indicated that he hopes to play next season, so returning to show his health and some productivity would obviously be quite a boon to his stock. While his deal includes a $9MM mutual option for next year, Colorado seems quite likely instead to pay him a $750K buyout.
  • As the Angels reportedly begin what is expected to be a quick-moving GM search, Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler is one name that has been “heard frequently” by MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez (Twitter link). Eppler featured rather prominently in last year’s round of general manager hirings, though obviously he ended up staying in New York.

Rockies Designate Ken Roberts For Assignment

The Rockies have designated left-handed pitcher Ken Roberts for assignment in order to clear space on the 40-man roster for fellow lefty Jason Gurka, tweets Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post.

Roberts, 27, made his Major League debut for the Rox in 2015, appearing in nine games and totaling 9 1/3 innings with a 5.79 ERA and a five-to-two K/BB ratio. A longtime farmhand of the Rockies, Roberts was selected in the 25th round of the 2010 draft and posted strong minor league numbers until reaching Triple-A for the first time this season. However, while Roberts has an unsightly 5.12 ERA in Triple-A this year, he’s posted an outstanding 28-to-4 K/BB ratio in 31 2/3 innings there. He’s surrendered a surprising and uncharacteristic 14.2 hits per nine innings in a very hitter-friendly Albuquerque environment due to a freakishly high .443 BABIP. While poor luck and a hitter-friendly environment probably aren’t solely to blame for his Triple-A struggles, there seems to be good reason to expect that Roberts would not continue to allow hits at such an alarming rate.

Gurka, also 27, is a former 15th-round pick of the Orioles (2008). He’s worked to a more palatable 2.86 ERA with 7.6 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9 in 63 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this year. Opposing lefties have hit .208/.310/.264 in 2015 versus Gurka, who will also be making his big league debut when he first takes the mound for the Rockies.



Three Needs: Colorado Rockies

With September around the corner, the focus for many teams (and their fans — specifically those who read MLBTR with regularity) will shift to the upcoming offseason. A third of the teams in the league currently find themselves more than seven games back from a playoff spot, and about half the teams in baseball are 5.5 games or more away from even securing a Wild Card playoff berth.

We’ll be looking at every team in the league in depth with MLBTR’s annual Offseason Outlook series. For the time being, though, we’re taking preliminary big-picture looks at what some of the non-contending clubs will need to focus on in order to reverse their current standing.

The Rockies are up first as we look at three needs for the upcoming offseason…

1. Increase their willingness to trade hitters. It’s easy enough for people to answer the question when asked, “Who was the last impact bat the Rockies traded away?” thanks to this July’s Troy Tulowitzki blockbuster. However, prior to that swap, the most recent instance of the Rockies trading a significant hitter came in the 2013-14 offseason when they traded Dexter Fowler. Prior to that, it’s probably Matt Holliday — all the way back in 2008. For a team that struggles to develop pitching but seems to routinely produce above-average bats (even after adjusting the numbers to account for Coors Field’s impact), it’s puzzling that they’ve shown such reluctance when it comes to trading hitters. The Tulo trade was a good start, but moving Carlos Gonzalez and perhaps someone like Charlie Blackmon should be a consideration for new GM Jeff Bridich, assuming owner Dick Monfort won’t stand in the way of such a deal.

2. Find a long-term solution at catcher. The Rockies have had a revolving door at catcher for quite some time (Wilin Rosario, Miguel Olivo, Chris Iannetta, Yorvit Torrealba), but more troubling has been the lack of a premium defender at the position. Nick Hundley has been solid with the bat in his first season in Denver, but he also ranks as the worst pitch-framer in all of baseball, per StatCorner.com and second-worst per Baseball Prospectus. Rockies pitchers are already at enough of a disadvantage due to their home environment, and adding a catcher that can help get them ahead in the count via framing would do wonders, even if he comes without a big bat. The Rockies have premium defenders at third base and second base (and had one at shortstop in Tulo); that same emphasis should be applied behind the plate.

3. Overhaul the pitching staff. Yes, it’s obvious. No, it isn’t terribly insightful. But, for a team that has used 12 starters and received a collective 5.34 ERA/4.96 FIP in 2015 (to say nothing of a relief corps with a league-worst 5.00 bullpen ERA), it has to be mentioned. Jon Gray may yet develop into a mid-rotation arm or better, and the Rockies probably still have hope for Eddie Butler as well. Neither is a sure thing at this point, however, and only Gray shows the promise of turning into a strikeout pitcher for Colorado. Dating back to 2007, the Rockies’ collective rotation has posted a K/9 rate greater than 6.5 just twice — 6.8 in 2009 and 7.3 in 2012. The Rockies are right to prioritize ground-ball pitchers, but Colorado’s lack of strikeouts in such a hitter-friendly park is particularly detrimental. Luring free-agent strikeout pitchers to Coors Field is a difficult task, as it requires the team to overpay. However, targeting high-strikeout arms in trades should probably be a priority for the Rockies; recent trade acquisitions for the rotation have included ground-ball pitchers such as Jordan Lyles, Brett Anderson and Wilton Lopez. Bridich’s prioritization of power arms in the Tulo trade was evident, and the continuation of that emphasis could go a long way toward finally developing a pitching staff that can have some degree of success pitching at altitude.


NL West Links: Betancourt, Venable, Hall

The Dodgers‘ losing streak extended to five games after dropping a 3-2 result to the Astros today.  It was another rough outing for the struggling Los Angeles bullpen, as Kenley Jansen blew a save by allowing Houston to tie the game in the ninth, and Chris Hatcher picked up the loss after giving up a 10th-inning walkoff homer to Jason Castro.  Entering Sunday, Dodgers relievers had combined for a 6.00 ERA since the All-Star break, the second-worst bullpen ERA of any club in the second half.  Here’s some more from around the NL West…

  • Rafael Betancourt was designated for assignment by the Rockies earlier today, and the veteran reliever told reporters (including MLB.com’s Thomas Harding) that he’s at peace with the fact that his 12-year career could be over.  He isn’t too optimistic about another team picking him up, saying “I don’t see any team that’s a contender right now that is looking to” acquire a struggling 40-year-old.  Betancourt may be a little hard on himself; several ERA indicators (3.32 FIP, 4.27 xFIP and 3.67 SIERA) show that he’s pitching much better than his 6.18 ERA would imply, and his velocity, strikeouts and walk rates are around his career averages.  Betancourt has been hurt by a .328 BABIP and a stunningly low 52.6% strand rate over his 39 1/3 innings of work.
  • The Dodgers declined to claim Will Venable on trade waivers, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets.  Los Angeles is rather deep with outfield options but, as Morosi notes, the Dodgers could’ve used Venable in center with Joc Pederson struggling.  The Dodgers were hardly alone in passing on Venable, who went through waivers and then garnered interest from several teams.  The Padres dealt Venable to the Rangers last week.
  • The Diamondbacks are eager to make an impact in Japan both marketing-wise and in terms of player acquisitions, team president Derrick Hall told Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times.  “For us, we’ve always looked to be identified with someone in Japan.  We’re still hoping to find that talent one day,” Hall said.  “It’s a dream of mine personally to have a Japanese player in a D’Back uniform, as well as a Mexican-born player who can have an impact. Because I’ve seen what a difference that makes having grown up and cut my own teeth in the Dodgers organization all those years. Of course I was around during the time of Nomo-san and Nomomania and that was electric.”
  • Hall, Tony La Russa, Randy Johnson and Luis Gonzalez recently traveled to Japan on a goodwill tour on the Diamondbacks’ behalf, and while they weren’t specifically there to scout players, they did see Kenta Maeda and Shohei Otani pitch in NPB action.  Arizona was one of several teams linked to Maeda last offseason before the righty decided to re-sign with the Hiroshima Carp.  Maeda could be posted this winter, while Otani is just 21 and it’ll be at least a few seasons before the Nippon Ham Fighters consider making him available to North American teams.  Hall said the D’Backs are “going to be aggressive” on signing talent they believe in, though given the large fees involved in signing top-flight Japanese talent, “it makes it more difficult for teams like us in smaller markets.  When we write that big a check, we cannot miss. We’ve gotta be right.”

Minor MLB Transactions: 8/23/15

Today’s minor moves, with the newest transactions at the top of the post…


Rockies Designate Rafael Betancourt For Assignment

Rockies skipper Walt Weiss says Rafael Betancourt has been designated for assignment, Thomas Harding of MLB.com tweets.  The Rockies manager also wondered aloud if Betancourt could be picked up by another team in the next ten days.

Weiss went on to call Betancourt a “warrior” and he said that his conversation with the veteran right-hander was tough (link).  Weiss said that he admired the way Betancourt came back from Tommy John surgery and gave him a tip of the cap for his Rockies career.

In 45 games for the Rockies this season, Betancourt has struggled, pitching to a 6.18 ERA, although his 9.2 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 rates are not that far off from his career numbers.  Betancourt was a fixture in the Rockies’ bullpen for many years, finishing out 136 games over parts of six seasons.  In his 12 total MLB seasons with the Indians and Colorado, Betancourt owns a 3.36 ERA with 9.5 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9.

To follow the status of Betancourt and other players in DFA limbo, check out MLBTR’s DFA Tracker.


NL Notes: Reyes, Duda, Young, Pirates

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes would welcome a trade to a winning team, writes Nick Groke of the Denver Post“You come from a ballclub that was competing for a spot in the playoffs,” said Reyes. “And you come to a club in last place. You think about that.” Reyes said to Groke that winning is his top priority, particularly a this stage of his career. “I don’t want to spend the rest of my career on a last-place team,” he continued. Reyes wasn’t necessarily asking out of Colorado, adding, “We’ll see what happens here,” but he added that he doesn’t want to spend multiple years waiting on a rebuild, either.

Here’s more from the Senior Circuit…

  • Lucas Duda‘s troublesome back — a lumbar strain, to be specific — forced him to exit Friday’s game early, and Saturday the Mets placed the first baseman on the disabled list, as MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo writes. The Mets are hopeful that Duda will only be sidelined for the minimum 15 days, which would mean he’d return to the club in early September. Duda will have a consultation with back specialist Dr. Robert Watkins next week. Michael Cuddyer got the start at first base last night.
  • The Mets are considering trade acquisition Eric Young Jr. as a September call-up, DiComo writes in a second piece. New York immediately optioned Young to the minors upon acquiring him, but a lack of speed and base-stealing threats on the current active roster make him a strong candidate for a September appearance. Manager Terry Collins seemed to be in favor of the idea as well. “It’s a dimension we don’t have,” said Collins, in reference to Young’s speed. “It would be very important for us to have a guy like that.”
  • The offseason additions of Francisco Cervelli and Jung Ho Kang have fueled what will likely be a third straight playoff berth for the Pirates, writes Joe Lemire in a column for USA Today. GM Neal Huntington tells Lemire that Kang has exceeded the organization’s expectations in terms of how well he’s adapted to the U.S. culture. Lemire also spoke to Huntington about Cervelli, and the GM said that his team was aggressive in is pursuit of the former Yankees catcher due to his defensive prowess. Cervelli talked with Lemire about how he improved defensively with the Yankees as well as his passion for painting and cooking, which he uses as stress relievers and refers to as “good therapy in the offseason.”

Rockies Release Drew Stubbs

AUG. 21: The Rockies released Stubbs yesterday, per the club’s transactions page at MLB.com.

AUG. 12: The Rockies have designated outfielder Drew Stubbs for assignment and selected the contract of fellow outfielder Matt McBride from Triple-A, tweets MLB.com’s Thomas Harding.

The 30-year-old Stubbs enjoyed arguably the best season of his career with the Rockies in 2014, but he opened the season with a 6-for-51 slump and was ultimately optioned to Triple-A, where’s he’s spent much of the year. Stubbs hit well enough in the minors, but his typical power was nowhere to be seen, as he homered just twice at the Triple-A level. He returned to the Majors in early July and has hit well in limited duty, though his overall batting line of .216/.286/.431 leaves plenty to be desired (especially for someone playing half his games at Coors Field).

Stubbs and the Rockies agreed to a $5.825MM contract this winter to avoid arbitration — a raise he earned by hitting .289/.339/.482 in 424 plate appearances last season. Stubbs has always had pretty notable platoon splits, though, and nearly all of his damage both with the Rockies and the Reds came while playing in his hitter-friendly home environments. Defensively speaking, he can handle all three outfield spots with UZR and DRS pegging him as a roughly average center fielder over the life of his career.


Reed, Rodney, Axford, Mujica, Aardsma Clear Waivers

Right-handers Addison Reed, Fernando Rodney, John Axford, Edward Mujica and David Aardsma have all cleared revocable trade waivers, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post, making them eligible to be dealt to any club.

Of the listed group, only the veteran Aardsma has even posted a sub-4.00 ERA this season, as the 33-year-old has a 3.95 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9 in 27 1/3 innings with the Braves. He’s generating grounders at just a 29.9 percent clip though and has had some home run issues to go along with his questionable control. Aardsma inked a minor league deal with the Braves, so his salary for the remainder of the season is light in comparison to the peers with whom he’s listed.

Reed, 26, was an up-and-coming closer not long ago was viewed in a strong enough light for the D-Backs to surrender one of their top prospects (Matt Davidson) for him in the 2013-14 offseason. His first season with the Diamondbacks resulted in a 4.25 ERA, however, and he’s up to 4.46 this season. Reed lost his job to Brad Ziegler earlier in the year and has been demoted to Triple-A this season.

Since returning, Reed has yielded just one run on nine hits and a walk with eight strikeouts in 10 innings, so things do look considerably brighter of late. However, Reed is also earning $4.875MM this season, and he’s still owed about $1.33MM of that sum through season’s end. He’s controllable through the 2017 season but is a definite non-tender candidate following the season, as he’ll top $5MM via arbitration despite his 2015 struggles.

The 38-year-old Rodney is perhaps the least surprising name on Sherman’s list. In 50 innings this season, he’s posted a 5.05 ERA with diminished strikeout (7.6 K/9) and walk (4.1 BB/9) rates to go along with a career-worst 1.44 HR/9 rate. Rodney’s fastball is averaging 94.9 mph, so he still has plenty of heat, but the results haven’t been there in 2015, and he’s owed $1.91MM of his $7MM salary through season’s end.

Axford, 32, has seen his share of struggles as well in his first year with the Rockies. Axford began the year in dominant fashion, yielding just one run in 19 innings and usurping LaTroy Hawkins as the Colorado closer. However, in the 19 2/3 innings that have followed that initial stretch, he’s been tagged for 19 runs on a dismal 29 hits and 15 walks. Teams in search of relief help may have some degree of hope that Coors Field has contributed to his poor results of late; Axford does have a 5.32 ERA in Denver versus a 3.78 ERA on the road. But, walks are walks in any park, and Axford has issued 10 free passes in 16 2/3 innings on the road.

Mujica has already been designated for assignment once this season (by the Red Sox), and his numbers have only worsened following a trade to the Athletics. The 31-year-old is still showing excellent control (1.3 BB/9 rate), but he’s averaging just six strikeouts per nine innings and has been entirely too hittable. Opponents are batting .309/.336/.525 against Mujica in 2015, and the result has been an unsightly 5.25 ERA. Even if he weren’t owed $1.3MM through the end of the season, he’d be a tough sell as a bullpen upgrade for a team seeking relief help.

Each of these relievers has been added to MLBTR’s list of players that have cleared revocable waivers, which can be always be found under the MLBTR Features on the right-hand sidebar for desktop users.