Colorado Rockies Rumors

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

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.


Prospect Notes: Org Rankings, Cuba, Nunez

The Red Sox top the latest organizational prospect list of MLB.com’s Jim Callis. Boston has seven of the game’s top 100 pre-MLB players, per MLB.com, led by infielders Yoan Moncada and Rafael Devers. Next up on the list: the Dodgers, Rockies, Cubs, and Twins. Here are some more stray notes from around the league:

  • MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez looks at the international market on a historic day for U.S.-Cuban relations. There are a number of talented Cuban players waiting to strike deals, Sanchez explains. Indeed, he estimates that nearly 75 young players have left the island nation with intentions of signing with big league clubs in the last year and a half. As Sanchez notes, it remains unclear whether a new pathway for that talent to travel to the majors could be opened.
  • Another Cuban player could potentially be on the way, Baseball America’s Ben Badler tweets, though it seems he won’t be attempting to defect to do so. 22-year-old lefty Darien Nunez has asked Cuban authorities to release him from his league obligations, reports from the island suggest. Badler says that the southpaw — who led Cuban ball in both strikeouts and walks last year — is raw and unpolished, but possesses an “intriguing arm.”

Jose Reyes Clears Waivers

Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes has cleared waivers, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, making him eligible to be traded to any team. Heyman hears that “at least a couple of teams” have been “poking around” regarding Reyes, but the Rockies aren’t necessarily shopping him around.

There’s been at least some contact with the Yankees about a possible Reyes matchup, Heyman reports, though it’s not known how serious their interest is. Didi Gregorius has been outstanding for much of the summer, hitting .290/.329/.383 dating back to June 1 to go along with his strong defensive work. Reyes could be viewed as a second base option by the Yankees, who have received little from their primary option at the position, Stephen Drew.

Reyes, 32, was hitting reasonably well at the time of the stunner that sent him and three pitching prospects from Toronto to Denver in exchange for Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins, but he’s struggled greatly in his new environs. Reyes is hitting just .216/.241/.275 with the Rox — a sharp decline from the .285/.322/.385 he was slashing with the Blue Jays. From a defensive standpoint, Reyes has declined over the past two seasons, so it’s possible that some clubs would think of him more as a second base option than a shortstop anyhow. (Although, getting off the turf in Toronto could revitalize his legs and back to some extent.)

Given the substantial financial commitment still remaining on Reyes contract, it’s unsurprising to see him go unclaimed. He’s still owed about $6.37MM of this year’s $22MM salary, and he’ll earn $22MM in both 2016 and 2017, plus a $4MM buyout of a $22MM option for the 2018 season. All told, that’s about $54.37MM owed to Reyes through the 2017 season.

For what it’s worth, Heyman hears that while Reyes spoke highly of the Mets this weekend and seems to be amenable to a return to New York City, the Mets did not show any interest in reacquiring him following his move to Colorado.

Reyes becomes the third known player to have cleared revocable waivers. We’ll be keeping an update-to-date list of players that have cleared waivers, and you can always find a link to that list on the MLBTR Features sidebar on the right-hand side of the desktop version of MLBTR. (Mobile users may want to bookmark the post for easy reference.)