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.
This series could be a very good idea–looking forward to reading it. One comment about the Rockies–they may be in an insuperable position in terms of dealing with the park/pitching. To get more power arms, they will have to draft them, which will take time. To trade for them, it would have to be controllable arms, which are very expensive, because it’s likely that those arms would walk when they are free agents, just to get away from Coors. So developing a staff nucleus might be very difficult–and would take some luck.
Steve will COL have to eat some of that CarGo contract?
Wouldn’t mind seeing him in ATL (at the right price)
Not if he keeps producing the way he has been recently. He will be a lot cheaper this offseason than signing J. Upton or another outfielder of similar skill.
No, but they will have to pay some for Jose reyes if they trade him
Won’t speak for Steve, but in my view there’s enough $ left on it and enough uncertainty that another team isn’t likely to take on the full contract and give any impact prospects. (Notably, CarGo is again dealing with knee troubles.)
That could change if he continues to rake this year and the first half of 2016, say, but if they look to move him this winter I don’t think they’re getting a terribly attractive return without keeping a good bit of the money.
Thanks Jeff. My biggest concern is the health/inconsistencies last couple years, along with the splits vs LHP and away from COL. Obviously everyone is going to hit much better at COL, but his career numbers aren’t near as good when he’s away from home (although they have been good this year…)
Look at Rockies hitters when they leave Colorado. They nearly always hit about the same overall as they did with the Rockies. Smaller splits but same overall. This is because Coors has as much of a negative impact when hitters leave altitude as it does positive when they’re in Denver.
Boston could move one of Ryan Hanigan, or least likely Christian Vazquez. Hanigan is locked up under a very affordable 3.7m for next year, with another 3.7m team option for 2018. Vazquez would normally have even more value, but he’s probably not going to get any games in, except during winter ball this year after having TJ in April on his throwing elbow. Might not be another catcher around who throws as good as does Vazquez.
I doubt the Red Sox move Hanigan until we know for sure Vazquez is ok. The Red Sox would really only be looking for pitching as they have a lot of young hitters in the MLB and in the minors.
I dunno. Was reading he’s ready to hit now and supposedly going to play winter ball over the offseason as a catcher. That should let them know if he’s healthy enough to be the backup, or 50/50 with Swihart next year. Whichever way they go and Hanigan would be a fair chip to trade, not a great one, but with how awful catching is, on a team like the Rockies? He’d be a large improvement.
Backup catchers are plentiful on the FA market. Trade Hanigan and sign Gerald Laird, if it turns out Vazquez isn’t ready. no need to wait.
4. Get a new owner.
That should be #1. And #2 should be to get a new President of Operations.
Steve did mention ownership issues in point #1:
“assuming owner Dick Monfort won’t stand in the way of such a deal.”
He can’t openly endorse the idea of a new owner because he’s a part of the media, so the next best thing is to make a subtle suggestion.
The 2 problems with #3 is that EVERYONE in MLB is looking for those pitchers AND what it takes to be a high K pitcher at altitude. What makes hitters swing and miss at pitches, (generally speaking of course) is movement on all pitch types. And as we all know, pitches at altitude have less movement and effectiveness. It’s almost as if each Rockies pitcher needs 2 of each pitch type just to be able to deal with the altitude. I mean the best pitcher on the planet has a season’s worth of data at Coors and has an ERA of 4.63. This doesn’t even begin to get into recovery rate at altitude, the most effective pitch at altitude being the slider, which causes the most arm damage/pitch, pitchers putting Colorado as their first no trade team, inability to develop high draft pick arms seen as very good to excellent picks at the time, inability to keep their current pitchers healthy, etc.
Also, they at least improved their framing when they signed Hundley and he posted positive framing runs in 2014. So it seems the current GM at least understands the importance of it. Also, I think the altitude causes umpires to miss more calls than at other stadiums as well. Whether it’s because the expect a certain pitch to travel a certain way and it doesn’t, or some other factor, watching games here makes me think there is something to umpires are missing more ball/strike calls at Coors than at other stadiums.
This is perhaps the most nuanced location in all of sports when it comes to team building, and hopefully Birdich has a plan.
The most effective pitch at altitude is a well located good change up, changing speeds and hitting spots is how you pitch at Coors it is why De La Rosa for a while was actually better at Coors than on the road. I think a pitcher like Tom Glavine would have mastered Coors, you have to be able to pitch to contact as crazy as it sounds.
You certainly don’t want batters making hard contact at Coors. That does make changing speeds essential. Many rumors about Carlos Gonzalez for Kevin Gausman before the deadline. I certainly liked that deal
I think a guy like Cobb if hes fully healthy would be a nice target, with him possibly becoming expendable with all the Rays starters, Cargo would also benefit the Rays a great deal.
But would the Rays be willing to afford him? I don’t think so.
It would definitely be an ownership level decision, and who knows exactly where their heads are at it seems very unlikely, I’m not sure how arbitration works for a player who may not pitch again until late 2016, but if Cobb is due around 4 million like he made this year, the difference puts Cargo’s AAV at least in the ballpark of what Longoria is making.
Well, Glavine could have mastered pitching in my bathroom.
And he’d still be undervalued in today’s game where people obsess over FIP and k/9, Today’s generation of baseball people seem to think any one who doesn’t miss bats is living off his defense, when in reality Glavine was giving routine plays to his defense with his pitching. He may not have missed bats but not many squared him up. Stat cast could prove to bring back those type of pitchers value the ones who are rarely hit hard.
Pitch Framing….I always marvel at the comments and importance placed on this metric.
Speaking from an umpire’s perspective, which I am, doesn’t anyone think that a catchers glove movement and conception of a borderline pitch back into the strike zone is noticed and observed by professional umpiring crews around the league. Remember, hitters will certainly let them know when a pitch is called a strike when they believe it isn’t. Again, from an umpire’s perspective there are two sides to the issue of calling a pitch out of the strike zone a strike.
I remember one catcher in particular, Jose Molina that framed every single pitch thrown by his pitchers and rarely got a call once into the game, that really wasn’t a strike in the first place. This metric does nothing to try and capture the intangibles from the Umpire’s side as to why a pitch is called a strike and a ball.
Altitude shouldn’t cause umpires to miss calls because you are taught to call the pitch that enters the strike zone. You simply don’t guess whether the pitch did what the pitcher intended and ended up where they intended. You call them as you see them not where you thought they were.
And yet, certain catchers do seem to catch more “strikes” than others, even when pitchers are controlled for. It’s a clearly significant statistical phenomenon.
This is a team in massive need of starting over. Not necessarily in terms of blowing up the existing team, but in terms of blowing up the existing mindset. What they have been doing has not been working, at all. I don’t know if they are too consumed with worrying about the altitude issue, or not consumed enough, or if that issue is irrelevant.
As an outsider, with no personal knowledge of the team situation, it has frequently seemed as if there has been no long-term plan at all in place… and THAT needs to be the #1 change. I am a Pirates fan. I frequently got frustrated in the first few years of the Neal Huntington era… but I understood what they were thinking because he and Bob Nutting had a plan in place, and they verbalized it, and they followed it. It didn’t always work in the short term. As it turned out, it sure worked in the long term (though of course there is no guarantee that will happen).
They do tend to have a plan, but things (mostly injuries and sudden disintegration of formerly good players, which happens oddly frequently with them) get in the way. They’ve had a MOUNTAIN’S worth of bad luck the last five years, in addition to bad drafting, conservative trading, and of course the conundrum of altitude. Toughest nut to crack in sports.
Braves could trade Mike Foltynewicz (100MPH) and Jace Peterson to the ROX for Nolan Arenado. Colorado could slide LeMeihue to third and then Jace at second.
If Nolan gets traded I’d wait till Ryan McMahon gets to the bigs
Yeah, um not gonna happen in a million years. At least not for that price.
Foltynewicz, who ironically just lost to the Rockies, isn’t much. Throws hard but straight as an arrow. Probably a reliever. That isn’t close to getting Arenado, who is a 6 WAR player with 4 years of cheap control.
I never understood why this team focused on maintaining their strengths (offense) while just seemingly shrugging their shoulders when it came to the biggest weakness (pitching). Brett Anderson, Jon Niese, Tyson Ross & Mike Leake are all notable groundball pitchers who either were available at the deadline, or will be available this offseason. Its simple solution for 2016: grab all of them.
Not that simple. Free agent pitchers won’t sign there. Starters that are available are nearly all short-timers and they won’t re-sign in Denver. The team stinks so why get a short-time upgrade at great cost? Believe me, they’ve tried for years to solve this problem. Most likely they’ll have to wait for prospects.
They’ve tried the big money FA pitcher before with horrible results: Denny Naegel, Mike Hampton and Darryl Kile. Kile was 21-34 5.84 in two years. He went to STL in a trade after and won 20 his first season for the Birds. Hampton was 21-28 in two years with a 5.75ERA. Naegel was the best of the bunch with a 19-23 mark in three years and “only” a 5.57 ERA. If you’re an ace….why go there and virtually kill any hopes of reaching Cooperstown?
One question to the Rockies fans.
BOSTON gets: Nolan Arenado
COLORADO gets: Christian Vasquez, Eduardo Rodriguez and Manuel Margot.
+ Brian Johnson could be or another Prospect.
it’s just me imagining a proposal, Not that I want this to happen(But I really do) I know Panda is in Boston and all that, i just wanna know if your like the proposal.
Pretty sure Nolan would be untouchable. You don’t trade a gold glove 3b with an above average bat for an injured C and 2 solid prospects… He could fetch more (alot more) than any player traded this past deadline.
I mean, its a solid package, but I’d go for more pitching if I’m the rox. That and (this is just my opinion) I think those above prospects are way overhyped
Out of place Met fan
Any time a team can field top all around players at 2 or 3 positions, I feel a quick turn around is possible.
Rockies appear to line up with the Indians, a deal centered around Blackmon and Carasco, with some additional pieces evening things out.
Another deal to look at would be a Cargo for Lagares & Plawecki
To the Braves fans asking about Cargo – take a look at next year’s FA OF class. You’ve already seen the Upton and Heyward movies. Alex Gordon is older than Cargo. Then look at the contracts these type guys will command (and mostly get). 5-7 years, 80-120M. Cargo @ 29 years old, at 37M is an absolute steal. So not only will the Rockies not have to pick up some of his contract, they should get 2 very good Prospects in return.
Regarding NoDo – the Rockies “should” trade him as well. But they’re not that forward thinking.
Regarding the comments about Rockies ownership – you’re spot on. That, in a nutshell, is the problem.