Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich realizes he needs to improve his team’s bullpen, which was among the majors’ worst this year, but he’s “not sure yet” if he’ll acquire potential upgrades from outside the organization.
“I think that we are going to do everything that we need to do in the offseason to see if there are ways to making us better in the ‘pen,” Bridich told Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post.
Bridich did pick up three established relievers last year via free agency and the trade market, but none of the moves panned out in 2016. His most notable transaction was sending outfielder Corey Dickerson to the Rays for left-hander Jake McGee, who was a terrific late-game option in Tampa Bay. That wasn’t the case in McGee’s first year in Colorado, though, as he logged a career-worst 4.73 ERA to go with 7.49 K/9 (down from 11.57 in 2015) and 3.15 BB/9 (up from 1.93 the previous year) in 45 2/3 innings. McGee’s average four-seam fastball velocity also fell to 93.4 after sitting at 96.4 just two years ago, as Saunders notes, and his swinging strike percentage that was comfortably in the double digits from 2012-15 plummeted to 8.6 this season. Colorado now has to decide whether to tender a contract to McGee, who’s set to make his fourth and final trip through arbitration after collecting $4.8MM in 2016.
Unlike McGee, the Rockies’ two other high-profile bullpen investments from last offseason – right-handers Chad Qualls and Jason Motte – are already under contract for next year. The Rockies signed the pair to two-year pacts worth a combined $16MM on the same day last December, but neither helped the club’s cause this season. Motte was on the disabled list multiple times with shoulder issues. In the 23 2/3 innings he did pitch, Motte posted a 4.94 ERA (a far cry from his halcyon days as a Cardinal), though he did impress with 9.13 K/9 against 3.04 BB/9. Qualls’ strikeout rate (6.06) was nowhere near as palatable, and he also struggled to prevent runs (5.23 ERA) despite limiting walks (2.48 per nine) and generating ground balls at a 55 percent clip across 32 2/3 frames.
Heading into the offseason, most of the prominent members of the Rockies’ 2016 bullpen remain under their control. Considering their relievers produced the majors’ worst ERA (5.13) and seventh-worst K/BB ratio (2.3), that’s not exactly encouraging. The only standouts set to return are Adam Ottavino and Chris Rusin. Southpaw Boone Logan, one of Colorado’s few effective relievers, is on track to hit free agency. If Bridich tries to improve his bullpen via the open market, Nationals closer Mark Melancon is a free agent-to-be and a Colorado native, though he’ll likely be out of the Rockies’ price range. Otherwise, there’s no shortage of soon-to-be available options who could help the Rockies at less expensive costs.