We checked in last week on what, if anything, the five lowest-scoring offenses of 2019 have done to improve themselves this winter. Let’s now take a look at whether any of the five starting rotations that posted the highest ERAs last year have gotten better this offseason. Free agency won’t offer much in the way of help at this point, so for the most part, what you see here is probably what you’ll get..
Colorado Rockies (5.87 ERA/5.31 FIP; current depth chart)
- Assembling a competent starting staff has regularly been a problem for the Rockies, who are stuck playing half their games at the unkind confines of Coors Field. It was a different story in 2018, the year the Rockies boasted a high-end starting staff, but things took a sharp turn for the worse last season. Aside from German Marquez and Jon Gray, who continued their strong production, no one from the Rockies’ rotation performed well. Kyle Freeland suffered through a disastrous campaign after posting a Cy Young-caliber 2018, while Antonio Senzatela, Peter Lambert, Jeff Hoffman, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Tim Melville, Tyler Anderson, Chad Bettis and Rico Garcia combined for woeful numbers across a combined 83 starts. So what have the Rockies done since to address their starting group? Nothing of note. It seems they’ll count on a bunch of their holdovers to turn in better showings, though their staff will take a big hit in the event they deal Gray (a potential trade candidate) before the season.
Los Angeles Angels (5.64 ERA/5.41 FIP; current depth chart)
- The Angels’ rotation suffered a terrible blow in the fall of 2018 when Shohei Ohtani underwent Tommy John surgery, costing him all of last season, and then tragedy struck last July when Tyler Skaggs passed away. Considering the circumstances, it’s not surprising the Angels’ staff reeled last season. Nevertheless, adding reinforcements was clearly in order for this winter. The problem is that the Angels still haven’t found a way to acquire a proven front-of-the-rotation type, which many expected to them to get when the winter began. Ohtani’s back, which is a major plus. Meanwhile, the acquisitions of innings-eaters Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran should help matters, but they’re not going to frighten opposing offenses. The Angels figure to keep trying to better their rotation in the coming months, though the open market has dried up and teams seemingly aren’t champing at the bit to move big-time starters via trade now.
Baltimore Orioles (5.57 ERA/5.72 FIP; current depth chart)
- Bundy, who led the O’s rotation in innings last season, is now gone. 2019 success story John Means remains in place, and Alex Cobb will be back in the wake of injuries that limited him to three starts. Those two aside, there’s little in the way of established starters for rebuilding Baltimore, though it wouldn’t be surprising to see the club try to find a cheap starter(s) in free agency before the season begins. The team did make an interesting move when it used the second pick of the Rule 5 Draft on 25-year-old righty Brandon Bailey, whom Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs calls a “spin rate monster.”
Detroit Tigers (5.51 ERA/4.66 FIP; current depth chart)
- Detroit’s rotation mix actually looks pretty promising, though it’s possible the team will weaken the mix by trading Matthew Boyd before the season. As of now, he’s back at the helm of a group that also got respectable performances from Spencer Turnbull and Daniel Norris last year. Stud prospects Casey Mize and Matt Manning are gaining on the majors, meanwhile, and Michael Fulmer should factor back in sometime this year after Tommy John surgery kept him away in 2019. Furthermore, the Tigers just signed the durable Ivan Nova to a cheap contract to serve as their resident back-end innings-eater. Jordan Zimmerman, arguably the weakest link in the chain, is also the most expensive. Mercifully for the Tigers, he’s finally entering the last season of what has been an albatross contract for the club.
Pittsburgh Pirates (5.19 ERA/4.78 FIP; current depth chart)
- The Pirates, already without staff leader Jameson Taillon for most of last season, suffered a horrid blow when he underwent a TJ procedure in August. He won’t be part of the 2020 staff as a result, leaving holdovers Chris Archer, Joe Musgrove and Trevor Williams at the helm of an uninspiring-looking bunch. Barring a trade, the hope is that the once-terrific Archer will put a nightmarish first year and a half as a Pirate behind him. Archer was markedly better as last season progressed, so there does seem to be some hope for a full-season bounce-back effort. The unit will include some speculative candidates in Tommy John rehabber Chad Kuhl and talented 23-year-old Mitch Keller, who struggled as a rookie but remains a premium pitching prospect.
The original version of this post mistakenly indicated that Kuhl underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019. His procedure occurred in September of 2018.