October 6: According to Jon Heyman of MLB Network, Senzatela can increase his annual salary by meeting thresholds of innings pitched. By reaching 200 innings in 2022, he will add $1MM to his salary in each season from 2024 to 2027, and the same applies for 2023. That means Senzatela has the potential to add $8MM to his payout.
October 5: The Rockies announced this afternoon they’ve agreed to a five-year contract extension with right-hander Antonio Senzatela. He’ll be guaranteed $50.5MM, and the deal also contains a club option for the 2027 season. Senzatela, a client of Republik Sports, was headed into his second trip through the arbitration process and had previously been under club control through the 2023 season.
It’s a rather surprising first move for newly minted general manager Bill Schmidt, who shed the “interim” tag from his title over the weekend. Senzatela has, at times, looked the part of a durable innings eater with a grounder-heavy approach, but he also possesses one of Major League Baseball’s lowest strikeout rates and was only in line for a modest raise on this season’s $3MM salary in arbitration. He’ll now earn $7.25MM in both 2022 and 2023 before taking home $12MM annually from 2024-26. The 2027 option is valued at $14MM.
Senzatela, 26, has been a durable rotation cog for Colorado over the past few seasons, although it’s worth noting that as recently as 2019, he was optioned to Triple-A and finished the season with an ERA just shy of 7.00. The right-hander was hammered for a 10.34 ERA from July through September that season but has enjoyed much more success since returning.
In 40 starts and 230 frames dating back to Opening Day 2020, he’s worked to a combined 4.11 earned run average — albeit with a 15% strikeout rate that ranks 188th of the 198 starting pitchers to have thrown at least 100 innings in that time. Senzatela ranks on the opposite end of the pendulum with the 15th-best walk rate in that time (5.1%) and the 22nd-ranked ground-ball percentage (51.1%).
Clearly, the Rockies are betting that he’ll be able to continue to suppress runs at a roughly average rate, leaning heavily on his blend of strong control and knack for inducing grounders. The challenge for Senzatela will lie partly in his ability to reduce the rate at which he allows hard contact. Of the 98 qualified pitchers in Major League Baseball this season, Senzatela’s 90.6 mph average opponents’ exit velocity was sixth-highest. That’s driven in part by a propensity to allow hard contact on the ground; his exit velocity on ground-balls is fourth-highest in MLB, whereas on balls in the air it’s a slightly less-alarming 27th.
Historically speaking, there’s ample precedent for pitchers in Senzatela’s service bracket — more than four years, less than five — signing a deal in this range. Kyle Hendricks’ 2019 extension with the Cubs, a five-year deal worth a guaranteed $55.5MM, is the most recent and closest parallel.
Notably, Hendricks also largely goes against today’s archetypical strikeout machine. He relies more on weak contact and pinpoint command to offset one of the game’s slowest fastballs, however, whereas Senzatela’s power sinker hovers in the 95 mph range but simply doesn’t miss many bats.
While both pitchers are grounder-heavy command artists, Hendricks had a vastly superior track record that included a prior third-place finish in NL Cy Young balloting. He’d already agreed to a $7.405MM salary for the forthcoming 2019 season, and Senzatela would’ve been hard-pressed to earn a second-time arbitration salary in that range. If Hendricks was indeed cited as a point of comparison in negotiations, it’s a strong deal for Senzatela’s camp to have come close to that same guarantee with a demonstrably worse statistical platform.
That said, while the price point may be a bit of a surprise, the Rockies surely place extra value on pitchers who’ve shown the ability — and the desire or willingness — to pitch effectively at Coors Field. Persuading any free-agent starting pitcher to sign on for multiple years pitching at altitude is a difficult endeavor. Beyond that, the Rockies have a fairly weak farm system, so trading for a controllable pitcher is easier said than done. Senzatela has had his share of success in recent seasons and, if he can continue on the same trajectory he showed from 2020-21, the deal will look reasonable enough.
From a payroll vantage point, the Rox can certainly afford the deal as structured. Colorado had just under $47MM in guaranteed salary on the 2022 books, and Senzatela’s salary bumps them to a bit more than $54MM. Charlie Blackmon will tack on another $21MM when he exercises a player option for the 2022 campaign, but even that subsequent $75-76MM is nowhere near the franchise-record $145MM payroll. Colorado is reported to be in agreement on an extension with first baseman C.J. Cron as well, but that shouldn’t drive up the bottom-line payroll in 2022 by too much.
Moreover, by the time Senzatela’s salary jumps to the $12MM range, the Blackmon contract will be off the books. The Rockies didn’t have a single guaranteed salary on the 2024 payroll prior to this long-term deal, though a $16MM club option on top pitcher German Marquez appears likely to be exercised, barring a significant injury or decline. An annual $12MM salary for an innings eater of Senzatela’s nature isn’t an egregious price to pay, although the downside with him is greater than with other arms who’ve signed in this price range — and it’s a bit surprising to see that price tag agreed upon so far in advance.
At the end of the day, the Senzatela extension serves as another reminder that the Rockies don’t view themselves nearly as far from contending as their 74-win season and -57 run differential would suggest. Colorado bucked conventional wisdom at the deadline when opting to hang onto Trevor Story, Jon Gray, Daniel Bard, Cron and other trade candidates, ultimately only moving Mychal Givens despite being buried in the division and lacking long-term control of those players.
Owner Dick Monfort has repeatedly stated in the past that he believes the current Rockies core is capable of contending, although that core will likely be turning over at least to an extent with the expected departure of Story. Competing in a division with the two best teams of 2021, plus a flawed-but-talented Padres squad in win-now mode would appear a daunting task for most teams, but the Rockies operate on an island and, in many ways, prefer their own unorthodox methodologies to more popular industry trends. The group of Marquez, Senzatela, Kyle Freeland, Gray (if he’s re-signed) and Austin Gomber certainly could form the nucleus of a competitive pitching staff, but the Rox are thin on depth behind that quintet and will need another year of uncanny health in the rotation just to repeat their 2021 output. Some additional roster augmentation will be needed this offseason.
Jeff Passan of ESPN was first to report the agreement and the deal’s terms.
Quite a gamble on him, but I’m guessing they’re trying for another Marquez breakout coming off his best FiP (3.61) in the most IP he’s ever pitched (156.2). Not a bad extension, but definitely a Schmidt signing.
Not a great comparison. Marquez always had incredible stuff and was capable of massive K numbers. Senzatela, not so much.
Not really a comp, but a similar extension 2 years later. Senzatela is a better GB pitcher, which is what is needed in that ballpark, with decent defense. He could have a higher-floor and lower-ceiling than Marquez, and any way you can avoid having to pay for free agent starting pitching while keeping your homegrown guys seems like the right move. But we shall see.
I’m just saying Senzatela will not be having any sort of Marquez style breakout. He’s a back end innings eater
The Mets "Missed WAR"
Man. Now it turns out to likely be a $58.5 million contract? For a pitcher who was released with an ERA of 7.00 just a year ago? This contract is literally looking worse and worse for the Rockies by the day. They have no clue how to spend money in a way that’s actually going to help them win. No wonder this team is so bad.
Senzatela does not have a higher floor.
The Mets "Missed WAR"
I wasn’t expecting so many relatively major MLB contract extensions to be handed out today. Escobar, Cron and before that, Senzatela. I like the Senzatela deal for Colorado but considering he was so bad last season I’m surprised they gave it to him this early. They could have kept him for at least 2 more years at a much cheaper cost and made him prove 2021 was no fluke. I don’t think he was ever going to get a ton on the free agent market so $50+ million when they still had multiple years of cheaper control seemed steep. If Senzatela falls apart at any point in the next 2 seasons the extension was just bad for the Rockies all around. They would have paid him more than necessary just to have the ability to pay him more than he would actually be worth. Since he showed this year he could pitch in Colorado I would have given him that contract as a free agent. The Rockies already had him under team control at a lower cost for 2 more years though so it seems like there was no reason to. I don’t get what the Rockies are doing. This guy had an ERA of 7.00 last season and after one year they think he’s worth over $50 million when they already could have kept him for multiple years for much cheaper. I get the Rockies need to keep pitchers that can handle their altitude but they still had a couple years to make him prove he could do that more than once. Not to mention it’s not like he was great or anything. Basically just a shade above serviceable. I have no clue what this Rockies organization is doing. They need to be tearing this team down and rebuilding it from the ground up while maybe keeping some of the pitchers that can handle it but not paying for them until they have to. Cron is good in Colorado but lots of hitters are and he sucks on the road. They should have let him walk and saved that money to put towards a season they will actually contend because we all know they won’t next year. So, what’s the point of wasting the money now?
A team needs reliable starters at the back end of the rotation. He fills that need. Actually a good signing.
The Mets "Missed WAR"
Over $50 million for a back end of the rotation guy whose ERA was over 7.00 last year? That’s a stretch. You can get much better back end guys on 1 year deals for much cheaper than that. The Rox already had him under team control for the next 2 years at a lower salary too. Make him prove it for more than 1 year
Can the Rockies? How many free agents want to sign prove-it deals playing in a Trevor Story-less Colorado dealing with humidors, SF/LAD/SD most games? Not exactly an ideal formula on paper.
Compare that with a team like MIA or KC with a better farm, also large field dimensions (without the high elevation) with a better defense and small budget in a worse division (where you could compete, possibly playing at a higher level). *Not saying MIA/KC is an alternative this offseason, but both are popular destinations in year’s past for short-term deals.
In a vacuum, this deal is not horrible. It could work out just fine. The problem is the timing; it just wasn’t necessary to hand this contract out at this point. As stated in a previous comment, he wasn’t going to make anywhere near that amount in arbitration, and his track record is up and mostly down, so why not pay him significantly less and make him prove it before doling this out?
The bigger issue is that this team, from the top on down, seems to think that whatever they’ve been doing is working just fine.
The Mets "Missed WAR"
I agree JH. If he were a free agent it would be one thing. Or if he had just absolutely dominated and the Rockies were in serious contention it could still make a little sense. None of those things are true. I do like Senzatela on the Rockies but he was going to be there anyway. Now he’s just going to be more expensive. The Rockies are never going anywhere if deals like this are how they decide to spend their available money.
Being employed by the Rockies must be the most stable job in the known universe.
Until you work in their front office.
depends, can you do laundry?
I’ve seen Ozark, so I think Marty taught me enough.
would love to see what he can do outside of Coors some day
Watch half his starts
that’s not the same thing really.
Really not much different.
yeah but most guys generally do better at home vs on the road. questiin being would his home stats be better in a more hitting-neutral park?
Uhh… Bill??? you okay over there… that’s a lot of money for a “maybe” pitcher…
You realize you still have Jon Gray to resign as well…
they’ll re sign him too and then stand pat, then they’ll sign some middling guy a 100mm+ contract over five years before the start of the season and not understand why they aren’t doing well next year
so that’s 12 million for Antonio, 21 Million for Blackmon, now Cron’s getting paid, story will probably accept the QO, German’s contract expires soon. Jon Gray is a free agent, the team needs bullpen help badly, they don’t have prospects. They have all this money tied down, only reason their record was solid was because of Coors, safe to say this team is going in the wrong direction.
I don’t think Story will be accepting the QO.
He’s accepting it, he’s coming off his worst season. The QO is gonna limit his market greatly, it’s already gonna be a stacked SS class, if he does accept the QO he gets 15-19 million, and get’s another shot to boost his stats at Coors, he has all the reason in the world to accept it.
He could get a 1 year/$19mil deal with about 10 teams tomorrow QO or not. He won’t accept it.
Story will accept the QO on the same day that I get one.
Interesting. The Rockies obviously have a higher opinion of him than most. If he had a breakout season in 2022 an extension would be more expensive but this is a $50 million gamble that’s going to happen..
This makes much more sense than giving money to a guy that has never played in the majors at all like some teams have done in the past. Senzatela is not a superstar, but 5/50 is not exactly superstar money either. It’s a decent salary for a decent MLB starter.
The Colorado Rockies from what I am hearing and seeing, are big fans of mediocrity and irrelevance.
Wise move for Senzatela.
“Wise move for Senzatela”….I tend to agree, anytime someone offers you 50 mil, just take it and do not overthink the proposition, but I am not so sure this is a wise move for the Colorado Rockies, who have a history of being incompetent and naive in the front offices.
Maybe I’m being short-sighted, but I like it. He’s proven capable at Coors Field, and capable pitchers are not exactly lining up around the block to pitch at Coors. For 5/$50mm, you will not find many 27 year old (on opening day) starters that have proven they can (and are willing to) pitch at Coors.
Alex Cobb had a similar approach (albeit with seemingly more upside), and signed for more money and fewer years (and was older), and when he did not perform, his contract handcuffed the Orioles. This contract is much less likely to have that same affect.
Both of these Rockies contracts today are just fine. The Rockies are a terrible destination for free-agent pitchers. This team just needs to get a lot deeper. Even cleaning up the back of the rotation and having a competent bullpen will be a big step in the right direction. No more Chi Chi Gonzalez as your #5 or Bard closing.
This is already a bad sign for Rockies fans. What a waste of money.
Senzatela, gray, Freeland, gomber, and Marquez are perhaps the best rotation the rockies have ever had for their stadium. Its pretty crazy they gave up on arenado during this period.
They didn’t give up on Arenado, Arenado quit on them. Or at least he made it clear he would quit on them.
“The Rockies surely place extra value on pitchers who’ve shown the ability — and the desire or willingness — to pitch effectively at Coors Field. ”
This in a nutshell. This is a good contract. Shorter might have been better. But the fact he’s REASONABLY effective at Coors and has a willingness to be there has to as far as the Rockies are concerned.
It’s not like they’re going to get a lot of guys voluntarily going to to Colorado to pitch. At least this guy is decent.
trade piece in 10 month!
The Rockies are resigned to make sure they don’t inprove in 2022., will fight over who finishes last.
No sticks and seeds ooh wee wee.
Bringing up Colton Welker only added to the likelihood of a pennant run next year
Geez if he gets 50 million, what’s stroman get this year,kinda crazy and scary.