The Rockies announced they’ve designated corner infielder Colton Welker for assignment. The move clears a spot on the 40-man roster for José Ureña, who has been selected onto the active roster. (The team first announced Ureña’s forthcoming promotion last night). Reliever Justin Lawrence was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque to open space on the active roster.
A former fourth-round pick, Welker developed into one of the system’s more interesting prospects early in his pro career. Baseball America placed him among the organization’s top ten farmhands each season from 2018-21. That’s partially a reflection of Colorado’s generally shallow systems of late, but some evaluators suggested Welker could blossom into a bat-first regular at the hot corner. He posted strong numbers in the lower minors and consistently ran lower than average strikeout rates on his way up the ladder.
Welker has seen his stock fall considerably over the past two seasons. He was hit with an 80-game suspension in May 2021 after testing positive for a banned substance. That kept the Florida native to a 23-game stint in Albuquerque. Welker was called up to make his major league debut last September, but he scuffled during a 19-game cameo.
Optioned back to the Isotopes to open the 2022 season, Welker suited up just ten times and tallied 45 plate appearances. He got out to a fast start and seemed as if he’d be on the radar for another MLB look, but he landed on the minor league injured list on April 23. Six weeks later, he underwent shoulder surgery that ended his 2022 season.
Players on the minor league injured list still occupy a spot on the 40-man roster. Colorado could’ve recalled Welker and placed him on the major league 60-day IL, but doing so would’ve required paying him at the prorated MLB minimum salary for the rest of the year (a bit under $350K). Colorado instead elected to take him off the 40-man roster and risk losing him to another club.
Injured players cannot be outrighted, so the Rockies will have a week to trade Welker or release him. The latter course of action is likely, at which point the league’s 29 other teams would have a chance to grab him off release waivers. That’s not unheard of — the Giants have added Luis González and Darien Núñez in similar situations, for instance — but it’s also possible he’ll pass through waivers unclaimed. In that event, Welker would be a free agent, and the Rockies could then look to bring him back on a minor league deal.