It has been a quiet offseason in Denver. The Rockies have made a few depth acquisitions, primarily on the pitching staff. They re-signed José Ureña to a $3.5MM deal and brought in reliever Pierce Johnson on a $5MM contract. Brent Suter, Connor Seabold and Nick Mears were added via minor trade or waiver claims. The most significant move of the offseason was the surprising acquisition of young left-handed power hitter Nolan Jones for infield prospect Juan Brito back in November.
Despite their lack of free agent activity, it seems the club is mostly content to carry the roster as it stands into Spring Training. General manager Bill Schmidt told Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post this afternoon the group was mostly set (Twitter link). Schmidt added the club would continue to explore potential pitching acquisitions and ways to bolster the depth more broadly, but it seems any further moves will be fairly minor.
That might be disheartening for the Colorado fanbase with the club coming off a 68-94 season, though it wasn’t unforeseeable. Last offseason’s Kris Bryant deal and the club’s series of recent extensions for players like Antonio Senzatela, Kyle Freeland, Ryan McMahon and Elias Díaz added significant money to the payroll. Colorado entered the offseason with a player payroll at franchise-record levels after accounting for the additional $21MM they”ll owe the Cardinals as part of the Nolan Arenado trade.
With that financial situation, it’s not too surprising the organization mostly sat out free agency. The Rox showed some interest in adding to the starting five and/or bringing in a lefty-hitting outfielder (particularly a center fielder) but seemed eventually priced out of both markets. Perhaps the front office will eventually add a depth arm for the back of the rotation — particularly with Senzatela starting the season on the injured list after tearing his ACL late last summer — but the notable outfield pickup no longer seems to be in the cards.
At the same time, the franchise has again steadfastly refused to entertain any kind of rebuild. For the past few years, Colorado ownership and the front office have maintained faith they have the nucleus of a viable contender and have shown no interest in tearing things down. Reports last month suggested the Rockies were in touch with the Marlins about potentially swapping out second baseman Brendan Rodgers for an immediate MLB starter in Edward Cabrera. Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported last night that Colorado eventually backed away from that framework.
Without any kind of notable overhaul, it’s difficult to imagine the Rockies finishing any higher than fourth in the NL West during the upcoming season. Colorado has seen some positive developments in the farm system though. The Rockies had four players place on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects this week. Shortstop Ezequiel Tovar got a cup of coffee in the majors last fall and looks likely to be the primary shortstop this year. Outfielder Zac Veen, catcher Drew Romo and middle infielder Adael Amador are each further away but could at least be in the mix in the upper minors.