- The Rockies aren’t interested in a reunion with Jorge de la Rosa, the Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders reports as part of a reader mailbag column. A longtime fixture of the Colorado rotation, de la Rosa has told teams he is willing to pitch as a starter, long reliever or swingman in order to increase his market. This flexibility doesn’t appear to appeal to the Rockies, though Saunders notes elsewhere in the mailbag that the team could use some rotation depth and more bullpen help.
- The Rockies have been speculatively connected to various catchers this offseason (including, for example, Matt Wieters). But the team is comfortable with its young duo of Tony Wolters and Tom Murphy, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. “We are certainly monitoring the catching market, but we are extremely high and positive on the group that we have and we feel like there is a good, young core there,” says GM Jeff Bridich. Wolters entered the season with no big-league experience and a limited minor-league track record behind the plate, although he hit a reasonable .259/.327/.395 and received good marks for his framing. Murphy has played sparingly in the big leagues, but he batted .327/.361/.647 with 19 homers in 322 plate appearances in the admittedly hitter-friendly context of Triple-A Albuquerque last year.
6:09pm: The Rockies have avoided arbitration with center fielder Charlie Blackmon, the team announced. Colorado also has struck a deal with righty Tyler Chatwood, wrapping up the team’s arb work for the winter.
Neither salary has been reported at this point, but both players are expected to command significant raises after strong season. MLBTR and contributor Matt Swartz project Blackmon at $9MM and Chatwood at $4.8MM. The former is in his second season of eligibility, with one more to go, while the latter will be a free agent after the 2017 season.
The Rockies and third baseman Nolan Arenado have agreed to a two-year deal that comes with a guaranteed $29.5MM, reports FanRag’s Jon Heyman (Twitter links). ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that Arenado will earn $11.75MM in 2017 and $17.75MM in 2018. Arenado will be arbitration-eligible one final time after this two-year deal is up, and he can become a free agent after the 2019 season.
That two-year rate constitutes a slight bump over the $28.65MM deal worked out last winter between Josh Donaldson and the Blue Jays. While Arenado doesn’t have the MVP award that Donaldson brought into his second year of arb eligibility as a Super Two, the former was working from a higher first-year arb salary ($5MM).
MLBTR and contributor Matt Swartz had projected that Arenado would earn $13.1MM this year. Instead, he’ll take slightly less, and will perhaps give up some upside for the following season, in exchange for the certainty of the two-year arrangement.
Arenado is a highly valuable all-around player, delivering value with his glove and his bat. It’s the latter skill that pays through the arb process, though, and Arenado showed plenty in 2016. With Coors Field helping to boost his counting stats somewhat, Arenado turned in a second-straight season in which he led the National League in home runs and RBI. Though it isn’t a particularly notable factor in arbitration, it’s worth noting too that Arenado’s OBP also rose (from .323 to .362) as he significantly improved in the plate discipline department by doubling his walk tally from 34 to 68.
The 36-year-old Denorfia, a client of Pro Star Management, spent the 2016 season with the Giants organization and batted .269/.329/.408 in 42 minor league games. That marked the first season that he hasn’t appeared in a Major League contest since 2007, as Denorfia has been a fixture on big league rosters for the better part of a decade. A 19th-round pick by the Reds back in 2002, Denorfia broke into the Majors in 2005 and solidified himself as a big league role player with the Padres in 2010, when he hit .271/.335/.433 in 99 games with San Diego.
From 2010-15, Denorfia enjoyed a part-time role with the Padres, Mariners and Cubs, averaging 118 games and 358 plate appearances per season while hitting a combined .271/.327/.393. He’s at his best when facing left-handed pitching, as evidenced by the .285/.353/.424 batting line he compiled against them in that time (compared to a .261/.308/.371 slash against righties). Denorfia has more than 1000 Major League innings at all three outfield positions, although he’s worked much more in the corners than in center field. He’s drawn consistently above-average marks in right and left field from both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating.
Obviously, the Rockies have a crowded outfield mix as it is, though Denorfia will bring a right-handed bat to what currently lines up as an all-lefty mix. David Dahl, Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez currently seem like the favorites to serve as regulars in new manager Bud Black’s outfield. (Black, it should be pointed out, knows Denorfia quite well from his Padres days.) Gerardo Parra is on-hand as yet another southpaw-swinging fourth option. Colorado did sign Ian Desmond, who showed fairly well in his first season of outfield work with the 2016 Rangers, but Desmond is set to serve as their everyday first baseman barring the seemingly unlikely trade of an outfielder.
Rockies GM Jeff Bridich has recently voiced a desire to add some complementary pieces to his bench mix, and Denorfia could give the Rox a right-handed bat off the bench that can fill in at all three outfield spots as needed and match up nicely against lefties, should he ultimately crack the big league roster.
Free-agent righty Greg Holland is arguably the highest-upside reliever left on the open market, and Jon Heyman of Fan Rag provides some notable updates on his situation. The 31-year-old is in a somewhat unusual spot as a free agent, in that he brings a sparkling track record but is also seeking to return from a long layoff due to Tommy John surgery.
Given his health situation and also the evident interest around the league, Holland seeks a two-year deal that would allow him to opt out after the first season, according to Heyman. That’s the same structure that Brian Wilson landed with the Dodgers before the 2014 season, though he had made it back to the hill late in the prior campaign.
In Holland’s case, there’s perhaps greater uncertainty, but also greater upside. He took a step back in his most recent action, in 2015, but that may well have been due to the elbow issues that led to his surgery. Over the prior four campaigns, Holland was one of the game’s very best relievers, as he compiled 256 1/3 innings of 1.86 ERA pitching with 12.6 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9.
There’s interest in Holland’s proposed two-year arrangement, per the report. Among the teams still pursuing him are the Dodgers, Nationals, Rockies, Brewers, Reds, and Rays. While the Cubs showed prior interest, it’s not clear whether they are still in. And the Royals have also indicated a desire to bring back their former closer, though it seems that the team’s payroll situation may not allow for a competitive bid.
That group of organizations would presumably offer Holland a variety of possible roles. The Nationals, Rockies, Brewers, Reds, and Royals (if they’re involved) could all promise him first dibs on closing roles, while the Dodgers and perhaps the Cubs are more likely to view the veteran as a setup man. Tampa Bay, perhaps, might be most interested in the event that it strikes a deal for incumbent closer Alex Colome. Whether and to what extent the chance to take hold of the ninth is an important factor in Holland’s decisionmaking is not immediately clear.
Rockies GM Jeff Bridich spoke to reporters on a conference call on Tuesday, covering a wide range of topics pertaining to both the short- and long-term look of his team’s roster. Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post and Thomas Harding of MLB.com were among those on-hand, and while I’d encourage readers to check out those pieces for full context and full quotes, here are some highlights from the general manager’s comments…
- The Rockies are still exploring both trades and free agency, per Bridich. “The focus now is pitching, specifically our bullpen, if possible,” said Bridich. The third-year general manager confirmed that the Rox have spoken to the representatives for righties Greg Holland and Joe Blanton, though he unsurprisingly declined to comment on the extent of Colorado’s interest in either free agent. Bridich also noted: “There are multiple teams interested in those types of guys.”
- Regarding the rumored extension for Carlos Gonzalez, Bridich acknowledged that the Rox have a desire to work out a new deal. “We’ve contemplated the possibility of an extension with him,” said the GM. “We’re hopeful we can at least explore that further. We feel like there’s a good chance we’ll be able to at least explore it further.” The 31-year-old Gonzalez is set to earn $20MM in 2017 — the final season of his seven-year, $80MM contract with the club.
- The Rockies “remain in touch” with free agent slugger Mark Trumbo, but Bridich explained that the team has other priorities at this time. Nonetheless, Bridich has never expressly ruled out a deal with Trumbo, whom he termed “a very good player” on Tuesday, so reports will likely continue to link the two sides. Signing Trumbo would obviously complicate the Rockies’ infield and outfield pictures, as it would likely force the Rockies to deal one of their left-handed-hitting outfielders in order to clear an outfield role for Ian Desmond, who currently occupies first base (where Trumbo would presumably play in Colorado).
- There haven’t been any substantial talks with third baseman Nolan Arenado about a contract extension, as Saunders notes in his column. Bridich said the first focus is on avoiding arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal, “…and if things come up, just like anything else, we are going to keep an open mind to anything.” MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects Arenado to earn a massive $13.1MM salary in his second trip through the arbitration process as a Super Two player. Arenado won’t turn 26 until April and has already cemented himself as one of the game’s truly elite players. His play to date has earned him plenty of financial security as well, so there’s little incentive for him to take any sort of discount.
- Bridich didn’t rule out adding a bat to his bench, either. Colorado is on the verge of one such addition, as they’ve reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with Alexi Amarista. That contract hasn’t been finalized just yet, but Amarista will be taking his physical for the club this week. Even with the addition of Amarista, inexperienced names like Cristhian Adames and Jordan Patterson are set to vie for bench roles with the Rockies, so an additional bench signing would indeed seem to make sense. Gerardo Parra looks to be the current fourth outfielder, and Amarista can bounce all over the infield. A utility option with experience in both the infield and the outfield would seem like a sound upgrade, and the Rockies could also reasonably add one of the many remaining first basemen on the market to their bench. Adames is out of minor league options, which may help his cause in Spring Training.
- Beyond the two columns linked above, Saunders tweets that Bridich “reaffirmed his faith in Tony Wolters and Tom Murphy as primary catchers.” Colorado has been speculatively listed as a landing spot for Matt Wieters, but the Rox do have an intriguing young platoon setup with the left-handed-hitting Wolters and the right-handed Murphy. Wolters draws excellent marks in pitch-framing, and each threw out better than 30 percent of attempted base thieves (40 percent, in Murphy’s case). Murphy also brings a track record of strong Triple-A production to the table, even if he’s rather inexperienced in the Majors.
JANUARY 9: Amarista will receive a $1.25MM guarantee in the deal, Heyman tweets. That includes a $1.1MM salary for the coming season as well as a $150K buyout on the 2018 option, which is valued at $2.5MM.
DECEMBER 26: The Rockies have agreed to a one-year major league contract with utilityman Alexi Amarista, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports (via Twitter). The deal also contains a club option for another season in 2018.
[Related: updated Colorado roster via Roster Resource]
Amarista, 27, has never provided much at the plate over his six MLB seasons with the Angels and Padres, though he adds some versatile depth to the Rockies bench. The majority of Amarista’s 398 career starts have some at shortstop, though he has also seen quite a bit of action as a center fielder and second baseman and some time at third base and in both corner outfield slots. The Rockies have a much-publicized glut of outfielders though relatively little infield depth, and Amarista can be a backup all across the diamond. New Rockies manager Bud Black knows Amarista quite well, as Black previously managed Amarista in San Diego from 2012-15.
The Padres non-tendered Amarista earlier this month following a season that saw the 27-year-old hit .257/.295/.271 over 150 PA. Amarista was projected by MLBTR to earn $1.6MM in his third and final year of arbitration.
Over the next few days, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong
Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado earned $5MM last year, but after belting 41 home runs, knocking in 133 runs and hitting .294 in 696 plate appearances, he is due for a hefty raise. The record raise for a second-time-eligible position player on a one-year deal is Chris Davis’ $7.1MM increase in 2014. My model actually projects for an $8.4MM raise in Arenado’s case; however, the “Kimbrel Rule” – which states that no player gets projected for an increase over $1MM higher than the record raise for his service class – moves Arenado down to an $8.1MM raise (a $13.1MM salary).
Davis’ 2014 case is by far the most applicable to Arenado’s. Aside from those two, no other player eligible for his second year of arbitration has led his league in home runs and RBIs. Davis hit .286 with 53 homers and 138 RBIs the prior year, so his numbers are similar except for clearly having more HRs. However, Arenado does play a harder defensive position than Davis, a first baseman, and the former actually won a Gold Glove last year. So there is a good reason to think that Arenado could earn more, especially three years later. But the 12 fewer home runs signify that it is less than a sure thing.
Finding another comparable is extremely difficult. No other third basemen since 2009 have even hit 20 home runs and received one-year deals in their second year of arbitration eligibility. No other position players have hit at least 35 home runs and received one-year deals in their second year of arbitration eligibility.
Using players receiving multi-year deals is generally not customary in these cases, but can be done in some unique circumstances. Often when both the player and the team exchange numbers, the club’s offer can be seen as a potential comparable case. Josh Donaldson’s case last year could be one such scenario. Donaldson hit the exact 41 home runs that Arenado did this past year, and knocked in 123 runs (just 10 shy of Arenado’s total). He also hit .297, which is almost exactly where Arenado landed. Donaldson ultimately received a multi-year deal, but he first exchanged figures with the Blue Jays, who offered a $7.05MM raise. Donaldson’s two-year deal gave him a $7.35mM raise. He did win the MVP in his platform year, so that could be a better case, but the multi-year deal probably makes it a weaker comparable. On the other hand, Donaldson only requested a $7.5MM raise, so it would be hard to see why Arenado would get more without an MVP award.
I would guess that Arenado ultimately receives closer to a $7MM raise than the $8.1MM he is projected to land. Davis’ extra home runs and Donaldson’s MVP award help their cases look stronger than Arenado’s, and even though Donaldson got a multi-year deal, his exchange of salary figures with the Jays fit into a pretty tight window. Arenado may argue that Donaldson’s case is not applicable, and that Davis’ extra home runs came with less defense, but it might not work. Although fielding is certainly considered in arbitration cases, I have not found any statistically significant impact of defense on earnings and the overall effect is limiting. Arenado may yet earn his lofty projection, but I would take the under.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Rockies still want to extend Carlos Gonzalez’s contract, GM Jeff Bridich tells ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden. The two sides “are still far apart on a deal but they’re working on it,” Bowden writes, and Gonzalez is also believed to have interest in staying in Colorado. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard rumblings about an extension between Gonzalez and the Rockies this winter, though as of last month, the club hadn’t yet extended a formal offer. Here’s more from around the National League…