Colorado Rockies – MLB Trade Rumors 2020-06-05T23:25:42Z WordPress Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Rockies Release More Than 30 Minor Leaguers]]> 2020-06-05T01:53:23Z 2020-06-05T01:53:23Z The Rockies have committed to paying minor leaguers through at least the end of the month, but that doesn’t mean they’re keeping all of them. The club has released around 34 minor leaguers over the past couple months, Kyle Newman of the Denver Post reports. The most prominent member of the bunch may be right-hander Tim Melville, whose fate has been known for a couple of weeks.

Along with Melville, Baseball America has publicized the names of the minors players the Rockies have subtracted. Righty Jordan Foley was among those let go. Now 26 years old, Foley became a pro in 2014 when the Yankees chose him in the fifth round of that year’s draft. He pitched in the Yankees’ system through 2018, after which they traded him to the Rockies for fellow righty Jefry Valdez.

In 2019, his first and only season with the Colorado organization, Foley posted a 4.78 ERA/3.60 FIP with 10.03 K/9 and 4.17 BB/9 in 58 1/3 innings at the Double-A level. Foley told Newman his release “definitely caught me off guard… It sucks I didn’t have an opportunity to force their hand and earn a spot this spring. That’s the worst part about it in my mind.” 

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Rockies To Pay Minor Leaguers Through At Least June]]> 2020-06-02T19:11:01Z 2020-06-02T13:29:39Z
  • A few more teams have committed to paying their minor leaguers for at least the next handful of weeks. The Tigers’ farmhands will continue to earn $400 per week, and there’s “no end in sight,” Chris McCosky of the Detroit News tweets. The club’s also not planning to cut any minor leaguers as of now, McCosky adds. The Rockies, meanwhile will pay their minor leaguers through at least June, according to Thomas Harding of The Yankees are taking the same approach as Colorado, James Wagner of the New York Times relays.
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    Tim Dierkes <![CDATA[Which 15 Players Should The Rockies Protect In An Expansion Draft?]]> 2020-05-26T14:56:53Z 2020-05-26T18:00:36Z In a few weeks, we’ll be running a two-team mock expansion draft here at MLBTR – just for the fun of it!  Currently, we’re creating 15-player protected lists for each of the existing 30 teams.  You can catch up on the rules for player eligibility here.

    So far, we’ve covered the DodgersPadresGiantsRangersMariners, Athletics, Angels, Astros, Twins, Royals, Tigers, Indians, White Sox, Rays, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles.  The Rockies are up next.

    First, we’ll remove free agents Daniel Murphy, Wade Davis, Jake McGee, and Bryan Shaw from consideration.  The relievers have 2021 options that could vest, but we’ll assume they won’t or at least that they wouldn’t get protected spots.  Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon will take spots on the list, due to their no-trade protection.  We’ll add five more players, starting off by protecting these seven:

    Nolan Arenado
    Charlie Blackmon
    Jon Gray
    Trevor Story
    German Marquez
    David Dahl
    Brendan Rodgers

    That leaves eight spots for the following 22 players:

    Yency Almonte
    Yonathan Daza
    Ian Desmond
    Jairo Diaz
    Phillip Diehl
    Carlos Estevez
    Kyle Freeland
    Josh Fuentes
    Chi Chi Gonzalez
    Garrett Hampson
    Sam Hilliard
    Jeff Hoffman
    Tyler Kinley
    Peter Lambert
    Ryan McMahon
    Dom Nunez
    Scott Oberg
    James Pazos
    Antonio Senzatela
    Raimel Tapia
    Jesus Tinoco
    Tony Wolters

    With that, we turn it over to the MLBTR readership! In the poll below (direct link here), select exactly eight players you think the Rockies should protect in our upcoming mock expansion draft. Click here to view the results.

    Create your own user feedback survey

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Rockies Release Tim Melville]]> 2020-05-19T17:29:14Z 2020-05-19T17:28:00Z TODAY: The reason the Rox were able to release Melville is that minor-league transactions are not presently frozen, MLBTR has learned. We haven’t seen any such deals of late, but they’re evidently permissible by rule.

    YESTERDAY: The Rockies have released right-hander Tim Melville. The 30-year-old Melville posted a farewell message on Instagram, and the Denver Post’s Kyle Newman tweets that Melville confirmed he was indeed released today.

    Normally, the release of a 30-year-old journeyman who had been in camp as a non-roster invitee wouldn’t be particularly surprising. But Melville’s release is indeed quite curious given the current circumstances throughout the league.

    Not long after Spring Training was shut down and baseball was put on an indefinite hiatus, it was reported that rosters would be locked. Teams aren’t even permitted to discuss contract extensions with their players at the moment, so it’s rather peculiar to see a player confirm a recent release. It’s unclear at present just how to explain the circumstances surrounding his release.

    Melville was a feel-good story for Rockies fans in a mostly miserable 2019 season. The 2008 fourth-rounder (Royals) had quick cups of coffee with the Reds, Twins and Padres in 2016-17 but didn’t find any success in his limited work. He spent time with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League in both 2017 and 2019, which eventually led him to the Rockies organization. After a nondescript run with Triple-A Albuquerque last year, injuries on the big league roster opened the door for Melville in August, and he immediately turned in the two best performances of his professional career.

    Over his first two outings with the Rox, Melville held the D-backs and Braves to just one run on seven hits and five walks with 10 strikeouts through 12 frames. He made five more starts down the stretch — a pair of brutal outings (10 combined runs in five innings) and three solid but less-spectacular outings. In all, he wound up with a 4.86 ERA in 33 1/3 frames — not bad for a depth pickup who made four of his seven starts at the daunting Coors Field.

    Melville achieved folk hero status among Rox fans, both for his improbable success in his first two outings and his even more improbable return to the Major Leagues. As The Athletic’s Nick Groke wrote in a terrific profile of Melville (subscription required), the right-hander took a minimum wage job at Little Miss BBQ in Phoenix, Ariz., after the 2018 season, hoping to learn about barbecue. He left the club last April to join the Ducks and was back in pro ball after just two Atlantic League starts.

    Melville returned to the Rockies on a non-roster deal over the winter but was slowed by a cracked rib in Spring Training. There’s virtually no certainty in baseball at the moment, so it’s hard to know whether he’ll latch on elsewhere or explore what’s next on his barbecue career path, but whatever route he takes, Melville is a pretty easy guy to cheer for.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Why DJ Johnson Chose To Play In Japan]]> 2020-05-18T03:26:46Z 2020-05-18T03:16:38Z
  • Former Rockies right-hander DJ Johnson signed with the Hiroshima Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball over the offseason, and Johnson tells the Denver Post’s Kyle Newman that he also received interest from Japanese teams in each of the previous two winters.  The decision to play ball overseas didn’t come lightly to Johnson, though “it came down to, I had realized my dream of making the major leagues after all those years of grinding and sacrifice.  Now, it’s time to start taking care of my family.”  Johnson will earn close to $1MM for the 2020 season, considerably more than he was slated to make even if he had spent the whole year on Colorado’s Major League roster (even before player salaries were reduced as part of the league shutdown).  Similar seven-figure paydays could also be in the offing for Johnson, as Hiroshima holds a club option on his services for the 2021 season and the two sides have a mutual option for 2022.  Johnson posted a 4.88 ERA over 35 games and 31 1/3 innings with the Rockies in 2018-19, which represents the extent of his MLB experience over a nine-year career.  It’s a pretty solid resume for a player who wasn’t even drafted coming out of Western Oregon University, and Johnson is now looking forward to “embracing the culture change” of playing in Japan and helping the Carp win some games.
  • The Mets drafted David Wright with the 38th pick of the 2001 draft, beginning the long association between the Amazins and their future captain.  More indirectly, however, the Mets got Wright because they….drafted Jon Matlack fourth overall in 1967?’s Anthony DiComo takes an entertaining deep dive through the transactional path that began with the Matlack pick and ended with Mike Hampton leaving the Mets to sign with the Rockies in the 2000-01 offseason, thus netting New York the compensatory pick that resulted in Wright’s selection.
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    Anthony Franco <![CDATA[One Trade The Rays Would Like To Have Back]]> 2020-05-17T18:50:03Z 2020-05-17T14:41:59Z The Rays have a reputation for winning trades, with good reason. They’ve proven especially adept at picking up undervalued assets from other organizations. Just this month, MLBTR’s Connor Byrne has covered three key players on the current roster who were acquired either in minor deals or were seen as lesser-regarded players in a more notable swap.

    There’s one prominent example, though, of a player whom the Rays gave up as a secondary piece in a bigger trade, only to watch blossom in his new surroundings: right-hander German Márquez. Even the smartest organizations have their share of misses.

    At the time the Rays and Rockies completed their January 2016 four-player swap, it was generally seen as the Corey DickersonJake McGee deal. Dickerson had put up fantastic offensive numbers in parts of three seasons in Colorado, hitting .299/.346/.532 (124 wRC+) with 38 home runs in 921 plate appearances. Even after adjusting for Coors Field, Dickerson looked like a fantastic hitter. There were questions about him defensively, but there was obvious appeal to adding a potential middle-of-the-order bat with four seasons of team control for Tampa Bay.

    On the other side, the Rockies most visible acquisition was the final two arbitration seasons of McGee. He’d carved out a masterful run at the back end of the Rays’ bullpen in the four years prior. The Rockies envisioned a left-handed strikeout arm anchoring their relief corps. (That didn’t happen, as McGee has fallen off, particularly after signing an ill-fated three-year deal to return to Colorado as a free agent after 2017).

    Despite McGee’s prior dominance, the deal seemed tilted in the Rays’ favor. Dave Cameron, then of Fangraphs, opined that the Dickerson-McGee framework “just doesn’t make any sense for the Rockies.” As MLBTR’s Steve Adams and Jeff Todd explained, “it’s somewhat surprising…the Rockies felt comfortable parting with four years of Dickerson for two years of a reliever, however excellent he may be, and one mid-level pitching prospect. Colorado, of course, may see considerably more in Marquez than others in the industry.” 

    Maybe the Rockies were truly outliers in evaluating the then-20-year-old pitcher more favorably than the rest of the league. If they were, credit to them. Over the past four seasons, Márquez has handily been the most valuable player in the swap. He’s racked up between 10 and 12 wins above replacement despite not reaching the majors until that September. His curveball, merely projected to average as a prospect, has actually proven one of the better swing-and-miss offerings of its type leaguewide, per Brooks Baseball. Increased reliance on his slider in 2018 coincided with a second big uptick in his strikeout rate. Long an elite strike-thrower, Márquez now has bona fide swing-and-miss stuff to back it up. Colorado doubled down on their faith in him with a $43MM guarantee last spring that could keep Márquez around via club options through 2024.

    On the other side, Dickerson was merely a good hitter over two years in Tampa, undone a bit by an aggressive approach. He hit .265/.310/.480 (109 wRC+) in 1177 plate appearances from 2016-17. With his arbitration costs rising, the Rays somewhat surprisingly shipped him to Pittsburgh for Daniel Hudson, whom they subsequently released, and second base prospect Tristan Gray. Both Gray and Kevin Padlo, the second player the Rockies sent to Tampa four years ago, remain in the system as decently-regarded prospects.

    The Rays figure to recoup some long-term value from Padlo and Gray, but that’ll likely pale in comparison what Márquez has achieved in Colorado. He stands out as the one who got away for Tampa.

    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Three Teams Who’ve Yet To Win Their Division]]> 2020-05-11T17:58:57Z 2020-05-09T23:31:03Z It is somewhat amazing that there are three National League teams – one each for the West, East, and Central – that have yet to win their division.

    Make no mistake, the American League has its share of heartbreak. The Mariners have yet to return to the playoffs after their 116-win season in 2001. The Rangers are far away as ever from capturing their first World Series after the so-close-you-can-taste-it near-misses of 2010 and 2011. Fans of the Astros and Red Sox have suffered different brands of heartbreak after the legitimacy of their recent winners was called into question. 

    But in the National League, the RockiesMarlins, and Pirates have never won their respective divisions.

    Granted, the Pirates were crowned champs of the National League East 9 times, including a three-peat for Jim Leyland’s clubs from 1990 to 1992 and a title-winner way back in 1979 – but since they moved to the NL Central in 1994: goose eggs. That’s a 26-year-run without a divisional crown, a mark of futility eclipsed only by the Rockies and Marlins. Colorado and Florida both entered the league in 1993, and neither has landed the top spot in their division in the 27 seasons since. 

    Back in the junior circuit, every team in the AL East has won since 2010 (Tampa Bay). In the Central, the White Sox have the longest drought (11 seasons), going back to their first-place finish in 2008. Everyone in the AL West has taken their turn at the top since 2012 – except the Mariners, of course, who won the division in 2001 and 1997.

    But each division in the National League has its slow-and-steady competitor, so let’s take a quick look at each.

    Colorado Rockies

    Of these three clubs, the Rockies’ reputation took the fewest hits over the last 27 years. The Blake Street Bombers hold a particular place in baseball lore, and there’s a general sense of “unfortunate circumstances” around the Rox because of the thin air in Colorado. The impossibility of housing a winning pitching staff at Coors Field is baseball cliche now, but that doesn’t make the challenge any less potent.

    Here’s what I wrote of Colorado in their Offseason In Review post back in March: “Colorado pitching, after all, has proven one of the more frustrating team-building challenges in the major leagues. The Sisyphean task of constructing even a league-average pitching staff at Coors Field persists year-after-year. Over the course of their 27-season history, the Rockies posted a league-average or better team ERA just three times (2010, 2009, 2007). In 2010, Jim Tracy’s 83-win squad finished with an exactly-league-average ERA, but those other two seasons — 2009, 2007 — happen to be two of the only three seasons in which the Rockies won 90 games in their history.”

    Adding to the task at hand for Colorado, there’s at least a possibility that ownership believes this team is better than it is. They lost 91 games last year and have exhibited zero financial flexibility. If they end up losing close to 90 games again (or the equivalent in whatever kind of season is played in 2020), then the Rockies are still probably in the decline phase, not yet having rebooted into a full-blown rebuild. Rebuilds, of course, are time-intensive when done right, and very time-intensive when rushed.

    The Rockies have made the postseason a handful of times, and they won the pennant in 2007, but they’re caught in no-man’s-land now. The Dodgers have won the division 7 years running, and Walker Buehler, Cody Bellinger, and company have plenty left in the tank. The Padres’ stable of young arms makes them one of the more intriguing up-and-coming teams in the league, and the Diamondbacks continue to impress with their ability to retool on the fly. After coming within a play-in game of taking the crown from the Dodgers in 2018, the Rockies might have missed their best shot.

    Miami Marlins

    The Marlins entered the league at a tough time to be a member of the NL East. The Atlanta Braves held a hammerlock on the division, taking the crown every season from 1995 until 2005 (they were in the NL West before that). To their credit, the Marlins made themselves into a competitive squad pretty quick, making the playoffs as a wild card in 1997, just their fifth season of existence. The organization made its name the year after, however, in selling off the pieces of their World Series winner and cratering into a 108-loss squad. After that horrid 1998 season, it took the Marlins five more years to get back to the playoffs again, at which point it was second-verse-same-as-the-first. They didn’t sink quite so fast or quite so far the second time around, but they also haven’t recovered (no playoff appearances since 2003).

    That said, the Marlins have begun to see the light from their decade-plus in limbo. MLBTR’s own Mark Polishuk wrapped up the Marlins offseason back in March with this: “It’s a sign of progress, however, that the scorched-earth phase of the rebuild seems to be over.  Villar, Kintzler, or other veterans on short-term deals could well end up being moved at the trade deadline, but it doesn’t seem like younger talent is on the move…Miami seems ready to find out if the young players it already has in the fold could end up being part of that next Marlins winner, and it will be intriguing to see which of the pitchers and position players take that next step in 2020.”

    The current era of Marlins baseball is best known for shepherding the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna out of town prior to the 2018 season. But they’re also a unique entrant on this mini-list because they won not just one, but two World Series titles over this span. Derek Jeter now helms the organization, and though they don’t have that face-of-the-franchise type player soaking up their spotlight, they’ve become increasingly competitive. Heading into whichever season of baseball comes next, they’ll have a decent collection of starting pitchers to keep them in games – with a smaller host of position player prospects nearing the majors. Whether they have that franchise-changing talent in the upper ranks is unclear. Business might not yet be booming in Miami, but it’s better. 

    Pittsburgh Pirates

    As stated above, it’s a bit unfair for the Pirates to be lumped in with the expansion clubs from the nineties, as they do have a history of success in the major leagues. They have 9 division crowns, 7 World Series appearances, and 5 World Series banners. But that’s all ancient history.

    Since moving to the NL Central in 1994, the Pirates are a firm contender for the most moribund franchise in the sport. The departure of Barry Bonds after the 1992 season put an unfortunate face on their decline – much in the way that Babe Ruth’s departure doomed Boston baseball for so long – but there has been ample time to rebound from those back-to-back game 7 losses to Atlanta in 1991 and 1992.

    In the time since the Pirates’ primary distinction is claiming the title for the longest streak of losing seasons in North American sports history. Forget about division titles. The Pirates weren’t able to finish over .500 one time from 1993 to 2012.

    Pittsburgh fans finally had something to cheer for in 2013 when Clint Hurdle’s club broke through with 94 wins and a wild card berth. They even won that first playoff game against the division rival Cincinnati Reds and pushed another rival – the Cardinals – to five games in the NLDS. The club followed its star outfield of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco to two more wild card berths in the following two seasons. Unfortunately, they were unable to get more than one playoff game in either of those years.

    After finishing over .500 again in 2018, last season brought on a complete reset. Most of the organizations’ management turned over, and the remaining faces of those competitive clubs – Hurdle, Marte – were also sent packing. The organization is now in the hands of GM Ben Cherington, but they’re facing a complete philosophical overhaul. While they have talent, they’re not an easy club to put a timeline on returning to contention. Not until they put together a pitching staff with a more effective (and less pugilistic) philosophy. The division isn’t dominated by one team like the current AL West, but the Cardinals build a winner year after year, and the Cubs and Brewers aren’t far off in terms of their recent consistency.

    Looking ahead, a shortened season in 2020 could open the window for a bizarre sort of division champ. All hope is not lost. On the whole, however, I don’t think there are a lot of pundits who would pick any of the Rockies, Marlins, or Pirates to breakthrough next season. Still, it’s bound to happen one day, right? All three teams will work to end their respective droughts, and in the meantime, thank goodness for the wild card.

    (Poll link for app users.)

    (Poll link for app users.)


    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Hoffman’s Last Stand]]> 2020-05-07T04:05:02Z 2020-05-07T03:04:14Z When the Rockies acquired Jeff Hoffman from the Blue Jays in the 2015 Jose Reyes/Troy Tulowitzki blockbuster, the hope was that Hoffman would burgeon into a high-profile starter to pair with fellow prospect Jon Gray atop the rotation. Hoffman, after all, was the No. 9 pick in the 2014 draft and was in the mix for the top overall selection as a junior at East Carolina University until he tore his UCL and required Tommy John surgery. He was a volatile pick for the Jays, but the industry believed in him; he landed on the top 100 prospects of Baseball America,, Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs and ESPN between 2015-17.

    Hoffman ripped through Class-A Advanced and Double-A in his first full pro season — the same season that saw him shipped from the Jays to the Rox. While the 4.02 ERA he logged in Triple-A in 2016 wasn’t eye-catching, posting that number in the Pacific Coast League while managing better than a strikeout per inning was encouraging. Hoffman looked plenty promising, even if his 2016 MLB debut resulted in a pedestrian 4.88 ERA with a 22-to-17 K/BB ratio in 31 1/3 frames.

    Jeff Hoffman | John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

    Since that time, though, he’s seen his velocity drop and his results take a nosedive. Hoffman has compiled 178 innings in the Majors over the past three seasons, but he’s been shelled for a 6.32 ERA with 7.8 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 1.82 HR/9 and a 39.4 percent ground-ball rate that’s a far cry from the 50 percent mark he displayed as a rookie. He dealt with a brief shoulder issue in 2018  but has otherwise been mostly healthy — but he still logged just 8 2/3 frames in the Majors that year while scuffling in Triple-A. Hoffman worked with Driveline Baseball in the 2018-19 offseason in hopes of regaining his velocity and improving his mechanics. Hoffman did average 93.7 mph on his four-seamer in 2019 — up from 92.8 mph in a tiny 2018 sample — but it wasn’t the 99 mph he was pumping in offseason sessions at Driveline, either.

    Hoffman made some other changes as well, completely scrapping his slider in favor of more curveballs — a pitch that was regarded as his best offering during his prospect days. He’s tinkered with his release points on all of his pitches over the course of his career and made a particularly notable adjustment to the release point on his heater in 2019. Manager Bud Black discussed that change with Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post earlier this spring, noting that the goal was to shorten Hoffman’s delivery in hopes of more consistency. The change was apparent early in the year, but whether by design or otherwise, Hoffman’s vertical release point in September looked much closer to his release point from 2016-18.

    Now out of minor league options, Hoffman is in a precarious position. He’s fortunate that the Rockies’ rotation is wide open behind the aforementioned Gray, German Marquez and rebound candidate Kyle Freeland. But this will be his last chance to either establish himself as a contributor with the Rockies or be placed on waivers and see his fate left up to the DFA gods. Then again, perhaps a change of scenery would ultimately be best for Hoffman.

    Like many pitchers before him, Hoffman has been hammered at Coors Field, where his career 7.03 ERA is more than two runs higher than his 4.88 away mark. That road ERA is hardly an encouraging number — particularly with FIP, xFIP and SIERA marks north of 5.00 — but it does illustrate that his home surroundings haven’t done him any favors.

    Beyond those rudimentary home/road splits, another club might try a different approach with Hoffman. As is the case with Carson Fulmer, who finds himself in a similar position, Hoffman has a high-spin four-seamer (88th percentile) — but he works primarily at the bottom of the zone with the pitch year after year (2016, 2017, 2019). The resulting 7.2 percent swinging-strike rate isn’t much to look at, nor is the .323/.428/.741 slash opponents posted against the pitch. The pitiful .151/.204/.267 line opponents posted against his hook, which also has above-average spin, is much more appealing though.

    Even without the upper-90s heat he’s had at times in the past, Hoffman would likely miss more bats working near the top end of the zone. It’s not a novel concept — pitchers throughout the league have increasingly gravitated toward that approach — but 18 of the 21 homers Hoffman surrendered in 2019 came on that four-seamer. Clearly, pitching down in the zone isn’t getting the job done, so a change of approach can’t hurt at this point. And if the Rockies haven’t pushed him toward that approach, perhaps another club would be willing to do so.

    At this point, Hoffman enters a make-or-break year where he’ll have to either lock down a spot on the pitching staff or likely be made available to other clubs. Expanded rosters may lengthen the leash that he’s given, but Hoffman is surely on thin ice at this point. If he fades from the picture, the Rockies will have just one player left — right-hander Jesus Tinoco — remaining from the trade of one of the franchise’s most iconic players.

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Anthopoulos Discusses Acquiring Troy Tulowitzki In 2015]]> 2020-05-03T00:47:51Z 2020-05-03T00:47:51Z In a recent radio appearance on Sportsnet 590 The Fan’s Lead Off show (audio link available, with geographic restrictions), current Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos discussed one of the signature moves from his tenure as the Blue Jays’ general manager — namely, the blockbuster trade that brought Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins from the Rockies to the Jays in July 2015, with Jose Reyes and three well-regarded pitching prospects going to Colorado.

    Anthopoulos said initial talks with the Rockies began during the 2014-15 offseason, as “we had concerns with Jose Reyes’ defense at the end of 2014.”  Reyes was coming off a rough year of glovework, posting a minus -3.3 UZR/150 and minus-14 Defensive Runs Saved over 1243 2/3 innings as Toronto’s shortstop.  As per those two metrics, Reyes had been a subpar defender for multiple seasons, though Anthopoulos said the decline in the shortstop’s range was becoming a particular issue for the Jays.

    By comparison, Tulowitzki was a much more accomplished defender, in the eyes of both the advanced metrics and in terms of hardware (two Gold Gloves and three Fielding Bible Awards between 2007-11).  The +4.2 UZR/150 and +2 DRS that Tulowitzki posted in 2015 made him a major upgrade over Reyes — as Anthopoulos noted, Tulowitzki didn’t make a single error as a Blue Jay during the 2015 regular season and postseason.

    After a loss to the Phillies on July 28, 2015, the day of the Tulowitzki deal, Toronto had only a 50-51 record and sat eight games out of first place in the AL East.  Anthopoulos still felt confident that his club could break out, however: “We lost a ton of games just because we were not playing good defense, and all the pieces were there to have a great team.”

    Anthopoulos cited Tulowitzki and Ben Revere (picked up in a less-heralded deadline day deal with the Phillies) as major elements to the defensive turnaround, and of course the Jays’ other headline-grabbing trade to land David Price from the Tigers also helped on the run-prevention front.  The rest was history — after that July 28 loss to Philadelphia, the Blue Jays went on a 43-18 tear over the rest of the regular season to clinch the team’s first AL East title and playoff berth since 1993.

    For me, the key was just shoring up the defense across the board,” Anthopoulos said.  “From Tulo, to getting Ben Revere in left and not having Chris Colabello and [Danny] Valencia on the corners in the outfield when [Jose] Bautista was out DHing.  Just becoming a better defensive club, that really made the whole team get to where we should have been the entire year, when you’re looking at runs scored [and] runs against.

    While things obviously worked out for Toronto, losing Reyes was no small issue to his former teammates.  “It’s not like the clubhouse was elated…we knew they would be jarred” Anthopoulos said, adding that Reyes’ “work ethic was fantastic” and that the shortstop was “so well-liked without our clubhouse.”

    Still, some version of Reyes-for-Tulowitzki was a constant within the Jays’ talks with the Rockies, as Anthopoulos said “we were adamant that Reyes had to be part of the deal going back.”  Beyond the practical element of filling each team’s need at shortstop, including Reyes in the trade helped offset some of the added financial costs Toronto faced in taking on Tulowitzki’s contract.  Tulowitzki was owed a minimum of $98MM from 2016-20, while Reyes earned $48MM through the 2017 season — two seasons of salary and then a $4MM buyout of his $22MM club option for 2018.  As it happened, Reyes forfeited roughly $7.09MM of that salary due to a suspension under the domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse policy, and he was released by Colorado in June 2016.

    For more on the Tulowitzki trade, Jeff Todd recently took a longer-term view of the transaction as part of MLBTR’s YouTube video series, making the case that it was something of a win-win deal for both the Blue Jays and Rockies, even though “both were left a little bit shy of what they really expected to get.”

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[What In The Sam Hill(iard) Do The Rockies Have In The Outfield?]]> 2020-04-22T16:34:38Z 2020-04-22T16:34:38Z If the Rockies are to come anywhere near meeting the expectations of ownership, they’re going to need a lot of things to break right in the near term. More than anything, the club requires a few high-quality supplemental players to emerge (or, in the case of some expensive veterans, re-emerge) to supplement an enviable set of stars.

    We reflexively think about concerns with pitching when it comes to the Colorado organization, but the team’s bats have been an even greater problem in recent years. The recent Rox outfield has consisted of Charlie Blackmon and a revolving cast of mostly replacement-level bandmates.

    As Blackmon ages gracefully — he’s a continuing threat at the plate but has faded badly in the field and on the bases — there’s a glaring need for new talent. Actually, hold that: there has been some talent. The club paid big for Ian Desmond. It gave more chances to Carlos Gonzalez and even got one final ride with Matt Holliday. Some well-regarded prospects such as Garrett Hampson and Raimel Tapia have filtered up. And of course we’ve seen what David Dahl can do … when healthy. What this team needs is honest-to-goodness, consistent, real-live production from someone other than Blackmon.

    The Rockies have allocated all their available payroll. They let Mike Tauchman go to the Yankees (not that it wasn’t plenty understandable at the time). They’re badly in need of an emergence from within.

    That’s just what the team got late in 2019 from unheralded newcomer Sam Hilliard. His emergence largely flew under the radar as the Rockies limped to the end of a brutally disappointing campaign. While it’s always worth caution when it comes to a 27-game sample, Hilliard was a legitimately exciting performer down the stretch. Could the Rockies have something here?

    Hilliard was known as a two-way player for most of his amateur career. He emerged as an interesting position-player target in advance of the 2015 draft, but the Rockies were able to wait until the 15th round to nab him. Hilliard is big, strong, and swift.

    The results have been mixed since Hilliard hit the pro ranks. He put up strong homer and steal tallies on his way up the farm system, but always did a fair bit of swinging and missing. Hilliard hit a bit of a wall in 2018 at Double-A. And though his Triple-A output in the ensuing season looked big on paper — 35 long balls, 22 steals, .262/.335/.558 slash — it translated to a fairly modest 107 wRC+ since it occurred in an exceedingly offensive-friendly environment.

    When he took to the majors late in the year, there wasn’t much cause for over-excitement. But the 26-year-old delivered well beyond expectations, sending seven balls over the fence in 87 plate appearances while turning in a .273/.356/.649 output. That, too, took place in an explosive setting for bats, but it worked out to a healthy 138 wRC+ output at the dish.

    Here’s the thing about Hilliard: prospect watchers still have tempered expectations, despite the big debut. But there are some reasons to believe he could keep producing at an above-average rate in the majors, all while providing value in the field and on the bases. It seems promising that Hilliard actually reduced his upper-minors strikeout rate upon reaching the majors (to a palatable 26.4%) while walking in over ten percent of his MLB plate appearances (above league average).

    The most recent Fangraphs assessment of Hilliard’s outlook notes that “his ability to identify pitches he can drive is impressive in context, but well-executed pitches can get him out.” Indeed, he took Noah Syndergaard deep twice in one game … then launched against high-grade lefties Hyun-Jin Ryu and Josh Hader. Perhaps Hilliard’s demonstrated capacity can be expanded more consistently. Given his former focus on pitching, it’s said he’s still maturing as a hitter.

    The Rockies sure could use a pleasant surprise from Hilliard. They could also stand to see Dahl on the field for the entire season. That might give the team an all-lefty group of regulars, along with Blackmon, with Hampson and Desmond supplementing from the right side. There’s at least one other near-term player with potential, too. Yonathan Daza is already on the 40-man and is seen as a prospect of some note. His 2019 debut went in the opposite direction of Hilliard’s, with Daza turning in a .206/.257/.237 slash over 105 plate appearances. But Daza had a big showing at Triple-A and has hit well this spring.

    It probably wouldn’t be wise for the Rockies or their fans to expect too much from Hilliard and the rest of the outfield unit in 2020 and beyond. But it seems they can at least hope for something more.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Rockies' Schmidt, Matthews Discuss Upcoming Draft]]> 2020-04-20T17:48:40Z 2020-04-20T17:48:12Z
  • Although no one quite knows what the draft will look like, Rockies scouting director Bill Schmidt is confident that his club is prepared and ready whenever the date does roll around, per Kyle Newman of the Denver Post. Rox scout Jay Matthews expressed to Newman that the ability to connect with players will be all the more crucial this year, as nondrafted players will be capped at just $20K signing bonuses. “Since we’re all going to be under the same money figure for free agents, it’s going to come down to relationships that the area scouts have established with the prospects,” said Matthews, likening this year’s atypical signing process for undrafted players to the college recruiting process. Newman points out that the Rockies have trended toward college players in recent drafts, with a particular emphasis on pitching. Colorado will have three of the first 46 picks in the draft — whatever form it takes.
  • ]]>
    TC Zencka <![CDATA[How Good Was Dante Bichette?]]> 2020-04-15T14:43:51Z 2020-04-11T15:01:13Z

    Before he became the third-most-famous dad of a Toronto Blue Jays starting infielder, Dante Bichette held a similar title in a different barbershop quartet: the Blake Street Bombers. In both groups, Bichette fits comfortably in the George Harrison role as the love-able third cog, the character actor capable of carrying a film (say, as the 3-hole hitter), but nonetheless of tertiary relevance after two obviously-more-famous counterparts (Craig Biggio and Vlad Guerrero, Paul and John, Larry Walker and Andres Galarraga). Along with Vinny Castilla (who rightly-or-wrongly has fallen into the Ringo role in the Blake Street Bombers), Bichette helped the Rockies to their first playoff appearance in franchise history (1995) and became an indelible part of Colorado baseball history.

    Bichette wasn’t destined for stardom, necessarily. He capitalized with a case of perfect time, perfect place (emphasis on place, as Coors Field in ’95 wasn’t a bad place to take your home hacks). 1995 wasn’t Bichette’s first season as a productive regular, nor was it his best by WAR, but it was his loudest: .340/.364/.620 while leading the league with 40 home runs and 128 RBIs.

    It was a feel-good story for both Bichette and the Rockies, the former of whom had found belated stardom at the age of 31, and for the latter, as the organization enjoyed its first taste of success as an MLB franchise. Don Baylor’s club didn’t set the world aflame, but they did scratch out a 77-67 record, good enough to capture the newly instituted Wild Card slot to make the National League playoffs. The Rockies would fall to the Braves in four games and fail to reach the playoffs for a second time in the era of the Blake Street Bombers, however. They would not return to the playoffs until capturing the Wild Card in 2007, long after Bichette’s departure following the 1999 season.

    As for Bichette, 1995 wasn’t all that anomalous. He would make the All-Star team and earn MVP votes in four out of five seasons from 1994 to 1999 (including a second-place finish in ’95). Over that five-year stretch, Bichette had an overall slash line of .320/.352/.542 while slugging 146 of his 274 career home runs. All of the above considering, and Bichette looks like a classic short-peak superstar, maybe even worthy of consideration for the colloquial hall-of-very-good.

    But the story changes when you get a look at his Wins Above Replacement totals. For his career, Bichette amassed a surprisingly meager total of just 5.7 bWAR across 14 seasons. There were 18 position players with at least 5.7 bWAR in 2019 alone. By measure of fWAR, Bichette was slightly better, putting up a total 8.9 fWAR. In other words, he wasn’t very good?  Frankly, it’s difficult to view Bichette’s WAR totals in context. His era brings no measure of complications, but we’d normally worry about that era from an inflation standpoint. Looking at his fellow Bombers, Castilla managed 19.4 bWAR, which matches more closely to his standing in the baseball zeitgeist. Galarraga’s numbers are lower than what one might expect for the Big Cat (31.7 bWAR), but they still point to a solid career. Larry Walker was the best of the Colorado bunch, putting up a Hall-worthy 72.7 bWAR, for which he was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.

    Of course, nobody was looking at Wins Above Replacement when Bichette was a player. Given his offensive output, it’s still not surprising he made four All-Star teams. His career WAR numbers actually undersell his peak abilities as a player, largely because his overall numbers were hampered by three seasons of negative bWAR, including a disastrous -2.3 bWAR/-2.1 fWAR campaign in his final season with the Rockies in 1999. Bichette’s offensive output was down that season, but it still wasn’t bad: .298/.354/.541 with 34 home runs and 133 RBIs. That hardly looks like a -2.3 WAR season – and yet – it was (the MLB average slash line that season was .267/.338/.417).

    Needless to say, Bichette was not a standout defender or baserunner. He was clocked for -34 runs from fielding that season along with -5 runs from baserunning per baseball-reference. He somehow made 13 errors as a left fielder that year (while also collecting 17 outfield assists). The last time an outfielder committed double-digit error totals was Ian Desmond in 2016 with the Rangers, his first season in the outfield as a converted shortstop. It’s not so surprising, then, that Bichette’s offensive numbers don’t buoy the other parts of his game to better bloat those WAR totals. Had Bichette played in the American League where he could have been utilized as a designated hitter, perhaps his career numbers would have a slightly different shape than they do now. Of course, the same could be said for if he’s played his peak seasons for a different franchise.

    Regardless, Bichette found a time and a place to make an impact on the game. Plus, his contribution continues in the form of his son, Bo Bichette, who put up 2.3 bWAR as a 21-year-old for the Blue Jays last year. Bo looks astoundingly like his father even down to the haircut, but he brings a more well-rounded game to Toronto’s infield. At this rate, Bo will eclipse his dad’s bWAR total before the midpoint of his age-23 season.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Mark Reynolds Announces Retirement]]> 2020-04-10T01:24:04Z 2020-04-09T20:30:33Z Veteran slugger Mark Reynolds, who enjoyed a 13-year big league career split between the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Orioles, Indians, Cardinals, Nationals, Yankees and Brewers, announced in an appearance on Mad Dog Sports Radio on SiriusXM that he’s officially retired (Twitter link, with audio).

    Mark Reynolds | Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    “I’ve moved beyond that,” Reynolds said when asked if he planned to seek another contract once MLB’s transaction freeze has been lifted. “I’ve retired. … I’m really enjoying time with my family, and it’s time for me to move on and find something else to do.”

    The 36-year-old Reynolds spent the majority of the 2019 season in the Rockies organization, serving as a part-time first baseman and a bench bat until he was cut loose on July 28. He’d enjoyed a quality season with the Nationals a year prior in 2018, but Reynolds struggled to the lowest offensive numbers of his career with the Rox last year.

    Originally a 16th-round pick of the Diamondbacks out of the University of Virginia back in 2004, Reynolds made his big league debut less than three years after being drafted. Reynolds was never considered one of the organization’s premier prospects — his No. 7 ranking on Baseball America’s list of D-backs prospects prior to the ’07 campaign was the only time he broke their top 30 — Reynolds hit the ground running. He was promoted to the big leagues in mid-May and closed out the remainder of the season as a regular in the lineup, hitting .279/.349/.495 with 17 home runs.

    By 2008, Reynolds was Arizona’s everyday third baseman. His power was unquestionable, although the same could be said of his questionable contact skills. Reynolds became one of the game’s quintessential boom-or-bust players, regularly headlining home run and strikeout leaderboards alike. From 2008-11, he averaged 35 big flies per season  but also led his league in strikeouts each year along the way. At that time, a player who was punching out in roughly a third of his plate appearances was an alarming anomaly; the league average strikeout rate back in Reynolds’ first full year was 17.5 percent — a full six percent lower than 2019’s mark.

    Reynolds had a rough year in 2010, prompting the D-backs to trade him to the Orioles in return for reliever David Hernandez and prospect Kam Mickolio. He bounced back with the Birds and helped them to the postseason in 2012, but Baltimore declined an $11MM club option over Reynolds’ final arbitration year that offseason and non-tendered him, making him a free agent for the first time in his career.

    Reynolds would bounce from Cleveland to New York to Milwaukee to St. Louis to Colorado to D.C. and back to Colorado on a series of one-year and minor league deals from that point forth. He delivered some productive seasons along the way and even popped 30 homers for the 2017 Rockies before giving the Nationals an absurd 5-for-5, two-homer, 10-RBI day in 2018 (video link).

    Reynolds will conclude his playing career with a .236/.328/.453 batting line over the life of 6243 plate appearances and 1688 Major League games. In that time, he belted 298 home runs, 253 doubles, 14 triples and stole 64 bases while also scoring 794 times and knocking in 871 runs. The slugger took home nearly $30MM in career earnings while providing a litany of tape-measure home runs on which we can all fondly look back. Best wishes to Reynolds and his family in whatever lies ahead.

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[These Players Can Exit Their Contracts After 2020]]> 2020-04-09T05:54:00Z 2020-04-09T05:54:00Z No matter if a Major League Baseball season takes place in 2020, there are certain players who will be in position to decide whether to exit their current contracts next winter. Whether it be by way of an opt-out clause or a mutual option, here’s a look at the players who will be able to choose to take their chances in free agency…


    Back when the Marlins extended outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on a historic pact worth $325MM over 13 years in 2014, they included a one-time opt-out for next winter. Stanton has put up at least one phenomenal season since he signed that deal – he won the NL MVP and hit 59 home runs in 2017 – but injuries have hampered him on a regular basis. He’s now a member of the Yankees, who acquired him in a December 2017 deal, but Stanton played in just 18 games last season. He’ll still be owed $218MM for seven years after this season, and for at least the time being, it’s very tough to think of Stanton leaving that money on the table to test free agency.

    Designated hitter J.D. Martinez, a member of the Yankees’ archrival in Boston, will have two years and $38.75MM remaining on his contract after this season. He’ll be 33 then, and will continue to be someone who’s known as a defensive liability, so should be opt out? It’s up for debate. The big-hitting Martinez remains an offensive standout, but his production last season fell (granted, he did still slash .304/.383/.557 with 36 home runs in 657 plate appearances). He subsequently chose not to opt out after last season, as doing so would have cost him his $23.75MM salary for this year.

    One of Martinez’s former Tigers teammates, outfielder Nicholas Castellanos, will also have to choose whether to revisit free agency next offseason. Castellanos is another defensively challenged slugger, one whom the Reds guaranteed $64MM over four years this past winter. He’ll be 29 by the time the 2021 season rolls around, and by saying goodbye to his Reds pact, he’d be leaving $48MM on the table (including a $2MM buyout in 2024). It’s not easy to determine whether that will happen; some of it depends on how well Castellanos fares in 2020, if a season occurs. Carrying over the tremendous production he posted late last season after the Cubs acquired him from the Tigers may make Castellanos more inclined to try his luck on the market again, but his output at the plate has been more good than great throughout his career.

    Mutual Options

    For the most part, mutual options don’t get picked up. Either a player’s so effective that he opts for free agency or he’s not useful enough for his team to exercise the option. Rockies first baseman Daniel Murphy and reliever Wade Davis are among those who have mutual option decisions waiting after the season, but they’ve struggled in the club’s uniform so far. With that in mind, Murphy’s on track for a $6MM buyout (as opposed to a $12MM salary), while Davis figures to receive a $1MM buyout instead of a $15MM payday.

    Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun ($15MM mutual option, $4MM buyout), Diamondbacks right-hander Mike Leake ($18MM mutual option, $5MM buyout) and Cubs lefty Jon Lester ($25MM mutual option, $10MM buyout) could also find themselves looking for new contracts next winter. The same goes for Mets reliever Dellin Betances, though it’s tougher to say in his case. The former Yankee barely pitched at all season on account of injuries, and if there isn’t a season in 2020, would he turn down a guaranteed $6MM in 2021? And would the Mets buy him out for $3MM? That’s one of the many interesting questions we could face next offseason.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Rockies Provide Timetable On Peter Lambert Injury]]> 2020-04-08T21:03:42Z 2020-04-08T21:03:42Z Rockies right-hander Peter Lambert, diagnosed with a forearm strain a month ago, is progressing through a rehab program but is still three to four weeks from being cleared to throw, pitching coach Steve Foster tells reporters (Twitter link via Kyle Newman of the Denver Post).

    At the time of Lambert’s injury, Colorado declined to put a timetable on his recovery, with reports indicating that he was expected to miss “significant” time. Today’s news from Foster doesn’t provide an expected return to game readiness, but the fact that he’s close to a month from even beginning a throwing program suggests that he’s multiple months away from that point. Any early throwing Lambert does would of course be limited, and he’d need time to ramp up to long toss, throwing off a mound, facing live hitters, etc.

    Lambert, 23 next week, is hardly a household name but is a young hurler of some note within the organization’s ranks. He was the club’s second-round pick (44th overall) back in 2015 and steadily rose through the minor league system, ultimately making his big league debut in 2019. He started 19 games for the Rox with woeful results (7.25 ERA, 5.97 FIP), but this time last year, Lambert was considered one of the organization’s best overall prospects. On a national scale, Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel ranked him as the game’s No. 120 overall prospect heading into the season. At that point, he was fresh off a 2018 season that saw him toss 148 innings of 3.28 ERA ball with a 106-to-27 K/BB ratio and a grounder rate just shy of 50 percent between Double-A and Triple-A.

    Even a healthy Lambert wouldn’t have been a lock to begin the year in Colorado’s rotation. Jon Gray, German Marquez and Kyle Freeland seemed like locks, while out-of-options hurlers Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman were slated to vie for rotation spots along with Lambert, Chi Chi Gonzalez and others (including non-roster invitee Ubaldo Jimenez). The delayed start to the year could conceivably give Lambert enough time to reenter that mix, depending on when (or if) a second training camp is able to come together.