- While the Rockies did offer outfielder Carlos Gonzalez a contract extension during the offseason, the reported four-year term is “not true,” according to the player. “They offered me an extension, but it was not a four-year deal,” Gonzalez told Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. “I was looking for something bigger, for more years.” Without knowing the details of the offer, it’s tough to say whether Gonzalez erred to a significant degree in declining it. Regardless, it’s clear his stock has tanked thanks to an uncharacteristically poor year – one likely to be his last in Colorado, Saunders notes. Known for his bat, the 31-year-old CarGo has hit a meek .240/.308/.359 in 432 plate appearances.
Despite Greg Holland’s recent struggles — he’s allowed 12 earned runs in five innings, en route to three blown saves — manager Bud Black intends to keep him in the closer’s role, as Thomas Harding of MLB.com writes. “We wouldn’t be where we are without him, and he’s going through a bit of a tough stretch as far as making pitches,” said Black. The skipper suggests that Holland has been “one strike away” from escaping trouble and sealing down a victory in each of his three blown saves. Holland was indeed utterly dominant for much of the season, though it’s worth wondering if he’s experiencing at least some degree of fatigue in the late stages of his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. Holland has a $15MM player option that seemed like a veritable lock to be rejected a few weeks ago. And while it still seems likely to me that he’ll opt to reenter the open market, the recent struggles at least slightly open the door for a possible change of course.
A couple more notes on the Rox…
- Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron takes a more analytical look at Holland’s woes and points out that his struggles are hardly isolated to the month of August. Rather, Holland has actually struggled since June 1, beginning with a dip in velocity and a spike in walks. While he’s since regained some of the velo, Holland’s command within the zone has completely eroded, as he’s left 10 percent of the fastballs he’s thrown this month directly down the heart of the plate (in addition to several other poorly placed pitches). More problematic for the Rockies, Cameron concludes, is that several of their other relievers (e.g. Jake McGee, Adam Ottavino) are also struggling, leaving Black with few palatable options other than hoping that Holland can return to form.
- The Rockies did indeed offer Carlos Gonzalez a contract extension this spring, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes in his latest Rockies Mailbag, but CarGo spurned their offer with free agency just six months away. It now looks as if the Rox dodged a significant bullet, as Gonzalez has batted just .240/.308/.360 and, unfathomably, played at an overall clip that is two wins below replacement level (-2.0 fWAR, -1.7 rWAR). Saunders notes that Gonzalez will quite likely be forced to settle for a short-term deal to rebuild his value this winter — a one-year deal seems quite likely — and he goes on to write that he’s “pretty certain” that CarGo will be signing elsewhere in free agency. Saunders’ column is full of Rockies topics, ranging from playoff odds to some promising young players that have had disappointing 2017 campaigns, so Rox fans will want to check it out in full.
- Rockies infielder Ian Desmond will begin a minor league rehab assignment today, writes Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. He’ll likely play four games before being activated from the disabled list on Monday (assuming all goes well), but more interesting than that is the fact that Saunders adds that Desmond could play shortstop upon his return from the DL. Desmond had a “high-intensity” workout on Wednesday that included taking grounders and performing fielding drills at his natural position. Manager Bud Black didn’t commit to the notion that Desmond would oust the struggling Trevor Story at short, but Saunders notes that Desmond could see time at first base, shortstop and in left field upon returning.
Gonzalez, 19, ranked as the Rockies’ No. 14 prospect per Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen rated him as highly as fourth among Colorado farmhands on his updated summer ranking of Rockies prospects.
Callis and Mayo note that Gonzalez has the type of power that scouts can dream on, noting that he has “considerable” bat speed and has grown three inches and added 15 pounds of muscle since signing as a 16-year-old. Longenhagen calls his upside “immense,” though he notes that strikeouts are an issue for the shortstop-turned-outfielder. MLB.com’s report notes that while he has the present range for center field thanks to improved speed, he could be destined to play a corner in the bigs.
Through 209 plate appearances, Gonzalez is batting an excellent .321/.388/.519 with three homers, 16 doubles and six triples against older competition. He’s swiped 11 bases in 17 tries on the season as well. He’ll report to the team’s short-season Class-A affiliate in the Northwest League, per the Rangers’ announcement.
Gonzalez looks to be a nice add to the Rangers’ farm system, even if he’s a ways from the Majors and obviously won’t eliminate the sting of surrendering Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz and Ryan Cordell to acquire Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress in the first place.
As for the Rockies, they have to be rather pleased with the way the trade has played out to date, as through his first 16 games in Colorado, Lucroy has slashed a resurgent .313/.443/.458. He’s yet to connect on his first Rockies homer, but he’s chipped in five doubles and a triple since joining his new club.
- Struggling Rockies closer Greg Holland says he’s just not throwing enough “quality pitches,” as Nick Groke of the Denver Post writes. Manager Bud Black suggested there’s no cause for broader concern, while Holland noted that he has “been getting beat with mistakes in the middle of the plate.” The veteran righty was carrying a 1.56 ERA entering play on August 6th, but that number has more than doubled over his last five appearances. Assuming he can figure things out, Holland figures to be a key part of the Rockies’ hopeful run to and through October — and quite an interesting free agent to watch once the season ends.
- Set to become a free agent in the offseason, Rockies catcher Jonathan Lucroy explained to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com what an ideal situation for him would look like going forward. “I’m hoping to be somewhere where I can contribute on an everyday basis and help the team win, where I can go out and be depended on to do the job,” Lucroy said. “That’s what I’m looking for. Whether that is here [with the Rockies] or somewhere else, I don’t know what’s going to happen with all that. I do love it here, though. I like it a lot. It’s a great place.” Lucroy, whom the Rockies acquired from the Rangers last month, posted a meager .635 OPS in 306 plate appearances with Texas this year but has hit a much-improved .333/.473/.452 in 51 PAs with his new club. The onetime pitch-framing demigod’s newfound struggles in that department have continued with the Rockies, however, according to Baseball Prospectus.
- The Rockies have announced that they’ve optioned righty Jeff Hoffman and third baseman Ryan McMahon to Triple-A Albuquerque. Taking their places on the active roster are righty Scott Oberg and outfielder Mike Tauchman. The Rockies say they’re optioning Hoffman in order to give him a bit of rest, as MLB.com’s Max Gelman notes. Hoffman has struggled in the second half, with a 7.13 ERA and just 5.9 K/9, and his velocity has been inconsistent of late. “That’s a sign to us. ’Hey, is your arm fine?’” says pitching coach Steve Foster. “’Yeah, I feel great. I’m healthy.’ OK, well then let’s give you a little break.”
The Athletics have acquired lefty Sam Moll from the Rockies, per an announcement from the Colorado organization. Cash considerations or a player to be named later will make up the return for Moll, who had been designated for assignment recently.
Moll, a 2013 third-rounder, showed enough to earn a 40-man spot but had yet to receive a major league promotion. He carries a 4.18 ERA over 47 1/3 innings on the year at Triple-A, with 7.4 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9 along with a healthy 50.3% groundball rate.
Those numbers don’t tell the full story on Moll, who was generally regarded as one of the organization’s top thirty or better prospects entering the season. He brings mid-nineties heat from the left side with a slider and even a change that can be effective at times.
Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis made his return to the major league hill tonight after a long road back following treatment for testicular cancer. To call it a success would be an understatement: Bettis, 28, scattered six hits over seven scoreless frames. MLBTR congratulates him on an inspiring return to the game’s highest level of competition.
Here’s more from the National League:
- While there has been at least some chatter surrounding the idea that the Nationals could have interest in Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson, that’s not the case, per Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post (via Twitter). While the Nats’ original starting outfield trio is shelved on the DL, it seems the organization feels good enough about the health outlook to forego pursuit of a player such as Granderson. The hope remains that both Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth will be able to return in time to gear up for the postseason, with a variety of other players — including Brian Goodwin, Michael Taylor, and just-acquired veteran Howie Kendrick — slated to cover for the longstanding absence of Adam Eaton, who is not expected to play again this year.
- Mets closer Jeurys Familia is set to begin a rehab assignment tomorrow, as James Wagner of the New York Times reports on Twitter. Familia will open in the Gulf Coast League as he begins to move back toward the majors following surgery for a blood clot in his shoulder. It’s obviously too late for his return to impact the Mets’ long-lost hopes of contending, but the 27-year-old will still presumably be aiming to get some work in late this year to set the stage for a rebound in 2018. The coming campaign will be his final year of arbitration control; with only 9 1/3 innings on his ledger to date in 2017, Familia will likely only be able to earn a relatively modest raise on his $7.425MM salary.
- While the Nationals and Dodgers hold the two best records in the National League, each team’s manager — Dusty Baker and Dave Roberts, respectively — currently lack long-term job security. In Baker’s case, per Janes, it seems unlikely that his future will be addressed until after the season (when his contract will expire), though it seems the general expectation in the organization remains that something will be worked out. There’s a similar tone with regard to Roberts, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times writes. Roberts says he’s not thinking about a new deal in the middle of the year, but did say he hopes to continue his “dream job” beyond his current term (the three-year deal runs through 2018 and includes a club option for one more season).
- Shaikin also takes a look in at the interesting transition to the mound currently being attempted by Ike Davis and the Dodgers. The former Mets first baseman — and one-time Arizona State closer — has already earned plaudits for his outstanding attitude in heading down to Rookie ball, and there are some reasons to think he could have a new future in the game at thirty years of age. “The early reviews have been really good,” said Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.
The last look we took at the handful of players with opt-out clauses following the 2017 season was more than a month ago, and a few of their situations may have changed since that early July check-in. Here’s an update on this group of potential free agents…
- Justin Upton, Tigers ($88.5MM from 2018-21): There have been plenty of suggestions that there’s no way Upton will walk away from that contract, but we’re not really sold on that notion. Upton was terrible in his first three months with the Tigers but is hitting .274/.352/.542 (137 wRC+) with 45 homers dating back to July 1, 2016. Over the past calendar year, he’s hitting .281/.366/.571 (148 wRC+) with 40 homers in 631 PAs. He’s been seven to nine runs above average in left field, per UZR and DRS, as well. Upton will play next year at the age of 30 and needs only to feel he can top Hanley Ramirez’s guarantee to opt out. Beyond that, he may simply like the idea of moving to a team that isn’t openly trying to pare back its payroll and retool for the future.
- Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees ($67MM from 2018-20): Tanaka’s home-run woes are an unequivocally troubling issue, but his numbers since the summer began are encouraging. Since May 26, Tanaka has a 3.99 ERA with 10.7 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 and a 47.6 percent ground-ball rate — good for a 3.12 xFIP and a 3.17 SIERA. The numbers are even better if you look at his past nine starts (3.00 ERA, 65 K, 12 BB, 57 innings). The health concerns are well known. Tanaka had a partial UCL tear in his rookie season but was able to avoid Tommy John, and he’s currently on the DL with what is reportedly some minor shoulder fatigue. The righty has averaged 2.2 HR/9 this year, but he’s also going to be just 29 years old next year. An opt-out looked highly unlikely two months ago but now looks entirely plausible, as long as this latest DL trip proves minor.
- Welington Castillo, Orioles ($7MM player option): Since last check, Castillo has absolutely raked. He’s batted .308/.345/.500 with four homers and three doubles in his past 84 PAs, and his overall batting line it up to .283/.319/.457 (103 wRC+). Castillo’s framing marks have improved from some of the worst in the league to roughly average (per Baseball Prospectus), and he’s halted an incredible 46 percent of stolen-base attempts against him in 2017. He should be able to top a one-year, $7MM deal with ease this winter.
- Greg Holland, Rockies ($15MM player option): Since our last check, Holland has reminded everyone that he is indeed mortal. In his past 11 2/3 frames, he’s coughed up eight runs on a dozen hits and six walks with 14 strikeouts. Six of those runs have come in his past two outings, but as long as that proves to be a blip on the radar, Holland still seems a safe bet to opt out. If he significantly fades in his first year back from Tommy John or lands on the disabled list, though, there’s at least a chance that he takes the option. Assuming he remains healthy, though, Holland will likely look to top Mark Melancon’s four-year, $62MM deal this winter.
- Johnny Cueto, Giants ($84MM from 2018-21): It’s been almost a month since Cueto last set foot on a Major League mound, as he’s been sidelined with a forearm issue that has significantly clouded his chances of opting out. Reports earlier in the summer suggested that a slow start wasn’t going to deter Cueto from opting out, but a month-long injury scare and an ERA in the upper-4.00s certainly might. Cueto, 32 in February, has a 4.59 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and the second worst ground-ball rate of his career (39.2 percent). FIP, xFIP and SIERA all peg him at 4.41 or worse.
Unchanged Since Last Check
- Matt Wieters, Nationals ($10.5MM player option): Wieters wasn’t hitting in early July, and he’s hitting even less now. His defensive reputation limited him to a two-year, $21MM deal with a player option after year one on the 2016-17 open market, and that was coming off a much better offensive season. Wieters seems extremely likely to take the $10.5MM in 2018.
- Ian Kennedy, Royals ($49MM from 2018-20): Kennedy’s results have improved slightly since the last opt-out update, but it’s hardly enough to make it likely that he’ll opt out of that significant guarantee. Through 120 innings in 2017, Kennedy has averaged 1.65 HR/9, tying a career-worst mark, while both his strikeout and walk rates have gone the wrong direction. He’s also missed a couple of weeks with a hamstring injury, and he’ll turn 33 this December.
- Wei-Yin Chen, Marlins ($52MM from 2018-20): No change here. Chen has scarcely been able to pitch in 2017 due to a reported partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament. He’s reportedly still aiming for a late comeback, but that won’t be enough to give him the earning power to top his remaining guarantee.