The Rockies have declined their $8MM club option on right-hander Scott Oberg, as announced by the MLBPA this morning in their update to the growing number of players who’ve formally reached free agency (Twitter link).
The decision to decline Oberg’s option wasn’t really a decision at all, and while he’s technically a free agent, it’s not at all clear whether Oberg will pursue a return to the mound now or at any point in the future. Chronic blood clots completely derailed the promising right-hander’s career, and Oberg has since taken on a role in the Rockies’ scouting department to remain active with the team. The 32-year-old stated back in May that he was “not in a rush” to pursue a return to pitching, as in making any such attempt he’d be “running into the risk of having to go through all this again.”
The “all this” referred to by Oberg is a harrowing series of surgeries, beginning with a Sept. 2020 operation to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome but culminating with multiple surgeries to remove blood clots from his arm. At one point, he spent a night in the ICU after his hand went numb and the team’s trainers were unable to feel a pulse in his right wrist. Oberg underwent surgery the following day.
The unfortunate health troubles arose just when it appeared as though Oberg was on the cusp of cementing himself as a high-end, late-inning reliever. Oberg’s 2018-19 seasons saw him pitch to a sterling 2.35 ERA with 22 holds, five saves, a 25.5% strikeout rate and a 7.8% walk rate as a key member of the Colorado bullpen. That netted him a three-year, $13MM extension, but the unexpected development of the career-altering — if not career-ending — blood clot issue kept Oberg from taking the mound over the life of that contract.
The Rockies have not yet announced whether Oberg will return as a scout, as a coach or in some other role moving forward, but general manager Bill Schmidt spoke glowingly of him back in May at the time Oberg acknowledged uncertainty about whether he’d again pursue pitching.
“What we’ve talked about is trying to figure out what he wants to do in the game,” Schmidt told Jack Etkin of Rockies Magazine at the time. “We’ll figure out a role for him. He’s a very bright guy. And I think the world of Scottie and want him involved.”