Rox face future without rotation anchor Gray

RHP reportedly joining Rangers on free-agent deal

November 29th, 2021

DENVER -- The Rockies’ gamble to hold on to at the July 30 Trade Deadline in hopes of signing him to a contract extension backfired Sunday night, when the right-hander reportedly reached an agreement with the Rangers on what sources told was a four-year, $56 million contract.

Gray, 30, was the Rockies’ third overall pick in 2013, and since debuting in 2016 rose to second in club history in strikeouts (849), fifth in starts (151), sixth in innings pitched (829 1/3), tied for seventh in wins (53) and eighth in ERA for pitchers with at least 50 starts (4.59).

At the Trade Deadline, Gray reiterated that he hoped for a contract extension, and new general manager Bill Schmidt and the club decided not to deal him -- despite reported interest from several other clubs. However, the sides did not reach an agreement before Gray became a free agent, despite The Athletic reporting that the Rockies offered a 3-4 year deal in the “$35 million to $40 million range.” Schmidt did not confirm the details of the club’s offer.

The Rockies did not extend Gray the one-year, $18.4 million qualifying offer, which would have netted the club a pick in the 2022 MLB Draft should Gray sign elsewhere. Gray tested the market and found a contract whose average value did not meet the one-year bonanza that the qualifying offer would have brought, but was considerably higher than what the Rockies had offered.

The Rockies had hoped for a chance to win the bidding, but that did not happen.

“We got a call from his representatives, and we were told that Jon and Jacklyn [his wife] decided to go in a different direction,” Schmidt said. “We felt good about what we offered to Jon.”

The Rockies entered the offseason feeling that their starting rotation -- which fueled postseason trips in 2017 and 2018 -- coupled with planned improvements to the offense can fuel quick improvements in 2022. Colorado had finished fourth in the National League West the last two years.

The club has reached multiyear contracts with right-handers Germán Márquez, through 2023 with a club option for ’24, and Antonio Senzatela, through 2026 with a club option for ’27. Lefty Kyle Freeland has two more years of arbitration, and lefty Austin Gomber is slated to be under club control through 2025.

Schmidt went into the offseason believing the club needed to at least improve its depth, even if Gray had stayed within the fold. Now there is potentially a rotation spot that can be filled through free agency or a trade. The Rockies also have a number of less-experienced candidates for the rotation.

Some of those options include:

• Righty Peter Lambert, who missed the shortened 2020 season and most of 2021 because of Tommy John elbow surgery but is expected to be healthy for ’22.

• Lefty (and the Rockies' No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline) Ryan Rolison, who rose to Triple-A in 2021 only to have his progress slowed by an appendicitis attack and a left hand fracture. After 71 2/3 Minor League innings, Rolison has logged 20 innings for Licey in the Dominican Winter League (3.15 ERA, 24 strikeouts, five walks).

• Right-handers Ashton Goudeau and Ryan Feltner have both seen brief action over the last two seasons, and could be options as well.