Rox push for pitching, pitching and more pitching

November 10th, 2022

Rockies general manager Bill Schmidt has focused on improving his team’s pitching during the General Managers Meetings this week in Las Vegas.

Discussions are preliminary, with teams assessing potential trade matches and free agents eligible to sign only with their current teams until Thursday at 3 p.m. MT. But Schmidt is clear about the Rockies’ key need.

“We need to get pitching,” Schmidt said. “We need starting pitching, no doubt, and we need bullpen arms. We need to get them any way we can.”

Starting pitching became a strength in 2017, when rookies , and joined Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson. Freeland, Márquez and Senzatela remain (under multi-year contracts), although Freeland and Márquez struggled early in 2022 and Senzatela sustained a season-ending left knee injury just when it seemed he was shaking off his early difficulties.

In regrouping from last year’s 68-94 finish and preparing for 2023, the Rockies hope the rotation trio return to leading the club, but they need help. However, the club’s mid-market payroll is a self-imposed limitation, and pitchers with desirable options tend to put Colorado and hitter-friendly Coors Field at the bottom of their lists. The precedent has been that if a pitcher with bargaining power considers the Rockies, the charge is higher.

The Rockies appear open to re-signing two pickups last season -- righties José Ureña and Chad Kuhl. But with free-agent dollars tight -- they still need a left-handed hitter, a leadoff man and a center fielder (preferably a three-in-one) -- a trade might be the best option.

“We’ve got to be realistic,” Schmidt said. “You don’t want to overpay. We’ve got to be smart in making our decision.”

The Rockies have been linked to free agent Brandon Nimmo. Schmidt didn’t reveal much, beyond saying the club will look at the list of players who are non-tendered at or before the Nov. 18 deadline.

Roster departures
The Rockies on Wednesday announced that catcher was claimed off waivers by the Pirates and outfield prospect was claimed by the Giants. The team also outrighted lefty pitchers (who likely will not return from left shoulder surgery until August) and , and outfielder . The moves reduced the roster to 32, eight below the limit.

Another roster spot came open Sunday when the Rockies traded outfielder to the Braves for Minor League righty Dylan Spain.

Nuñez debuted in 2019 and was considered part of the team’s future behind the plate, but he batted .180 over parts of three seasons. Vilade was a second-round Draft choice in 2017 and saw Major League action in ’21, but spent ’22 at Triple-A Albuquerque.

Optimism on Lambert
Righty , who has thrown 5 2/3 Major League innings since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2020, halted his participation in the Arizona Fall League after nine innings. Schmidt said the club decided to rest him so he can have a normal offseason. Lambert had a 9.00 ERA in three appearances, but finished with five strikeouts in three innings on Oct. 18 in his final Fall League appearance.

The original plan was for Lambert to throw more innings.

“He should be OK; hopefully, it’s a normal offseason for him,” Schmidt said. “All indications are he should be ready to go come Spring Training. He was real good when I saw him, 93-95 [mph fastball], good breaking ball, threw strikes. He hadn’t pitched in really a year, so the first two [outings] the command was a little lacking. I saw his third outing, and it was real good.”

A role for Oberg? 
The Rockies declined their 2023 contract option on righty reliever , who has not appeared in the Majors since 2019 because of a blood-clotting condition in his right arm. In the interim, Oberg has helped the coaching staff, scouted and has been involved in Draft preparation. Schmidt said the club is talking to him about a continued role.

“Scotty has a tremendous upside -- he wants to work in the front office,” Schmidt said. “We’ve talked about that. I think it will happen.”

Oberg, who worked on a master’s degree in sports management from Georgetown University while assisting the Rockies and served as their player representative to the MLB Players Association.