Rockies must keep shopping after quiet Winter Meetings

December 8th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- Rockies general manager Bill Schmidt made it clear publicly and, more importantly, to representatives of free agents, that he would not acquire anyone who will block the path of the organization’s best prospects.

The three-plus days of Winter Meetings ended with the Rockies acquiring no player of any description for their 40-man Major League roster. Shortstop Ezequiel Tovar, the No. 27 prospect in the MLB Pipeline Top 100 and No. 2 in the Rockies’ system, is expected to be the regular shortstop, but the rest of the club's top prospects are not expected to be ready to begin the season in the Majors.

Still, correcting the 68-94, last-place finish in the National League West last season falls to getting a healthy season from outfielder (last year’s big-money signing), continued growth from second baseman and third baseman , and rebound seasons from numerous others.

Several other significant holes remain.

Shopping must continue.

Moves made

On Wednesday, the Rockies signed former Pirates shortstop , 26, to a Minor League contract. A Pirates first-round pick in 2014, Tucker batted .211 in 154 games over four seasons. Last season, Tucker batted .175 in 18 games with the Pirates, and a combined .209 in 49 Triple-A games with the Pirates and D-backs.

Earlier in the Winter Meetings, the Rockies sent righty reliever Chad Smith to the Athletics for Minor League righty starter Jeff Criswell.

Biggest remaining needs

1. Left-handed hitting: The Rockies had designs on until he took a one-year, $17.5 million deal with the Cubs. After that, the free-agent market didn’t offer the optimal player -- a lefty swinger with power who plays center field and is willing to take a one-year contract. There were other ideas, but pieces did not fall into place. Trading to help the lineup seems the best possibility.

2. Primary right-handed relief: signed with the Angels and is out until midseason as he recovers from right forearm flexor tendon surgery. Righty and lefty will help shore up the relief corps, but if the Rockies don’t add experience, and -- who had their accomplishments and their growing pains in 2022 -- will be a bigger part of the bullpen picture.

3. Starting rotation help, either immediately or in the depth department: This is always at the forefront of the Rockies’ minds, but the reluctance of prime free agents to sign leaves the Rockies either trading or waiting for a bargain. While there are questions regarding the season-opening rotation, it’s just as important to figure out the team's depth. For now, righty , who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2020, and 2018 top pick , a lefty who underwent shoulder surgery in ’22, are the key depth pieces.

Rule 5

In the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, the Rockies selected righty Kevin Kelly from the Guardians and traded him to the Rays for cash considerations. In the Minor League phase, Colorado selected lefty Eli Lingos from the Guardians and righty Nick Kuzia from the Tigers.

Conversely, the Rockies lost infielder-outfielder Isaac Collins to the Brewers and infielder Mateo Gil -- originally obtained from the Cardinals as part of the  trade -- to the Mets.

GM’s bottom line

There is justification for not signing long-term deals, when outfielders Zac Veen (No. 23 overall, Rockies No. 1) and Brenton Doyle (Rockies No. 23) could debut this year, and 2022 rookies (a corner bat who debuted with the Guardians and was acquired in a trade), (corner infielder) and  (first baseman) will have opportunities to stride forward.

But the Rockies also have Bryant, McMahon and starters , and , catcher and closer in multi-year deals, while vets and are entering a contract year. So, it’s a roster that could use a jolt and take its puncher’s chance. Yet, either because of resources or willingness, the Rockies won’t spend with the Dodgers and the Padres. And last year Colorado also fell behind the Giants and D-backs.

The challenge is improving the present while building something that lasts.

“We're not where we need to be,” Schmidt during an interview with MLB Network on Wednesday. “But I use the bamboo theory. There's a lot of stuff growing underneath that people don't see, and it's gonna pop here. When it does, we're going to be good.”