Off blood thinners, Oberg gets multi-year deal

December 16th, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- Rockies righty reliever Scott Oberg became a well-compensated man, and it wasn't even the best thing that happened to him Wednesday.

Oberg avoided arbitration by signing for $13 million over three years, with a club option worth $8 million for 2023. But he also visited St. Louis vascular surgeon Robert Thompson, who told Oberg he no longer had to take blood thinners. Thompson performed surgery in August to relieve the blood clotting issue that ended Oberg's 2019 season.

Oberg, 30 on March 13, went 6-1 with a 2.25 ERA, with 58 strikeouts and 23 walks in 56 innings over 49 appearances before the clotting materialized, for the second time in his career. Oberg finished with five saves in a season that saw him take over for Wade Davis as closer.

Wednesday, Oberg left St. Louis with health and some career security.

"I'm just really grateful that the Rockies were able to give me this opportunity, and they've stuck with me through thick and thin over the years," Oberg said. "My family and I are really excited about this. We really like the city of Denver. We love the fans. We love the organization. We're really excited about prospects for the future."

Oberg didn't pitch beyond Aug. 16, but that is behind him. He's had normal work in the weight room since mid-October, and has been throwing for three or four weeks with no arm issues, and should be ready for Spring Training.

"We talk about it all the time, the front office and coaches, in roster construction about getting the right guys, and Scott Oberg is the right type of guy," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "I'm glad this worked out."

Earlier this week, Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said Oberg "seems to be in a really good spot physically. The doctors are extremely happy with where he is."

Bridich said he and Oberg chatted about the multi-year possibility during the season, but tabled the idea when the clotting problem materialized. Oberg's development -- especially the last two years, as he has worked toward the late innings when he found his proper strategy and pitch mix -- and his desire to be with the Rockies led to the commitment.

"Two things about his pitches -- one, how to throw his pitches for more quality strikes at the Major League level and, two, the specific pitch combinations that work the best for him at the Major League level," Bridich said. "He truly believes in himself now. His ability to struggle at the Major League level and go down and work on things like a professional and come back and see success, experience some success, that's given him some belief in himself."

Of the decision of who will get the ninth inning between Oberg and Davis, in the last season of a three-year, $52 million contract, Black said, "I'm going to let that play out."

Davis led the National League in saves with a Rockies-record 43 in 2018, when the team made the postseason. Davis is due $17 million next year plus a $1 million buyout on a $15 million mutual option for 2021 -- but that option becomes a player option if Davis finishes 30 games in 2020.

Whatever happens with Davis, Oberg's signing, which covers his final two years of arbitration plus potentially the first two of free agency, helps set the late-inning strategy into the future. Righty Carlos Estevez, 27 on Dec. 28, who had a 3.75 ERA with 81 strikeouts to 23 walks in 72 innings last season, is in his first year of arbitration. Righty Jairo Diaz, 29 on May 27, isn't due to reach arbitration until after 2020.

Could there be more?

Shortstop Trevor Story and right-handed starter Jon Gray entered the winter, like Oberg, in their second year of arbitration. Bridich said he is open to hammering out multi-year deals with them, as well. The Rockies also reached an eight-year, $260 million deal with third baseman Nolan Arenado last February and a six-year, $108 million contract with outfielder Charlie Blackmon in 2018.

"We tend to think highly of guys that have been career Rockies," Bridich said. "We tend to at the very least try to see if they want to stick around and sign long term. The timing and the timeline of that stuff is very much an individual process with each guy. Those two guys fit in with that."

Scout of the Year

Rockies vice president of scouting Bill Schmidt, who has run the team's MLB Draft process since after the 1999 season, was named the West Coast Scout of the Year on Wednesday.

It's the second straight year a Rockies employee has received the honor. Special assistant to the general manager Danny Montgomery received East Coast Scout of the Year in 2018. They joined Pat Daugherty (Midwest Scout of the Year, 2005) and Bruce Andrew (West Coast Scout of the Year, 1998) as award winners.

Butera is back

While the club hasn't completed its work or made an announcement, expect veteran catcher Drew Butera to return to the Rockies on a Minor League contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. The New York Daily news reported in a tweet that it is happening. Butera, 36, is a .200 hitter over 10 seasons and 513 games with five clubs -- including 26 regular-season games (and one postseason game) with the Rockies over the past two seasons.

After spending most of last season at Triple-A Albuquerque (.300, 9 HR, 40 RBIs in 67 games), Butera will will compete for a Major League spot. However, with the Rockies looking to bring in a catcher on a Major League deal to work alongside Tony Wolters, Butera is seen as depth piece alongside prospect Dom Nunez.