Rox extend Senzatela (5 yrs), Cron (2 yrs)

Signings mark first major moves under new GM Bill Schmidt

October 6th, 2021

DENVER -- The Rockies made the first move toward holding together the most effective rotation they’ve ever fielded by re-signing right-hander for five years at a guaranteed $50.5 million, with a 2027 option valued at $14 million.

They also retained their best offensive player in 2021 by rewarding first baseman with the first multiyear contract of his career, a two-year pact for $14.5 million. The Rockies announced both agreements on Tuesday.

The first two major moves under new general manager Bill Schmidt were designed to continue the club's relationship with two of the bright spots of a team that started poorly before making progress in the final four months of 2021, ultimately finishing fourth in the National League West.

Senzatela, 26, went 4-10 with a 4.42 ERA in 28 starts this season, with 105 strikeouts in 156 2/3 innings. He was at his best toward the end, though, going 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA and quality starts in eight of nine outings from Aug. 11 to Sept. 26.

His season overall was up and down, as Senzatela fell into a rut with some key mistake pitches early in the campaign. He was also unavailable for nearly a month coming out of the All-Star break because of a bout with COVID-19. Still, his solid work was a fine enough backup to his performance in the shortened 2020 season, when his 151 ERA+ (100 is MLB average) led the Rockies’ starters. Over five seasons, Senzatela has 4.84 ERA in 124 games (98 starts) with the Rockies.

By buying out Senzatela’s last two seasons of arbitration and first three of free agency, the Rockies showed they are willing to extend the window of their rotation. Senzatela, righty Germán Márquez and lefty Kyle Freeland each arrived as rookies in 2017, the first of consecutive Rockies postseason appearances. Additionally, lefty Austin Gomber, obtained as part of the trade that sent third baseman Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals, is under club control through 2025.

Also a part of that rotation is righty Jon Gray, who arrived a couple years earlier in 2015. Gray is eligible for free agency and can begin negotiating with other clubs after the World Series ends, although both he and the Rockies have said they want to reach agreement on a contract.

Cron, 31, missed most of 2020 with the Tigers because of a knee injury, and received a Minor League deal from the Rockies that he quickly converted into a $1 million salary. From there, Cron batted .281/.375/.530 with 28 home runs, 92 RBIs and a .905 OPS in 142 games. Cron is a career .261 hitter over eight big league seasons, with 146 home runs and a .798 OPS.

After spending his entire career in the American League, mostly as a designated hitter, Cron quickly developed into a solid fielder at first base this past year in Colorado.

Cron has had big seasons, especially in the power department, before, hitting 30 home runs for the Rays in 2018 and 25 for the Twins despite battling injury in 2019. However, each time he could not cash that success in with a multiyear deal.

Colorado knows it must improve an offense that is expected to lose shortstop Trevor Story via free agency. The club could not afford to take a step back at a position that had long been a question mark.

The Rockies have prospects who are nearly ready for the big leagues -- right-handed hitting infielder Colton Welker, who debuted at season’s end; righty-hitting third baseman Elehuris Montero (The club's No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline), who arrived in the Arenado trade and hit a combined 28 homers at Double-A Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque; and SiriusXM Futures Game participant Michael Toglia (No. 6 prospect), their 2019 first-round pick out of UCLA who knocked a combined 22 homers at High-A Spokane and Hartford.

However, the expected addition of the designated hitter to the National League in the upcoming collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the MLB Players Association should provide avenues to accommodate more than one first-base type in the lineup, if warranted.

The Rockies are considered in good shape regarding their ability to pursue free agents. Beyond Senzatela and Cron, the only players signed beyond this season are Márquez (through 2023) and relief pitcher Scott Oberg (through 2022), while outfielder Charlie Blackmon holds lucrative player options for 2022 and 2023.