Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

Rockies News

Offseason checklist: Rockies’ needs and moves

@harding_at_mlb
November 5, 2019

After following up postseason appearances in 2017 and '18 by going 71-91 in '19, questions have arisen about the Rockies' team identity. Is this a team that is still a contender after a season-long confluence of some poor performances and injuries, or is this a team rapidly headed towards non-contention?

After following up postseason appearances in 2017 and '18 by going 71-91 in '19, questions have arisen about the Rockies' team identity. Is this a team that is still a contender after a season-long confluence of some poor performances and injuries, or is this a team rapidly headed towards non-contention?

What are the Rockies’ biggest needs entering 2020, and what moves have they made to address them? MLB.com is keeping track here. As the offseason continues, be sure to check back for updates.

BIGGEST NEEDS

Starting pitching

The Rockies led the National League in starter innings pitched in 2018. They had the worst starter ERA in the Majors in '19 at 5.87. Especially damaging was the bad year of lefty Kyle Freeland, who was fourth in the Cy Young race in ’18 but dealt with slumps, injuries and even an option to the Minors. Interestingly, righties German Márquez and Jon Gray are coming off solid years, and some of the same pitchers who were considered solid depth pieces in the past are still around. But now may be the time for the Rockies to find at least one experienced pitcher and trust that his stuff and strategy play at Coors Field.

Five questions facing Rockies this offseason

Relief pitching

Wade Davis, who went from the NL saves champ in ’18 to barely usable in the final months of ’19, is getting $17 million and will be given a chance to match performance with price. Two other high-cost relievers, Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee, may attract trade interest, but the Rockies would be best advised to replace them with experienced arms. Out of the rubble of last year arose some solid righty relievers such as Scott Oberg (who took over for Davis as closer until blood clots ended his season in August), Jairo Díaz and Carlos Estévez, and James Pazos seemed to revive his career from the left side. Still, some solid additions will help here.

Rockies to address 'pen, prospects in offseason

Right-handed-hitting depth

The Rockies went into 2019 with first baseman Mark Reynolds and catcher Chris Iannetta. Both were released before the end of the season. A plan to use righty-hitting veteran Ian Desmond as a platoon left fielder could enhance the bench. The Rockies will be best-served to seek a right-handed-hitting catcher to provide a tandem with Tony Wolters.

MOVES MADE

Nov. 5: Garcia claimed by Giants
Righty Rico Garcia, who had a solid year in Double-A but struggled in Triple-A and brief Major League action, was claimed off waivers by the Giants. Garcia doesn't have great velocity but is a strike-thrower. Should Garcia complete his education in areas such as predictability and concealing his pitches, he could be seen at the Major League level.

Oct. 31: Butera, Alonso become free agents
Catcher Drew Butera, who saw time with the Rockies in the regular season and postseason in 2018, rejoined the club at the end of Spring Training and saw big league time during the year. First baseman Yonder Alonso was signed after the All-Star break. Butera, a right-handed hitter with familiarity with some of the Rockies’ younger pitchers after having spent much of ’19 in Albuquerque, could be a candidate to be re-signed.

Oct. 30: Melville outrighted to Triple-A Albuquerque
Right-hander Tim Melville, who bounced around Triple-A for years, was called up in August after Gray broke his foot. The Rockies see Melville as part of the club's depth, and outrighting him gives them greater flexibility, as it preserves a roster spot. Melville also has one Minor League option left, and this gives the Rockies more time before deciding whether to burn that one.

Oct. 30: Giants claim Anderson
Lefty Tyler Anderson, who appeared in the postseason in 2017 and '18, saw his season end in May with a left knee chondral defect. The surgery was extensive, and it wasn’t clear when he would return -- plus, he was due a big arbitration payment. The Giants took the gamble that he would return to form.

Oct. 30: Bettis departs
Righty Chad Bettis, also arbitration-eligible, will forever have a special place with the Rockies after his inspiring recovery and return from testicular cancer in 2017. Bettis ended up in the bullpen in '19, but a hip injury during the second half led to bilateral hip surgery. The club, unsure when Bettis will be ready, outrighted him, and he opted for free agency. But the door isn’t closed to a return.

Oct. 30: Pirates claim Howard
Over the last two seasons, the Rockies have transitioned lefty Sam Howard to the bullpen. Now the Pirates will try to finish the process of making him a solid Major League part. Possessing a respectable slider, Howard will have to find the strike zone more consistently to realize his promise.

Oct. 30: Orioles claim Valaika
A top right-handed pinch-hitter in 2017, Pat Valaika has struggled since, although his Triple-A numbers and the analytics point toward big league success. But the Rockies waived him to help alleviate the roster crunch, and the Orioles grabbed him.

Oct. 23: Johnson released
Righty reliever DJ Johnson had some solid performances but wasn’t always in the strike zone in 2019. With a roster crunch and the need to find more experience, his spot seemed in danger. Through it all, Johnson found a new opportunity with the Hiroshima Carp in the Japan Nippon Professional Baseball League. The club released him so that he could sign.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.