Rockies DFA veteran reliever Wade Davis
DENVER -- Before the 2018 season, the Rockies spent $106 million on three veteran relief pitchers. With their decision Saturday to designate for assignment former closer Wade Davis, none of the three remain.
Right-hander AJ Ramos, a 2016 All-Star with the Marlins who last pitched in the Majors in ’18 with the Mets, was brought up from the alternate training site on Saturday, as was righty Antonio Santos. The Rockies optioned righty reliever Jesus Tinoco to the alternate site.
The moves merit a look back at the big relief expenditure going into 2018 -- three-year contracts for Davis ($52 million), lefty Jake McGee ($27 million) and righty Bryan Shaw ($27 million). The Rockies released McGee and Shaw late in Summer Camp.
The Rockies entered Saturday three games out of the final National League playoff spot, hoping to overcome general poor play and bullpen fatigue.
Here is a look at the present and the past:
Even before the Rockies’ two most recent games against the Dodgers -- a 9-3 loss Thursday that was tied in the seventh and a 15-6 loss Friday that became lopsided earlier – they had a tired bullpen. Righties Yency Almonte and Mychal Givens were unavailable because of sore arms.
This showed up Thursday, when slumping Carlos Estévez, instead of Almonte or Givens, replaced Kyle Freeland with two on and the game tied, 2-2.
After both games with the Dodgers spun out of control, the Rockies went to Davis (48 pitches, six hits and five runs over the 1 2/3 innings in two nights) and Tinoco (no runs and two hits in his 40 pitches in the games). So they weren’t going to be of use Saturday, and the Rockies needed a full bullpen.
Ramos, who turns 34 on Sunday, saw his 2018 season with the Mets end because of right shoulder surgery. He attempted comebacks with the Dodgers and Cubs. The Rockies announced signing him on Sept. 7, after he had been released by the Cubs.
Santos, 23, is a starting pitching prospect, ranked by MLB Pipeline at No. 29 in the organization. The right-hander saw big league action in two blowout losses, 23-5 to the Giants on Sept. 1 and 14-5 to the Padres on Sept. 8.
Multiyear signings of relievers tend to be risky, since performance can be mercurial. With his club-record 43 saves in 2018, Davis gave the Rockies the best return on the expenditures. However, ’19 went awry as Davis dealt with an oblique injury that changed his mechanics. He ended up with an 8.65 ERA – second highest in history for a pitcher with 50 or more appearances.
After being released, McGee signed with the Dodgers and has pitched solidly for the NL West leaders. Shaw went to the Mariners but struggled and now is at their alternate training site as a non-roster player.
Davis’ 2020 problems began with a shoulder injury. The 35-year-old right-hander earned saves in the Rockies’ first two victories, in the season-opening series at Texas. But he wasn’t available for a two-game set at Oakland, despite a day off before the series. The Rockies were off again and then played their home opener against the Padres on July 31 and called upon Davis in the ninth with a 5-4 lead. After retiring the first two hitters, Davis yielded a home run by Fernando Tatis Jr., walked two (one intentionally) and then gave up Tommy Pham’s three-run homer.
Two days later, the Rockies announced Davis had a right shoulder strain and placed him on the IL. He did not appear in another game until Thursday.
“I think he expressed today the desire to continue on to play, so it was a very professional meeting with Wade,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “I don’t think any of us envisioned this happening at this juncture, but it did.
“But Wade in 2018 led the National League in saves. He was a big part of our playoff team. He pitched late in the Wild Card Game, threw up a zero and got some big outs for us. He was a great presence on our team, a great mentor for a lot of our younger pitchers, was one of our leaders.
“His stuff the last couple of nights has been pretty solid. But going into these last games, Wade, pitching back-to-back games, was going to be down for a while. Our need for pitching, sort of immediate, necessitated this move.”