The Colorado Rockies fortified their bullpen for 2016 by adding a pair of former closers on Tuesday, and immediately opened up a contest between the two to claim the closer role.
At the Winter Meetings on Tuesday, the Rockies signed free-agent veteran right-handed relievers Jason Motte (two years, $10 million) and Chad Qualls (two years, $6 million), who played with the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros, respectively, last season.
While the two add experience to Colorado’s bullpen, which ranked last in MLB in a handful of statistics, including ERA and WHIP, it’s unclear which one of them will be inserted into the Rockies’ vacant closer role.
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General manager Jeff Bridich envisions either one of them becoming the team’s closer in 2016.
"Both guys are going to have opportunities to pitch toward the back end of the game," Bridich said. "Just one guy closing all your games it’s not always the reality. A couple guys had close to 50 saves last year. Otherwise, things happen. Injuries happen. We need as many guys as possible who are comfortable, confident, and hopefully dominant in the eighth and ninth inning."
Motte, 33, posted a 8-1 record with a 3.91 ERA in 57 appearances for the Cubs last season, while Qualls, 37, held a 3-5 record with a 4.38 ERA in 60 relief appearances with the Astros.
The Rockies have a few minor-league options to fill the closer role as well, which will create competition between the newly acquired veterans and up-and-coming prospects for ninth-inning duty.
"A lot of [who closes] is going to come down to how the pieces fit together and who’s best suited for what role, but the fact that [Motte] has done it, he’s an obvious candidate," manager Walt Weiss said.
While the Rockies posted an uninspiring 68-94 record in 2015, both players are eager to have a positive influence on the team next season.
"Playing against the Rockies the past however many years I’ve played against them, they have some good bats, they have some good players," Motte said. "In talking to Jeff, [I’m] hoping to come here and help out in the bullpen and hopefully help put some more W’s on the board."
"I know that Colorado is a young team, the same mode Houston was in. So, hopefully we can get some of the young guys on track and expect to change it to winning ways over there," added Qualls.
"Young guys have to start believing in themselves, and expect to win. Once you change that mindset and get everyone to believe that way, that actually helps out more than just going out there and doing it. It’s just getting those young guys comfortable playing and believing in themselves, that they are big leaguers."