Colorado Rockies Offseason To-Do List

Aug 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jon Gray (55) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies are trending in the right direction, and with an influx of young talent to their roster throughout the 2016 season, it appears as though they could sneak up on some teams in 2017. They’ll have to make some tweaks for that to happen though.

Earlier today we took a look at the Colorado Rockies 2016 season in the form of stats, rankings and news that related to the team. The biggest news was that Walt Weiss will no longer be at the helm of the Rockies, so first things first, they’ll need to address that area of need.

Find a Manager

Glenallen Hill and Bud Black are two names that have been mentioned in relation to the job, with Hill managing the Rockies Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque this past season, and Bud Black the former manager of the San Diego Padres before being let go midway through the 2015 season.

Another option that has not been connected to the Rockies in any way, but could be a solid choice, is newly unemployed Chip Hale, who spent the last two seasons at the helm of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Hale took over a D-Backs team that had won 64 games in 2014, and propelled them to a 79 win club in 2015. Then some rather odd moves were made in an attempt to compete last offseason, and A.J. Pollock injured himself during spring training, which all led to Arizona posting a 69-93 record in 2016, and ultimately Hale became one of the fall guys.

Hale is widely respected around baseball, and the Colorado Rockies have gotten a good look at him over the past two seasons as division rivals. If they feel that he is a worthy candidate that can get the most out of their club, he could be the man for the most coveted managerial job of the winter.

Jul 22, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Tony Cingrani throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning at Great American Ball Park. The Reds won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Bullpen

Let’s face it. The Colorado Rockies bullpen was not terribly good, finishing the season with a 5.13 ERA which was the worst in baseball. By any metric you use, the Rox had a bullpen that finished in the bottom third of baseball.

This winter there will be plenty of bullpen upgrades on the market, but seeing one of the top arms come to Colorado is a bit farfetched. While Aroldis Chapman‘s fastball velocity fits in with Jeff Bridich’s strategy of adding relievers that rely on the heater, Chapman is likely to be the most coveted free agent on the market this winter.

Instead, Boone Logan could be looking at a return to the Rockies after a productive season, but that wouldn’t necessarily constitute an upgrade in the ‘pen.

Other relievers that rely on their fastball are coveted pieces of contending team’s bullpens, or look to be big pieces of rebuilding team’s futures. Finding someone with these parameters certainly won’t be easy for Bridich and company.

Liam Hendriks of the Oakland A’s is one option that could be considered, and he wouldn’t be a free agent until after the 2019 season. Hendriks threw his mid-90s heater 75.8 percent of the time in 2016, and finished the year with a 2.85 FIP. He wouldn’t be a sexy option, but the cost of acquisition wouldn’t be terribly high either.

Left-hander Tony Cingrani of the Reds has had back-to-back down years, posting ERAs of 5.67 and 4.14, largely due to his lack of control the past few seasons. His walk rate hasn’t been lower than 4.97 over the last three seasons, but that is something that a change of scenery and a new coach talking to you can theoretically change. It could also be that the Reds have been rebuilding for a number of years (like the Rockies), and Cingrani has at times become the focal point of the bullpen, collecting 17 saves in 2016. In Colorado he wouldn’t be that guy, and that could make a big difference. Cingrani’s average fastball hits 94.2 miles per hour and he throws it 87.3 percent of the time. Whether or not the Reds are looking to move him with another three seasons of control would be the big question here.

Daniel Hudson is set to become a free agent this winter, and while he doesn’t rely on his fastball, throwing it just 62.8 percent of the time, his velocity ranked 23rd among relievers last season. His 5.22 ERA doesn’t look good, but his 3.81 FIP in a hitter’s park like Chase Field is admirable, and his 0.6 fWAR is a solid turnout for a reliever. One concern is that his velocity was down a touch from 2015, and Hudson has had two Tommy John surgeries in the past.

The list isn’t filled with impressive names necessarily, but the big question is whether or not they can get the job done. In the next slide, we’ll take a look at another way the Rockies can help their bullpen from within.

Aug 10, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Adam Ottavino (0) throws in the eighth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Rangers won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Fireman

With a forward-thinking GM, the Colorado Rockies could be looking for a forward-thinking solution to their bullpen woes. That solution could be using their bullpen in a more effective way.

As the Cleveland Indians have made apparent since they acquired Andrew Miller, sometimes the game is one the line earlier than the ninth, and that’s when you should use your best reliever. That has translated to a lot of wins for the Tribe, who already had a solid team, but their usage of Miller and others is a luxury that not many teams enjoy.

While Adam Ottavino is not on Miller’s level, he is arguably one of the two best relievers in the Rockie bullpen along with Chris Rusin. Paired with Boone Logan, these three had the highest WAR among Colorado relievers last year.

This is going to get whacky, but stick with me for a minute.

If the Rockies re-signed Logan, they could use these three relievers in much larger roles next year. Logan, who pitched better at home (2.35 ERA) than on the road (5.01) this year, could be used more prominently (read: fireman) when the Rockies are at Coors, while Ottavino or Rusin would both be solid options on the road, though Ottavino was slightly better. He could stick around as the team’s closer, while Logan and Rusin rotate the fireman role depending on where the games are played.

For this plan to succeed, a few things would need to happen. First, all three would have to stay healthy and maintain their level of success from 2016. Second, they’d have to all be willing to try this out (if it doesn’t work they could always go back to their usual roles). Of course, the trump card is the last necessity, which is that they’d need a manager that would be willing to try this out. There would be scrutiny, for sure, but anything the Rockies seem to try gets scrutinized.

This wouldn’t even have to be the plan for the entire season, as the Colorado Rockies starting staff is part of what has people in the area excited. But how often do we hear about innings limits for young starting pitchers? This could be a way to limit the number of innings they throw for the first month or so of the year, so that they’ll be just as strong when they’re looking to make a potential playoff push.

Sep 4, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies first baseman Gerardo Parra (8) in the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Gerardo Parra

Parra provided next to no value for the club in 2016. Defensively he allowed an extra eleven runs to score while splitting time between the outfield and first base, and offensively his wRC+ was the seventh-worst in all of baseball among players with at least 300 plate appearances at 56. He’s not a boom or bust slugger, either. He held a .671 OPS, which is one of the worst marks of his career–while playing in Colorado.

Parra accumulated all of nine walks in 381 plate appearances, good for a 2.4 percent walk rate, while his strikeout rate was also his highest since 2010 at 19.2.

The way I see it, the Colorado Rockies should give him a chance at the beginning of the season to turn things around. Everyone is due a bad year right? He’s also due another $18M over the next two seasons and gets a $1.5M buyout if the club doesn’t pick up his option for 2019, so there’s that too.

Let him play, hopefully build some value, and then ship him off to anyone willing to trade for him.

The other scenario that could actually be good for the club would be to just cut him now, or sometime before the season starts. It would clear up a roster spot for a player on the cusp for the Rule 5 Draft in December, but also send a message that the team is ready to give their young guns a shot, even if it means that ownership has to eat nearly $20M to clear the space. Hey, if the Oakland Athletics can cut Billy Butler and still pay him $10M, the Rockies can likely afford to take a similar approach.

Aug 23, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Colorado Rockies left fielder David Dahl (26) singles during the third inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

2017 and Beyond

The future of the club will largely depend on the development of their top prospects in the coming year, with David Dahl and Jon Gray being at the forefront, while Tyler Anderson, German Marquez, Jeff Hoffman and Carlos Estevez will be key contributors. Gray and Anderson should be locks for the 2017 rotation, while Chad Bettis and Tyler Chatwood should receive two more. That leaves Marquez, Hoffman and Estevez likely looking at one more of those spots with another moving to the bullpen as the long reliever.

The lineup will once again be centered around Nolan Arenado, but the supporting cast of Carlos Gonzalez, D.J. Lamahieu, Dahl, Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story offers plenty of thump in their own right.

With some additions to, or adjustments from their bullpen, the Rockies look like a team that could certainly challenge for a wild card spot in 2017. Pitching will be the big question for this club all season, as it always is when you play half of your games at Coors, but the young guns look to be up to the task.

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