Tag Archives: Rockies Rumors

5 Keys to a Successful Colorado Rockies Offseason

What would it take for the Colorado Rockies to succeed this off-season? Come join me as I give you five keys to making it happen.

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When the Colorado Rockies ended the 2021 season, everyone expected the loss of Trevor Story. Kris Bryant trying to fill the power vacuum that was created though, I don’t believe many seen coming. So, while there is bound to be a surprise or two in store, I’m here to show how slow and steady can win the race.

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Fire Bill Schmidt and hire James Click.

I went in-depth with this potential franchise-changing move here. But to sum it up, the Colorado Rockies need an outside voice bringing a fresh perspective to the franchise. The latest World Series winning GM surprisingly became available due to a miser in Houston who wouldn’t offer him more than a year of job security. James Click would carry the clout necessary to ensure Dick would be willing to acquiesce the necessary power to re-align this club to what Coors Field and this loyal fan base deserve.

James Click’s specialty is finding pitching, especially in the low-cost international player pool. He is also familiar with working in a small market when he was in Tampa Bay’s front office before being hired by Houston in 2019. He was given credit for finding current Rockies ace German Marquez during his time there. In Houston they traded Jake Odorizzi at the deadline, Justin Verlander can leave during free agency, and they will still have six starters under contract until at least 2025. All six of those starters helped the 2022 Houston Astros clinch that World Series we mentioned earlier.

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Revamp the analytics department.

The first key will lead directly into the second. One of the biggest sticking points for Click leaving Houston wasn’t just about the money spent on him, but his analytics department. Coming from Tampa which has one of if not the most robust analytic departments in baseball it’s easy to see why he values analytics so much. The Monforts are tied for the 4th-lowest net worth at $700MM. That is obviously still very rich by any standard, but when you are competing against the Steve Cohens ($16 Billion) and Steinbrenners ($3.8 Billion) you need to be running your front office like your peer Stuart Sternberg (owner of the Rays).

Sternberg is just above the Monforts at $800MM and is a perfect case study of how you can be cost-conscious while putting a consistent contender on the field.  Four of the most consistently winning teams over the last decade (Rays, Braves, Astros, Dodgers) and the last three World Series Champs (Braves, Dodgers, Astros) can all trace their front office lineage back to Tampa Bay. And what is the consensus of baseball on why they have been so good? Their analytics department.

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Address the bullpen with familiar faces.

What is the most nauseating take for those clad in purple and black in LoDo? You can’t pitch at a mile high. The below four names know more than any that’s simply not true. While it is an inherent disadvantage to pitch half your games at Coors Field, it is not impossible.

Adam Ottavino is arguably one of the best relief pitchers in Colorado Rockies’ history. From 2012-2018 Otto was 17-18 with a 3.41 ERA, 17 SVs, 452 Ks in 390.2 innings, and a ERA+ of 136. When you remove his first full season of 2012 where he was adjusting from life as a former first-round pick as a starting pitcher into a late-inning reliever, that stat line drops the ERA to 3.12 and bumps the ERA+ to 149 with all 17 of those saves and 12 of the wins. He was also touted as a true leader in the bullpen. Something the Colorado Rockies are still sorely missing just beyond the right-field Bridich Barrier. And after coming off a season that saw him have the 2nd lowest ERA of his career (2.06) and 2.3 WAR (2nd best of career) over 66 appearances, it’s not just a nostalgia move. Otto is still lights out.

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After a rocky start to his career (no pun intended), Carlos Estevez is coming off his best season in purple pinstripes. He had a career-best 3.47 ERA and his 2nd-best total in ERA+ (135). His 1.1 WAR in 2022 more than doubled his career total to 2.1. Relief pitching is relatively inconsistent and infuriatingly futile to try and predict. But I have always been a proponent of if you find a guy that can find it at Coors, you keep him. Carlos can also be most likely retained at a low number to save money for other moves down the list.

What was said about Estevez applies to Jesus Tinoco. The only difference is it took a change of scenery to find his rhythm. Coming off a season in Texas that he posted a 2.18 ERA (albeit it in only 17 games) and .6 of his career .7 WAR. It’s not just me either, Brian Kenney stated on MLB Now on the MLB Network on November 14, 2022, that Tinoco is poised to turn the corner into a dominant force in the middle to the back-end of a bullpen.

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Miguel Castro is a direct replacement for a recent move made in LoDo to let Tyler Blach free to explore his options. Miguel doesn’t have the pedigree or ceiling of the above pitchers, but he has been a reliable “innings-eater” pitching at least 66 innings in 4 of the last 7 years. As mentioned above, pitching at Coors Field is treacherous for even the best in the game. So having someone that can consistently come in and take it on the chin is invaluable. Think back to Chris Rusin, Gabe White, Darren Holmes, et al.

There has been one consistently successful type of pitcher at altitude. Big fastball with movement and some combo of a high spin-rate slider/sinker/curve. The proof is in the puddin’, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jhoulys Chacin, Pedro Astacio, and German Marquez. Every one of the men mentioned matches this criterion. There are outliers that find success with a below-average fastball, but they are few and far between (i.e., Aaron Cook, Kyle Freeland). And most importantly, they should all be affordable with none making more than $4MM in 2022.

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Bring Brandon Nimmo back to the Rockies.

Brandon is a top-tier athlete that grew up at an even higher altitude than Denver in Cheyenne, WY that has the Rockies home beat by almost 800 ft at 6,036’ above sea level. So, he knows the rigors of roaming center field at altitude. A former first-rounder (13th overall) of the New York Mets has spent his entire career in the pressures of the Big Apple. There are some grumblings mentioned by Brian Kenney on the same MLB Now episode mentioned before that he would listen to his childhood team should they make a pitch.

With Charlie Blackmon to at least start the season and Zac Veen seemingly poised for a big-league breakthrough sooner rather than later in right field. Plus Kris Bryant is entrenched in left field for at least the next couple of seasons with the paychecks he is owed. That leaves center as the biggest hole left in the outfield.

The Colorado Rockies have a long history of stellar outfielders, and the semi-local kid could put another notch on that belt. He is coming off his best season per WAR at 5.1. He is a top-of-the-order bat with pop as evidenced by his 53 combined extra-base hits and 130 OPS+. He is also a stellar defender with speed at 6’3” and 210 lbs. He’s built sturdy and seemingly born to thrive at 5,280’. He won’t be cheap, but somewhere in the 5-7 year and 130-170 million range should get him to the ballpark barring a bidding war.

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Bring in Seth Lugo as a starter.

Seth has spent the entirety of his career bouncing between the bullpen and rotation as a valuable piece of the New York Mets staff. Yes, there are a lot of New York Mets ties here, but why not? They only went and won 101 games in 2022. Why not pick off what you can from that golden goose while the gettins’ good?

Seth has a lively 4-seam fastball in the 94-96 range, a tight sinker at 92-94, and a high spin-rate curveball in the low that is unhittable when he has the feel for it. He also has a good slider he can throw for strikes. The spin rate on his curveball has never dipped below the 99th percentile in his entire career.

While it is a bit of a projection to make him a full-time starter and take him from Citi to Coors Field. But that is where the Colorado Rockies must shop for starting pitching. Lugo could help start to change that narrative and do it at a team-friendly rate for a few seasons to prove himself as an every-5th-day starter. The Rockies offer a low-pressure situation to establish a place as a starter.

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This is obviously contingent on a lot of variables, such as a front office shake-up in a franchise that hasn’t hired an outside voice of any note since 1999 when they brought in Dan O’Dowd. Then that same franchise not only staying at a record payroll number almost $30 million more than they ever have spent. They would have to go even higher to make all the moves listed.  

Currently, the Rockies are projected as 3rd in the league in payroll for 2023 at over $154MM. If they were able to make all these moves that number would be closer to $180-190MM. There is talk about the Rockies adding even more than they did last year, but even so, this is a tall task. Yet it is completely doable with the right motivations in the right places.

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Colorado Rockies Need to Click

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One of the more surprising divorces of the MLB offseason between the Houston Astros and former GM James Click could change for the Colorado Rockies.

Ken Rosenthal started this storyline spinning just before the 2022 MLB World Series started with this article. Then just a matter of days after the World Series ended with a Houston Astros victory over the Philadephia Phillies, it came to fruition. Even with the advanced warning, it still took the baseball world by storm.

Yes, the Colorado Rockies hired a new GM just over a year ago when they promoted Bill Schmidt from within. But the key word is “promote” and from a pool of internal options that have presided over some of the worst play and decision making in team history. Schmidt is a Jeff Bridich disciple who resigned during the 2021 season after the Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story fiascos. That saw both fan favorites and top talents end up in St. Louis and Boston respectively due to poor roster management and bad contract loopholes. Both players pointed the finger directly at the GM’s office as reasons why they wanted out.

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Though Bill Schmidt can claim to be on the staff that selected promising prospects Zac Veen, Ezequiel Tovar, Adael Amador, and Drew Romo (all on MLB.com top-100 prospects list). He wasn’t the key decision maker though, and no GM can hang their hat on one or two home runs. Especially when none of those tackle the main need in Denver, pitching. When you run a small market, you must maximize every pick and every signing to stay competitive. There may not be another front office executive available who understands this more than Click. Who started his career in the front-office model of small markets, Tampa Bay.

Click was a hasty hire after the Astros cheating scandal was revealed and previous World Series architect Jeffrey Luhnow was forced to resign in disgrace. Something has to be said for a man coming into that hurricane of hate and coming out the other side virtually unscathed. If he can fix the mess that was the Astros in February 2020. Then go to two World Series in three years, winning one. He should be able to figure out baseball at a mile high with his knowledge gained at the pitching factory that is the Tampa Bay Rays. He was on the staff that acquired current Rockies ace German Marquez from the Latin-American player pool.

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Click has been given much of the credit for finding those Latin-American players not only in Tampa, but in Houston as well. In just three short years he was able to revamp that tainted Astros roster. Only three players are left from the last Astros World Series championship team. And yet the Astros never truly fell out of contention. As mentioned, they went to two World Series, but also made the postseason in the other season. So that’s three playoff births, two World Series births, and one championship in his short stint in Texas. He was so good in the pitching department he had to unload Jake Odirizzi at the deadline for relief pitcher Will Smith. Even so, Houston still has six starters under contract through at least 2025. Even if veteran Justin Verlander also walks in free agency this offseason.

What has historically been the biggest issue with the Colorado Rockies? That’s right, pitching, and it has gotten worse under Schmidt in LoDo. The Rockies team ERA jumped from 4.82 to 5.06 from 2021 to 2022. And not a single Rockies starting-pitcher reached double-digit wins in 2022. Closer Daniel Bard was tied for second on the team with six victories. Bard was the sole bright spot in an otherwise forgettable year of pitching for the Colorado Rockies. Bard finished the season with a 1.79 ERA and 34 saves to go with those six wins. That won’t cut it at sea level, let alone the thin air of the Mile High City. Only fellow reliever Carlos Estevez ended the season with an ERA under 4.20.

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If owner Dick Monfort wants to re-instill the faith of the fan base he needs to stop worrying about whether or not his GM is his buddy and shake up the front office from the outside for the first time since Dan O’Dowd was hired after stints in Baltimore and Cleveland in 1999. What’s that definition of crazy again? The Colorado Rockies have been pounding the same nail for over two decade only to end up in the same place they were when this odyssey began. An also-ran that plays just well enough offensively to entice you, but pitches so poorly there’s not enough homers to compensate for their ineptitude.

James Click could be the one piece that completes this baseball puzzle over a quarter-century in the making. He knows how to work with a small scouting and analytics departments. Colorado is one of only 3 teams with smaller departments in those areas than the Astros and Rays. He knows how to find the diamond in the rough and maximize much lower draft picks than he would have in Denver, at least to start. And although he would have a much smaller payroll than Houston who was 9th at just over $194 million in 2022. But would be much larger than any he had in Tampa. Last year the Colorado Rockies were 17th at a little more than $158 million, as opposed to Tampa at 23rd paying out roughly $107 million to it’s players. All pay-roll numbers are per Spotrac.

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I’ve used this analogy before but it fits here as well, Click is a gourmet chef that can make a tasty meal with whatever is in the pantry. Schmidt is the bachelor heating up a Hungry Man TV dinner left by his former roommate. This is a business, and the Monforts need to start treating it as such.

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