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When Troy Tulowitzki was just a rookie, the Rockies made a push to the playoffs and made it in by the skin of Matt Holliday’s teeth. They then found themselves in the World Series, facing the Boston Red Sox. It didn’t go well for the Rockies, as they lost in four games. They’ve made the playoffs only once since that World Series trip, and have struggled to develop pitching in an environment built to rip the heart out of young starters.
Not helping matters, the Rockies are one of the most injury-prone teams when it comes to their star players. Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Dexter Fowler all spent time on the DL and only Tulowitzki eclipsed the 500 PA mark, and he only did it by 12. There’s no doubt the Rockies will always be able to pelt the ball as long as their home ball park has the Mile High City air to help the ball travel, but turning that advantage into a consistent model that wins has been a challenge the Rockies front office hasn’t been up to thus far.
The Rockies lost a franchise cornerstone in Todd Helton, but luckily he plays at one of the easiest positions to address offensively that will be that much easier to fill thanks to Coors Field. Aside from Helton, the Rockies lost a bunch of bottom of the roster types that should not be missed. Eric Young, Jr. is the possible exception to the group, but he hasn’t shown the ability to put up a consistent offensive performance. Overall, the Rockies’ roster won’t look all that different next year unless a bevy of changes come over the off season.
I was honestly surprised that Carlos Gonzalez only had four years left on his contract. It’s actually a very good and very tradable contract thanks to Gonzalez performance away from Coors Field last season. Meanwhile, Tulowitzki is just starting on his seven year extension and should be worth the money. He can always move to third eventually where the bat will play just fine. Other than those two, the Rockies have a bunch of one year deals that could be traded in the off season, or simply left as expiring deals. The Rockies should have some money to spend in the future, but attracting the pitching they so desperately need will be next to impossible in free agency without a significant overpay.
I expected this line up to have more holes, but that’s just not the case. There are certainly some soft spots, but those spots at second and third are manned by young players, one of whom just won a gold glove (Arenado, and deservingly so). The Rockies have two middle of the order bats in Tulowitzki and Gonzalez (who finally started to hit on the road like a star player should), but both players are about to exit their primes. Fowler looked like a star before he got hurt, but he has massive home/road splits. Cuddyer turns 35 next season and Rosario can’t take a walk. This offense is good enough to win, but should be reworked to improve it for the long haul.
This Rockies rotation is really bad. It’s full of fifth starters and maybe a fourth starter or two that are being masked by Coors Field. De La Rosa is not an ace and probably not a mid-rotation guy, but will lead this Rockies pitching staff. Chacin is a solid pitcher, but couldn’t manage to strike out six batters per nine innings last season. Chatwood and Nicasio both had WHIPs above 1.40 and Bettis pitched like a guy who wanted to go back to Triple A. The bullpen is in better shape, but not by much. Brothers is a good closer while Belisle and Ottavino are middle relievers working as set up men. The Rockies have no one they can trust on the mound on a regular basis. This is a franchise that badly needed to develop arms and has seemingly done nothing in that regard.
When you look at what happened to these five guys, it’s pretty ugly. Arenado won a gold glove while staying afloat offensively. He needs to improve at the plate or be replaced later, even with the plus plus glove. Dahl didn’t do much in Low A and Story racked up 183 strikeouts in High A, while Bettis reached the majors and struggled. Matzek saw his strikeout rate plummet from 9.7 in 2012 at High A to 6.0 last season in Double A. The only real hope for this team is the third overall pick, Jonathan Gray. Gray can hit triple digits as a starter and may have had the highest ceiling of any player in the 2013 draft. If the Rockies have found the ace of the staff, they are starting to rebuild the right way. They should really send a thank you letter to the Cubs, because Gray is the guy they need. Badly.
The Red Sox need to revamp their outfield, and Gonzalez fits the bill well. He or Victorino could play center while the other played in right, that way they would get the maximum defensive value from both of them. Gonzalez could slip into the three spot of the lineup between Pedroia and Ortiz. His power should be able to play in the friendly offensive confines of Fenway Park. As for the Rockies, they would get a top of the rotation arm and a project arm, with Bradley thrown in as a replacement outfielder for Gonzalez. This might be a little high of a price to pay for Gonzalez, and perhaps Allen Webster replaces Matt Barnes in the deal, but the framework is in place for this to make sense.
1B James Loney (2/$14 million)
What better replacement for Todd Helton could you find than James Loney! They’re like the same guy! Loney’s power will be maximized at Coors, and he’ll play a great first base defensively. They can build on what the Rays did with him and maybe even see him eclipse the 20 home run mark with the help of Coors Field. They could go after a pitcher, but it’s hard to see one accepting a deal to come and play at Coors. The only one who would make sense might be Ubaldo Jimenez, but he wasn’t all that happy with the Rockies last time I checked.
If the Rockies don’t want to go into rebuilding mode, they’ll need to assemble a serviceable pitching staff quickly. That’s fine when you are playing 81 games at Petco or ATT Park, but not when your home field is Coors Field. If Gray can speed through the minors and they overpay a ground ball pitcher to be their mid-rotation starter, they have a chance to contend again with Tulowitzki and Gonzalez.
But if that doesn’t happen, they will have to trade both of their star players and start from scratch. This team needs to do what the Cubs have been doing the last couple years and just draft arm after arm after arm in the draft. They’ll have a lot of good picks in the coming seasons if nothing changes and two guys who should bring sizable returns, so the Rockies turnaround could go quickly.
Changes are coming to the Rockies front office.
The current front office is about to get cleaned out. They haven’t done anything to help build a pitching staff or team to surround their superstar players, and now it’s time to pay for it. The talk of the off season is going to surround Tulowitzki going to the Cardinals, and when you trade away a guy who should be the best player in your franchise’s history if he sticks around, it’s time for a change. They tried to win with Jim Tracy and failed. They tried a four man rotation with a 75 pitch limit and were ridiculed. It’s time to clean house.
Sum it Up with a GIF (from MLB GIFs)
This shouldn’t ever happen…
The Rockies were almost my number 28 team, but they have two superstar players they can deal and a top of the rotation arm in Jonathan Gray, so they could get plenty of impact players to fill their roster again. Sure, they don’t always work out, but the Rockies have had good fortune before, and Coors Field always helps. What they need to do now is improve their amateur scouting so they can develop their own pitching and get those arms to the majors, because what they have now is bad, and it’s made even worse by their home ballpark.
The Rockies could make a quick turnaround, but I don’t know if their current leadership will get the job done right.