Winter Report Card: Colorado Rockies
With six weeks left before pitchers and catchers report, we're checking in on how each team has fared in conducting its offseason business while acknowledging that there's still time for its prognosis to change. Teams will be presented in reverse order of finish from 2014.
2014 Results: 66-96 (.407), fourth place in NL West (Hot Stove Preview)
This is small-time stuff. The most significant trade the Rockies have made this offseason saw them send backup infielder Josh Rutledge to the Angels for reliever Jairo Diaz, the latter of whom jumped from Double A to the majors in September and was ranked as the seventh-best prospect in Los Angeles' extremely thin system by Baseball America in early December. Diaz, who will turn 24 in May, throws in the upper 90s and appeared to take a big step forward in 2014, but he's not guaranteed a spot in the big league bullpen. Descalso, signed to a two-year, $3.6 million contract after being non-tendered by the Cardinals, replaces Rutledge, who has four team-controlled years remaining and won't be arbitration eligible until next winter, on Colorado's depth chart. The team's most significant free-agent addition is Nick Hundley, a part-time catcher signed to a two-year, $6.25 million deal.
The rest of the "key" names above belong to players who represent fat being trimmed from the roster. Matt Belisle and Nick Masset, who turn 33 and 35, respectively, in May, are undistinguished righty relievers. Lefty Franklin Morales was lousy both in the rotation and in relief last year. Of the three, only Belisle has found employment thus far, signing a one-year, $3.5 million contract with St. Louis. Juan Nicasio, now 28 and apparently a lost case, was designated for assignment then sold to the Dodgers. There, he will re-team with Brett Anderson, who, though talented, has an injury history that makes Troy Tulowitzki look like Cal Ripken Jr.
Declining Anderson's $12 million option was an easy call. Less obvious was the decision to extend a qualifying offer to Michael Cuddyer, who will turn 36 before Opening Day and has averaged just 93 games per season over the last three years. The move, however, proved to be a masterstroke when Cuddyer declined the offer then quickly signed a two-year deal with the Mets, netting the Rockies an extra first-round pick this June.
Unfinished Business: Rotation, blockbuster trades
Of the five teams to make proactive front-office changes coming into this offseason (the Rays also changed general managers, but only as a reaction to Andrew Friedman jumping to the Dodgers), Colorado is the only one that hasn't made a significant splash. The Braves, Diamondbacks, Dodgers and Padres have all been busy, but the Rockies, under new general manager Jeff Bridich, have been silent. When Bridich was hired, I described them as a team in desperate need of a new direction. Thus far, they have made no course correction.
Perhaps expecting a blockbuster trade that would free them from the contracts of Tulowitzki and/or Carlos Gonzalez was a bit much, but at the very least, Colorado could have added a starter to a rotation that contains only question marks after veteran lefty Jorge De La Rosa and 24-year-olds Tyler Matzek and Jordan Lyles. There's still time for Bridich to make a move to upgrade his rotation, but his inaction to this point and the lack of rumors surrounding the team give little indication that he will.
Preliminary Grade: D
This is a do-no-harm grade. Bridich has done very little, but what little he has done has mostly been positive. The Hundley signing showed an awareness of Wilin Rosario's defensive shortcomings. The Cuddyer offer was a surprising boon, and Colorado's other minor moves, most of which have involved removing players from the roster rather than adding them, have been neutral at worst. Still, for a team that hasn't topped 74 wins since 2010, the point isn't to avoid getting worse, it's to get better. The Rockies haven't done that to any significant degree at any level.