The Colorado Rockies are coming off of one of their most successful seasons in their history. They made the playoffs for the fifth time in their 25 year history, and appeared in the division series for the fourth. The Rockies are generally a team associated with a high powered offense, but it was actually the pitching that carried them for the majority of the year. After boasting a team slash line of .273/.338/.444 and 824 runs scored, the Rockies saw many of their offensive numbers take a dive in 2018, with a slash of .256/.322/.435 and only 780 runs scored. While the pitching was largely successful with a 4.33 team ERA, the bullpen left a lot to be desired, and the struggles of Jon Gray were masked only by the dominance of Kyle Freeland and German Marquez. The Rockies currently only have $84 million dedicated to 2019 thus far, but that is before you factor in the roughly 30 or so million that Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story will command in arbitration. Assuming a rough estimate of $45 million for all of the arbitration eligible players, that would put the payroll at approximately $130 million, which would give about $20 million to work with in free agency based off of the $148.5 million spent last year. I’m going to split up the rest of this article based on necessities, longshots, and outright bold takes. If bold takes aren’t your thing, I would advise skipping the last section. Keep in mind, these moves are not correlated to each other, outside of the necessities. Financially, it just is not realistically possible to expect them to make as many moves as I’m going to suggest, but they are possibilities that definitely need to be explored.
Nolan Arenado: 2018: 156 G, 673 PA, .297/.374/.561, 38 HR, 110 RBI, 5 DRS, 5.6 bWAR
This really doesn’t take much explaining. Nolan Arenado is the best player the Rockies have had since Todd Helton, and if he spends his whole career in Denver, he and Helton won’t even be in the same ballpark anymore. He is on his way to a 6th straight Gold Glove even though he had a relatively down year defensively, and just completed his 4th straight season of 35 or more homeruns and 110 or more RBI. 3 of those 4 years, he led the league in homers and topped 130 RBI. Nolan is everything you could want in a franchise player. His contract is up following the 2019 season, and the Rockies need to back up the truck to keep him in Denver for the rest of his career. There is nothing keeping a player of this caliber from making $250 million or more on the free agent market, so they shouldn’t even let him get that far.
Adam Ottavino: 2018: 77.2 IP, 112 K, 2.43 ERA, .991 WHIP
The premier Rockies reliever, Ottavino was as valuable as they come this season. With the severe struggles of the expensive bullpen additions, “Otto” was a constant stopper all season, and it showed in his usage. He was used for multiple innings throughout the year, albeit ineffectively for the most part, but has the ability to shut down any offensive rally that may be brewing (see: 2018 Wild Card game). Losing Ottavino would be a huge blow to an already shaky Rockies bullpen, and they need to lock him up ASAP.
Michael Brantley: 2018: 143 G, 631 PA, .309/.364/.468, 17 HR, 76 RBI, 12 SB, -3 DRS, 3.6 bWAR
Though struggling with injuries for the better part of both 2015 and 2016, Michael Brantley is one of the most valuable left fielders in all of baseball. A player with a remarkable ability to make contact, Brantley only averages 74 strikeouts for every 162 games he has played in his career. Having hit no lower than .284 in any of his full major league seasons, Brantley in Coors Field is a batting title just waiting to happen, and would seamlessly fill the hole in the #2 spot that is being vacated by DJ Lemahieu this season. Not to knock DJ, but Brantley provides a much more dangerous bat with his ability to hit the ball to all fields, and the spacious outfield in Denver should make him a prime target to roam left field for the Rockies for the next 4 years.
Kurt Suzuki: 2018: 105 G, 388 PA, .271/.332/.444, 12 HR, 50 RBI, -7 DRS, 2.1 bWAR
After a largely forgettable tenure in Minnesota, Suzuki has seen a resurgence in all of his offensive numbers in his two years in Atlanta, especially in power. After totaling 16 homeruns in 3 years with the Twins, Suzuki hit 31 in his two years in Atlanta, and is another example of a player with incredible bat to ball skills. Right on par with Brantley with only 72 strikeouts per 162 innings, Suzuki should find success with his ability to put the ball in play, as the spacious area of Coors should find him a few extra hits during the course of a season. While he is not the most sought after name on the catching market, he could certainly come at the biggest bargain given the hype already surrounding Grandal and Ramos.
Gerardo Parra: 2018: 142 G, 443 PA, .284/.342/.372, 6 HR, 53 RBI, 11 SB, 6 DRS
While not on a list of available free agents to begin the offseason, Gerardo Parra’s base contract has expired, and his $12 million club option has been declined. He is obviously not worth $12 million, but still serves as an extremely valuable fourth member of the outfield. His versatility and ability to work counts and hit the ball to all fields makes him valuable as a fourth outfielder, and one that you can count on to make contributions when he’s in the lineup. When he doesn’t start, his bat off the bench, particularly in an NL setting, is a talent that National League clubs dream of. In 52 plate appearances as a pinch hitter in 2018, Parra excelled to a .341/.442/.455 slash line, including one pinch hit homerun. With Carlos Gonzalez on his way out, and preferably not resigning, more opportunities should arise for David Dahl and Raimel Tapia, and Parra should really not be starting over either of them. However, he holds value in his ability to spell any one of the outfielders in the rotation and his ability to hit in a pinch.
These are more that would certainly benefit the club, but might not make sense given the current needs of the club. If the Rockies were to go all in this year and raise the payroll, these are options that need to be looked into. Remember, these are not linked with each other, nor are they linked with the first group.
Daniel Murphy: 2018: 91 G, 351 PA, .299/.336/.454, 12 HR, 42 RBI, -18 DRS
Sitting out the first portion of the year recovering from offseason knee surgery, Murphy did not miss a beat following his return to the lineup. While his triple slash was down from his averages in Washington, it really would be hard for him to not regress below what he had been doing. However, .299 is still well above average for a second baseman, and even if he is a defensive liability, his offense more than makes up for it. It would be a stark contrast to the light hitting, defensive minded second baseman that used to roam around, but a welcome one to the lineup. Murphy could easily command a 3 year deal, and with Brendan Rodgers just waiting to be called up, Murphy’s time at second base should be brief. Once Rodgers comes up, Murphy’s bat should be able to push Ian Desmond out of the lineup and relegate him to a super utility role, making appearances at all 3 outfield positions, first base, and the occasional shortstop. Until Rodgers comes up, Garrett Hampson should be the primary utility man, and should see plenty of time at second while Murphy mans first against most right handed starting pitching.
Patrick Corbin: 2018: 33 GS, 200 IP, 3.15 ERA, 246 K, 2.47 FIP, 1.05 WHIP, 2.2 BB/9, 4.8 bWAR
One of the premier left-handed pitchers in the majors in 2018, Corbin picked a perfect year to have a career year. Going into free agency, Corbin set career bests in strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, H/9, games started, and WAR. Not only would Corbin give the Rockies one of the best 1-2-3 combos in the rotation, it would also take away the second best pitcher from a division rival. If the Rockies wanted to make a big splash, this is certainly a good avenue to go down.
Disclaimer: if the thought of trading away the best player not named Todd Helton in Rockies history frightens you, stop reading. Likewise, if throwing money at a player not named Nolan Arenado frightens you, stop reading. This category is strictly speculation, so the possibilities listed here are only that: possibilities.
Bryce Harper: 2018: 159 G, 695 PA, .249/.393/.496, 34 HR, 100 RBI, 13 SB, 1.3 bWAR
To start, it’s worth noting that Harper’s pedestrian level WAR is due largely to his struggles in the field. He had an offensive bWAR of 4.2, but his -26 DRS contributed to a -3.2 defensive bWAR. Now that that’s out of the way, Nolan Arenado, Bryce Harper, Trevor Story. Just imagine that as the 3-4-5 of the Rockies lineup. If that doesn’t make you believe that pursuing this signing is worth it, then sorry for wasting your time. The Rockies also have an opening out in right field, which makes this not entirely outlandish. But, if the potential of Blackmon, Dahl, Arenado, Harper, and Story gets you craving 2019, welcome to the club. Bryce Harper would certainly take an investment, and with Nolan’s impending free agency, a lot of people might not think it’s worth it. But isn’t it fun to imagine?
Trade Nolan Arenado
Now before you go up in arms against me, this is only if the Rockies know that there is literally no chance of extending Nolan this offseason. If he makes it clear to them that he doesn’t want to come back, then trading him needs to be a serious possibility, even if the team is still primed for a playoff run. Anyways, here’s the trade.
ATL receives: 3B Nolan Arenado, OF Raimel Tapia
COL receives: 3B Austin Riley, RHP Kyle Wright, LHP Luiz Gohara, INF Charlie Culberson
Rockies fans will be familiar with Culberson, but this is not the same Culberson that used to play in Denver. Not that he suddenly morphed into Nolan Arenado, but Culberson has an ability to play any position on the field, and has shown 20 homerun potential. Austin Riley is the #5 prospect in the Braves organization according to MLB.com. He has the power to hit 40 homeruns in Coors, and has shown improved plate discipline during his climb through the minors. While his defense certainly would not be as flashy as Arenado, it would play well enough, and his bat would slot right in the middle of the lineup. Kyle Wright was the #5 overall pick a couple years ago, and was the Braves #2 prospect going into the season. He offers 4 plus pitches including a fastball that sits in the upper-90s and has all the makings of a future ace. Luiz Gohara entered the year as the Braves #7 prospect, and offers similar velocity as Wright, only from the left side. Though struggling with injuries in 2018, his fastball and wipeout slider make him a candidate for a middle of the rotation arm behind Wright, Freeland, and Marquez for the foreseeable future.
Do you have any other ideas for the Rockies offseason? Disagree with me on anything? Disagree with me on everything? Let me know on Twitter @brian_slosh