2014 Rockies After Winter Transactions

The Rockies overhauled their roster over the winter after identifying that lack of depth was the main reason that the men in purple struggled to a second consecutive last place finish. Once there was an injury or an ineffective performance, more often than not the replacement parts were missing or not major league ready. At the same time, the management realized that they cannot run the organization like the major market teams throwing big bucks and long term contracts at free agents. The Dodgers, Yankees, Giants, etc can afford expensive mistakes and move on. The only way to get ground ball pitchers from the outside to pitch at altitude was through trades or draft. To the management’s credit they did all they could within the blueprint of running the ball club at altitude.

LaTroy Hawkins is a free agent signee who knows how to pitch at altitude. Although he is a bit old, the reports seem to say that his velocity is higher than it was a few years ago. It was the first piece in overhauling the bullpen. What if Rex Brothers is not ready to be a full time closer? Signing Hawkins gives them the flexibility to use either Hawkins or Brothers to close out the games. It also allowed them the luxury of being able to move Matt Belisle down and work the sixth or seventh inning in an attempt to reduce his workload. Belisle is more effective when he’s not overworked.

The subtraction of Dexter Fowler had a lot of positive effects on the team in the big picture. Most people called it a salary dump, but it was not purely dump as it allowed the club more flexibility of working the trade and free agent markets during the long winter. They did receive OF Brandon Barnes and P Jordan Lyles, but these two were just small pieces of the long term planning.

Colorado used the Fowler savings to sign Justin Morneau, replacing Todd Helton at first base. At first glance it didn’t look like much, but after reading the Purple Row articles it appears that the advanced metrics are guiding the Rockies during the off season. Morneau has maintained a 21% LD (line drive) ratio before and after his injuries while spraying the balls all over the field. In addition he has a very low strikeout ratio and he can hit on the road. I won’t get my hopes too high that he can hit on the road; I don’t doubt he can hit on the road but I need to see that he can come from altitude and hit at sea level immediately after leaving Coors Field. Morneau does have those two things (low strikeout ratio and ability to hit on the road) that Fowler did not have. Gone are the days of men on first and third with less than two outs and the strikeouts stranding the runners.

Next came the big splash (by Rockies’ standards) of the off-season when Brett Anderson came over in exchange for Drew Pomeranz and Chris Jensen. By all reports, Anderson will have no problem pitching at Coors. It was a good trade since they obtained a pitcher that is capable of pitching at altitude. Assuming he can stay healthy, he removes half of a black hole in the rotation and allows younger pitchers in the minors to continue to develop. At least the Rockies removed Pomeranz from the equation as he was not the answer to the depth question marks.

The Rockies signed southpaw Boone Logan to provide more depth at the back end of the bullpen and take even more load off Belisle. That essentially made Josh Outman expendable. He was out of options, so they did the smart thing by trading him away for something of value in return (instead of waiving him). While Logan was a LOOGY specialist the last couple of seasons, he and the Rockies think he has a change up that he can dust off to get RH batters out effectively. If that is the case, he would be a major upgrade over Outman.

The Rockies also drafted Thomas Kahnle in the Rule 5 draft from the Yankees’ system. He has good velocity, but he is prone to walking guys. I’ve read several articles about who would be in the Rockies bullpen for 2014 and nearly all, if not all, did not include Kahnle in the roster projection. Even some articles went so far as to say (to my surprise especially if a Purple Row writer wrote this) he will be sent to the minors for development. He cannot be sent down. He either has to be on the 25-man squad or be offered back to the Yanks for $25,000. It was a very low risk move and it will have no effect on the team, but if he turns out to be something he would be the steal of the winter.

Drew Stubbs arrived in the Outman trade. That was a good trade as it brought a right handed bat and he is a decent defensive replacement for Fowler. Again, this pick up gives Walt Weiss outfield flexibility. He can go to Drew Stubbs instead of a Tyler Colvin. Stubbs doesn’t have a great OBP but he can sure steal bases unlike Fowler who could never figure out the basics of base stealing.

In the latest move, they moved Jon Herrera in exchange for Franklin Morales and Chris Martin. The Rockies are going to give Morales a shot at being a #5 starter during spring training. If that doesn’t work out, then we can use him out of the bullpen. Morales has always had the arm, but can he harness it better? Morales profiles as a long relief pitcher for one time through the lineup. Martin simply adds to the depth of our rotation along with Lyles. The advanced metrics say that Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa, and Tyler Chatwood are expected to regress. The Rockies know that they only need five starters that will give the team a chance to win every night. See the 2007 and 2009 Rockies; they had no top shelf starter.

By trading away an extra utility man in Herrera, D.J. LeMahieu and Josh Rutledge will get most of the playing time either at second base or as a utility man. My reference to Purple Row’s article by RhodeIslandRoxFan basically says that Rutledge has a good chance to have a break through year playing second base. The Purple Row article can be found on Monday’s (12/23/2013) Rockpile. The seven bullet points from this article: 1) Rutledge has hit at every minor league level. 2) Josh is a spray hitter. 3) His luck is bound to improve based on advanced metrics. 4) He fought back late in the year. 5) Going into 2013, he was bound to run into a road block at some point. 6) Rutledge showed he’s willing to adjust. 7) He’s already an excellent base runner. If Rutledge comes to fruition, that will allow D.J. LeMahieu to be a valuable asset off the bench with an excellent glove for all infield positions except first baseman.

With Corey Dickerson, Charley Blackmon, and Stubbs being used as outfield depth, that will give Weiss the flexibility to either keep Wilin Rosario’s bat in the line up at first base (I can hear the groans) or move Cuddyer to first to give a right handed bat presence at the first base position. That leads me to believe that Jordan Pacheco will be asked to do just one thing: be a back up catcher. Pacheco showed last year he is not a good pinch hitter off the bench, he will be better served as purely an occasional starter (30-40 games).

Possibly flying under the radar during the winter, the Rockies minor league system may have become relevant again especially in the starting pitching department. If we go by the top 30 “Purps” as voted on by the Purple Row experts, we have some decent pitchers and hitters coming up the pipeline. Jon Gray is clearly the #1 PURP prospect by far and away. He was a two pitch guy in college, fastball and slider. The Rockies asked him to develop the change up so he doesn’t end up as merely a bullpen guy. Right behind Gray at #2 is Eddie Butler another starting pitcher. David Dahl, Rosell Herrera, and Kyle Parker are the next three PURP prospects who are a couple of years away if not sooner. Chad Bettis came in at #8 which explained that he was rushed to the majors and not major league ready yet. My personal favorite, Jayson Acquino came in at #15. He originally came from the Dominican Republic Summer League. Not a prospect anymore, Christian Friedrich could be an immediate help (if healthy) in the rotation after sitting out the 2013 season due to injuries if Juan Nicasio cannot hold down the #5 spot or long relief role.

In summary, the Rockies did some serious roster revamping. At the onset of the winter, I was not exactly looking forward to 2014 even with a couple of minor moves (usually scrap heap signings that do not positively contribute to the team). After a couple of early transactions, it looked like they were repeating the last few off-seasons with no real improvements. After a series of moves, I began to connect the dots for each and every transaction. They are intertwined with each other in subtle ways. The 2014 major league club may or may not improve on 2013, but at least I know they will be much more prepared to plug in the leaks with major league ready players. The Rockies have also improved their drafting, with Jon Gray, Eddie Butler, and David Dahl climbing the ladder, but none of them needs to be rushed to the majors which is a nice change from the past two seasons. Even without further transactions, Colorado should be competitive in all 162 games of 2014. Colorado is clearly Walt Weiss’ team (he has flexibility) unlike the inherited team that was taking on water that he was given in 2013. Whether or not you like the management, we have to tip our hats to them for making material improvements within the constraints of a mid-market team.

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Mike
Mike
6 years ago

? regarding Russel Wilson. I thought the Rule 5 fee was $50K w/$25K (+ other details) returned if previous team wants him back. From the little I read it seems the fee was lower for Wilson. True & why?

t
t
6 years ago
Reply to  Mike

He wasn’t taken in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft. There are 2 minor league rounds after the first round that cost less. He was taken in the second round, i.e. the Triple A round.

ProgMatinee
ProgMatinee
6 years ago

Nice article. I like the optimism during this time of year. Really hoping for a fun summer.

GARY
GARY
6 years ago
Reply to  ProgMatinee

You an optimist,Prog? Yes Virginia there are Christmas miracles!!!!! LOL.

ProgMatinee
ProgMatinee
6 years ago
Reply to  GARY

Hey its the holidays.

TJinPhoenix
TJinPhoenix
6 years ago

“Gone are the days of men on first and third with less than two outs and the strikeouts stranding the runners.”–oh PLEASE let this be the case! Nothing drives me more crazy that not hitting with RISP. Great read RMH. Belated (sort of?) holiday wishes to my fellow RWO’ers…made friends with a couple of you and can’t wait to re-connect with you as we get closer to the season! How many days until pitchers and catchers report?? 🙂 Good thing… Read more »

EdtheUmp
EdtheUmp
6 years ago
Reply to  TJinPhoenix

See you soon TJiP!! 63 days by my reckoning…I’ll be in touch.

Seeing RMH this March, as well.

Any other RWOers in the Valley of the Sun during March?….let’s touch base and pre-evaluate the upcoming season…I’ll be at all the home games at SRF…Section 109, Row 4, seats 11&12…come on down…let’s have a beer!

TJinPhoenix
TJinPhoenix
6 years ago
Reply to  EdtheUmp

Definitely Ed! Also, for any of you who are here early, my wife and I always go to the first full team workouts at SRF…lots of fun for baseball geeks like us, can get in close to watch workouts, etc. Not sure what day it is (late Feb), but we will find a way to go even if I have to *cough cough* be sick that day. 🙂 Be fun to meet up in person.

Stay warm everyone…

Agbayani
Agbayani
6 years ago

“Gone are the days of men at first and third with less than two outs and the strikeouts straining the runners.” RMH, I fear you’re right … With Blackmon/Stubbs and LeMahieu batting 1-2 we won’t have to worry about having runners on first and third to begin with.

Trip
Trip
6 years ago
Reply to  Agbayani

LOL – good one. And I fear you are correct.

Doc
Doc
6 years ago

It’s going to be difficult for me to get inspired this year after the past two disaster seasons, but projecting the roster will help get the juices flowing again in March. I say DJ will start at second and Josh will be super utility guy. Maybe time for poll, Jared. Who’s on second and who plays left field. I’m betting Carlos takes over CF and both left and right are by committee. After all, we don’t want these guys to… Read more »

Agbayani
Agbayani
6 years ago

RMH, it’s a New Year so I’ll give you a pass on the boundless optimism. I do agree that Rutledge is key. He needs to have a good spring and grab that 2B (and likely 2-hole batting position). We just desperately need some more offense from somewhere. Before the Rockies made all these moves I had sketched out a best-case but not unreasonably unrealistic way to get from 74 to 87 wins. (An 87 win pace would put them in… Read more »

sdcarp
sdcarp
6 years ago

Nicely done RMH. Somewhere, in another thread, about halfway through the Rox transactions (to that point in time), I gave the club a C and said it could become as high as a “B” if they did a few things. Not long after writing that……they snagged Brett Anderson, Boone Logan, Franklin Morales, and Drew Stubbs. I really like the club at the moment. I worry that there’s not an obvious leadoff hitter. But otherwise, I think we’ve done all that… Read more »

DRH
DRH
6 years ago
Reply to  sdcarp

“realistically expected’ is the operative word. All that remains are four #3 starters (unless DLR has a breakout year). They don’t have a #1 quality starter. Chacin, DLR can be expected to win 14 games. Chatwood, hard to tell – lets see if he can stay healthy. If so, he also could win 14. Anderson? If he’s healthy, which he hasn’t been, he could surpass that. If he becomes an ace, I’ll say the front office are ‘geniuses’ as did… Read more »

Agbayani
Agbayani
6 years ago

Good perspective on the life of a guy on the fringe, former (for a short time) Rockie Collin McHugh: http://espn.go.com/blog/new-york/mets/post/_/id/80295/collin-mchugh-expectation-management (It’s the espn NY site if the link doesn’t work) Tough life, so close to fulfilling your dreams and not quite getting there … yet. He got picked up by Houston so I’d say he has a good chance of sticking in the big leagues for at least a while. I wish him well. I always wonder why GMs don’t… Read more »

Cisco Kid
Cisco Kid
6 years ago

News just in- Cargo underwent appendectomy on Friday. Is this the start of the 2014 injury bug?

Agbayani
Agbayani
6 years ago

Hah! At least we can be grateful that Cargo didn’t try to heal his appendix through diet, exercise, and a new grip on the bat, only to have the appendectomy on Opening Day …

gary taylor
gary taylor
6 years ago
Reply to  Agbayani

Must have been nachos at the Nuggets game where he sat right behind friends of mine as posted on their FB page.Think he was there with Vinny C.How did the Iron Horse and Ripken ever play so many games? Now days guys get hurt trimming hedges,cleaning gutters,walking down stairs[with venison] and attending Nuggets games.

gary
gary
6 years ago
Reply to  gary taylor

Back to good old gary again unless my browser takes a dump yet again and tries to freeze me out of my favorite site!

Agbayani
Agbayani
6 years ago

Look, I like LeMahieu. I was here lobbying for him to get regular playing time at 2B last year. He is a very good defensive second baseman, and he hits just enough to stick on a big league roster. But you gotta try to get better. Rutledge offers the best chance for that. LeMahieu is Alex Smith. Rutledge could be Kaepernick. Or something like that …

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