During the offseason after the 2013 baseball season the Rox made a potentially game-changing trade. They sent Drew Pomeranz, who whatever you think of his future, wasn’t going to have his confidence rebuilt while pitching at Coors (the move to Oakland was a gift to the young man). In the trade they got former 2nd-round pick, opening day starter, and one-time future ace, Brett Anderson.
Brett really did fit with the Rockies, not just because he is a really good groundball pitcher. No, anyone with his injury past had to be a Rockie, especially in 2014. Anderson, along with De La Rosa and Chacin (the one from 2013) gave the team its best 1-2-3 group in history, and with Tyler Chatwood coming off an excellent year (based on ERA), the staff looked like it could actually match-up with its great pitching rivals in L.A. And San Francisco. Of course we know what happened.
Anderson had two stints on the DL. The first, in what trainer Keith Dugger called the freakiest injury he had ever seen, for a broken finger thanks to a bunt sending a shiver down the bat (maybe pitcher really should just take 3 and make the turn). The second, far more concerning, was a herniated disk surgery after he left an August 5th start against the Cubs with back spasms. It wasn’t career threatening, but a second surgery in one season, to go with a long history of injury, made it a hard decision for the Rockies when it came time to exercise his $12 million option for 2015. They had to pay him $1.5 million to “go away.” I think the Rox had the idea that they could re-sign him for less dollars, but once he hit the open market, there was no way he was coming back to Colorado.
Now, when the decision was made I agreed with it. While we were told by Jeff Bridich that would actually have money to spend this off-season, it wasn’t sure how much. And given the Rox still limited payroll, the decision had to be made, the team could not afford to tie $12 million in a player who may not give them more than a few starts.
But that was funny thing happened. The team turned around and gave a potential $5.5 million contract to Jhoulys Chacin, a player with even less likelihood of pitching. They also gave a similar $5.5 million deal to Drew Stubbs, who while having a positive season in 2014 (an OPS+ of 114) and solid defence. That said, he also had a long history of (3 straight years) of sub-100 OPS+ years. Could they have gotten another player for far less money to provide solid D and perhaps league-average offense. The Rox should have expected a regression to norm for Stubbs (career OPS+ of just 90), but bet $5.5 million on him (Brandon Barnes was just an 87 OPS+ last year, so that wasn’t an option). The team wanted a good defence/solid right-handed bat to balance their all-lefty outfield. The problem is that for the past month he has simply been a strikeout machine, which wouldn’t really be a problem – had they converted him to a reliever this offseason. No – he is still a CF.
So the team invested around $11 million on two players, one already gone, and one failing miserably for the past month. They paid $1.5 million to send Anderson out the door. Anderson then signed with the dreaded Dodgers, for a mere $10 million. So far…so good, but this is Anderson we are talking about. The Dodgers also signed Brandon McCarthy, another often injured pitcher, to a 3-year deal. But this is the Dodgers, which means that they could just burn $10 million in a George Forman grill and be okay. So, the Dodgers have taken a risk on Anderson.
But the Rox also took a huge risk. First that Chacin could come back and be a league-average pitcher (in the end it cost them just over $1 million, but in their budget it was an expected $5.5). Then they poured the same into a hitter who right now cannot be sent out there to pinch-hit…or start. His defence has still been very good, but their needs are for a guy who can be started against tough lefties or spell CarGo or Dickerson. Can they do that right now? And since he is out of options, he cannot be sent down without going through waivers, which won’t work since he will almost certainly be claimed. So they have to hope that he can work it out during off-days and batting practice (the Rockies short with him playing golf and the announcer saying, “most hitters won’t play golf because they are afraid it messes up their swing” was supposed to be a cute additional detail on Drew, instead it appears to be prophetic). They have a serious problem.
The other serious problem they have is starting pitching. If the Rox had another potential quality starter? How more optimistic would we be about this team if the front of it featured Anderson instead of Kendrick? And even if you think make about the money, how much of a tradable quantity would Anderson be (if healthy) come July if the team is out of contention?
I like almost every decision that Bridich and the Rox made this offseason, including not trading Tulo or CarGo. But in this one area, I think he missed it. Maybe Anderson only makes 5 starts this season (he made 8), but if you were betting on value from a total of $10.5 million (the option less buyout), wasn’t that a bet they needed to make?
So if you were GM would you have elected to choose that option of give $5.5 to Chacin and Stubbs?