2011-2014: The Downfall of the Rockies – Part 4 – Rigid Roster?

In Parts 1,2, and 3 of this article series I tried to figure out where things went wrong in this 4 year slide. I was shocked to find out that it was….everything. Bad bullpens, bad starting pitching, and bad offense (yes, a few positives here and there but really). So if everything is awful then you have to go through massive changes in the roster right?

 

One big complaint I hear from fans is that this team hasn’t made big changes, that they are either too loyal or too cheap or too stupid to have done what was needed. In hindsight a Houston Astros blow-it-all-up (insert Charlton Heston, Planet of the Apes here). Why have they stayed pat given this thing has been sinking for the past 4 years without any sign of hope???

 

Clearly it is still Dan O’Dowds fault (what is the term limit on blaming he and Geivett?), despite the great job he has done rebuilding the farm system the past 4 years.

 

But…that isn’t actually the case. I know, I know, I was shocked as well. While it is true that the team has had trouble going out and spending a lot of money on impact players (the last 4 big contracts went to Cuddy (okay, but too few games to make the $ worthwhile), Boone Logan (injured but may yet be a difference maker), Justin Morneau (a great one so far, and cheap), Kyle Kendrick (overpaying for a 5th starter to be one of the main cogs in their rotation), and Hundley, who they hope at least makes the catcher position stable and helps the young collection of arms.

 

Let’s face it, we all know that pitchers who are worth a darn do not come to Colorado. Even if the team had offered $120 million to James Shield he would not have come here. So spending big bucks on pitchers isn’t going to happen. They could trade away key pieces for starters, but so far that hasn’t worked either (Brett Anderson, Alex White, and Drew Pomeranz to name a few).

 

And how about blowing big bucks on relievers? Again, they did that with Logan, and actually Hawkins as well. But the best relievers usually come from failed starters, and those can come from the waiver wire, Rule 5, or even their own farm system (as we see in this year’s group). And position players? Where would you want to replace existing players with free agents? They did that with Cuddy and Morneau. But the group of CarGo, Blackmon/Stubbs (acquired in a trade), and Dickerson in the OF seems hard to top. The infield is the best defensive group in the NL and solid to great offensively aside from DJ (though health will be an issue as always). Then there is the catcher position, which they just upgraded. Yes, we all would have loved Russell Martin would have been great but he seemed fixated on going to Canada and spurned a great deal from his employer the past 2 years in the Pirates.

 

So where should they spend FA dollars they didn’t? And trades? Who would you want to give up? As I said in the offseason, you can only trade potential MVP players like Tulo for an established star on a team with a surplus there – Tulo to the Mets could only be done if Matt Harvey was the piece coming back. Even CarGo, currently in the bargain bin (maybe not after opening day), couldn’t not be dumped (again, where would you use that salary instead…and how do you replace a guy like CarGo on offense and defense), there wasn’t going to be key players in return at this time.

 

Yes, we want GMs to spend money and make trades. But not just for the sake of doing something (as Dan O’Dowd did in his early days). But they actually have been making move after move subtly to remake the team…slowly.

 

From 2012 to 2015 the team has actually done quite of bit of change to the roster, made some clever trades, and drafted an entire group of players who in a few years may make up the entire starting group (Dahl, Tapia, McMahon, Patterson, Murphey, Wall, Story, and Prime), along with those acquired in trades like Stubbs, Barnes, Kahnle, and Lyles.

 

So rather than standing pat, rather than indicating a lack of strategy, rather than showing too much loyalty, the team has begun since 2013 a massive overhaul of the roster, but unlike the Padres, they are doing it subtly, cheaply, and all while also drafting and developing a future rotation of young guns like Grey, Butler, Anderson, Freeland, Matzek, Castellini, Senzatela.

 

Let’s look at the changes since Opening Day 2013 to this year (based on top 11 hitters, top 11 relievers, and top 8 starters):

 

Position 2013 Player 2015 Player 2017 Likely Player
CF Fowler Blackmon/Stubbs Dahl
LF CarGo Dickerson Dickerson
RF Cuddy CarGo Tapia (if CarGo traded)
4th OF EYJr/Colvin Barnes/McBride/Parker
    1. Herrera
3B Nelson Arenado Arenado
SS Tulo/Rutledge Tulo/Descalso Tulo/Addames
2B DJ/Rutledge DJ Story
1B Helton Morneau Parker
C Rosario Hundley Murphy
Utility Pacheco Ynoa Addames
SP2 De La Rosa Kendrick Butler
SP3 Nicasio Matzek Matzek
SP4 Chatwood Lyles Freeland
SP5 Francis/Garland Butler Anderson/Lyles/Vet
Closer Brothers Hawkins Ottavino
Rel1 Ottavino Ottavino Brothers
Rel2 Belisle Logan Friedrich
Rel3 Betencourt Axelford Brown
Rel4 Outmann Friedrich Kahnle
Rel5 Lopez Betencourt Hale
SP1 Chacin De La Rosa Grey

 

 

As you can see the roster has actually turned over quite a bit since the opening day of 2013. Only Tulo will be back at the same position he started in 2013. CarGo has only moved from LF to RF, so he is still part of the core of the team. The infield has grown in maturity and quality (though it is likely that 2B is going to be undergoing a change as soon as Trevor Story proves he can hit). 1B is in a stop-gap mode at this point, but again shows a big change. Of the top 5 starters in 2013 only De La Rosa remains, and by 2017 probably only Matzek and perhaps Lyles will be part of the rotation in 2017 (and Butler if he stays in the rotation for much of 2015).

 

The team’s depth has also changed rapidly. Stubbs and Barnes are better than EYJr and Colvin were, plus there are two potentially plus players coming in the next 2 years with Dahl and Tapia (depending on their progression). This team looks to have good players coming and they can replace the players currently on this roster while bringing more potential as well as potentially output. That includes the bullpen which as we all know is usually a year-to-year process, though with the likes of Friedrich, Brown, Brothers, and Kahnle still under control as we had to 2017 and may provide the backbone of a great bullpen in the future.

 

THE END RESULT…ARE CHANGES HAPPENING FOR THE BETTER…AND SOON ENOUGH?

 

So should we despair? No!

 

The Rox have been willing to make a lot of changes the past 2 years, and done so all the while either improving the position or bringing upside to it – not salary dumping! Does that mean that 2015 is going be a winning year? Likely not, though the potential is there, especially if they get unexpected big contributions from guys now currently on the 25. But by 2017 this may well be as young and high quality a team as the Astros and Cubs.

 

So we are not in the midst of a regime rolling out the same old losers year-by-year, or just replacing one over-the-hill or AAAA guy with another. This is a team seeking since 2013 and the hiring of Walt Weiss to steadily move the roster forward in terms of quality, young, and upside potential. Have they always gotten right? Sadly no (Brett Anderson is the biggest example). Of course some prospects fail (like Butler did last year), or injuries step in the way (Lyles and Arenado), but for those who doubt this team’s direction, there is cause for hope. And for those who feel like they have seen this movie before, it may indeed feel like a repeat, but it is at least a sequel and one with a steady flow of new actors.

 

The only question is are we about to see Sharknado 2 or Return of the Jedi? I just hope it isn’t Phantom Menace…no one who has endured the last 4 years deserves that!

 

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