Editor's Note: The following post is a part of the 2013 Purple Row Writer Search -- our quest to find some great new contributors to Purple Row
After the disastrous 2012 campaign that saw the Colorado Rockies move to four man rotation, it is no secret that priority number one is going after some reliable pitching. I for one, have no problem moving to the four man rotation. It allows for the Rockies to play the match-ups easier, creating havoc for the opposing manager in trying to set lineups. Now, it wasn't exactly a miracle fix for the Rockies last year, but with some fine tuning it could lead to a new wave in baseball.
The key to utilizing the four man rotation is to have a dominating bullpen with a reliable closer. Rafael Betancourt certainly could play the part of the closer as he amassed 31 saves last year, while posting a respectable 2.81 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. The bullpen behind him, however did not fare so well. While an increase in workload certainly will add to the numbers, the Rockies' bullpen ranked near the bottom of almost of every statistical category in 2012. Most troubling is the 4.52 ERA and .341 opp OBP given up by the Rockies' bullpen.
While starting pitching is a hot commodity in Major League Baseball, it has never fully been sustained here in the Mile High City. There is some attractive starting pitching that remains in the free agent pool. Notably, Kyle Lohse and Shaun Marcum (who reportedly signed with the Mets this morning) will give any team's starting rotation a considerable lift. Unfortunately, the Rockies have not yet been mentioned in going after either of the starters, maybe for good reason. It has not worked in the past for the Rockies and the money that pitchers like that command could be spent elsewhere. The reports of the Rockies pursuing Carl Pavano and Derek Lowe seem like a futile pursuit. If the Rockies are committed to the experimental four man rotation, they must acquire some bullpen talent ready to contribute this season. The market is getting pretty depleted leading up to spring training, but here are some remaining free agent relievers the Rockies should take a look at.
"K-Rod" is far removed from his recording setting 62 save season back in 2008, but he could still be a solid contributor to the Rockies' bullpen. Last year, he averaged one strikeout per nine innings and a WHIP of 1.33. He has pitched well in limited action at Coors Field over the last three years, posting a 2.25 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 12 innings of work. K-Rod could welcome the opportunity to join the Rockies' bullpen, as he was apart of a Brewers bullpen last year that was even worse than the Rockies.
Matt Capps battled a shoulder injury last year that forced him to sit out nearly half the season. This certainly hurt his value as the Twins declined to pick up his $6 million option for next season. Prior to his injury, Matt Capps was on his way to being one of the top relievers in Major League Baseball. In 2010, he was voted in on the player's ballot as the top NL reliever vote-getter as a member of the Washington Nationals. Even during his limited 2012, he posted a 3.68 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP in 30 appearances. Matt Capps may be flying under the radar, but he could provide a big boost for the Rockies in 2013.
Kyle Farnsworth lost his closer role to the up and coming Fernando Rodney who had a fantastic year in 2012 for the Tampa Bay Rays. After posting a 2.18 ERA in 2011, an elbow strain limited him in 2012 where he posted a 4.0 ERA. The elbow strain also affected his control because his BB/9 jumped from a 1.9 in 2011 to 4.7 in 2012. If he can reign in his control next season, he could be a solid contributor to the Rockies' bullpen.
Jose Valverde's stock may have dropped further than anyone else this off season due to his horrendous postseason when he gave up nine runs, all earned, while only recording eight outs. Lost in the talk about the postseason is that Jose Valverde actually had a pretty good season last year. He put up a 3.68 ERA with a 1.12 WHIP while striking out 48 batters in 69 innings of work. If his confidence isn't completely shattered, the Rockies could sign him for the 2013 season at a discount. If he performs well, he could be used a trade bait during the season since there will be more than few teams looking for a closer/set up man mid season.
Sticking with the four man rotation will make the Rockies look like a genius or fool. For the former to be true, and the Rockies to be successful this season the bullpen must step up. Can any of these relievers come in and help out the Rockies or is there someone else out there the Rockies should look to?