Rockies aggressively pursuing improved bullpen

Andy Lyons

The Rockies have been tied to a number of relief pitchers in trade rumors and free-agent buzz. Are any of the proposed options ones the Rockies should jump at?

If you have the nicest car on the block but it breaks down before you can get to your destination, you would get a check-up.

That is the position the Colorado Rockies find themselves in when it comes to the construction of their bullpen. It was one of the best in the NL last season by many measures but also clearly broke down by the end of the season and because of that -and a myriad of quirky pitching-at-Coors-Field reasons - the Rockies are still looking to add one more arm to an already impressive looking bullpen.

The Rockies have said that they expect to extend their starting pitchers in 2014 rather than keeping them on strict pitch limits and that should lessen the burden on the 'pen some.

Still, Colorado needs to be careful with a starting pitching staff that has a history of injuries - Jorge de la Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Tyler Chatwood, Brett Anderson and Juan Nicasio have ALL spent time on the DL in the past three seasons - and they need insurance for some youth that may be kept on a shorter leash.

Thus:

Sean Marshall

Marshall as a player is an enticing idea for the Rockies. Sean Marshall as a contract (and as an injury risk) may not be worth it. Let's start with the good.

Sean Marshall is a left-handed pitcher who has the ability to be a set-up guy or even a closer from time-to-time. He hasn't posted an ERA above 3.0 or a GB% below 52% since 2009. His K/9 has topped 10.0 twice in his career (2010, 2012) and his acquisition would allow the Rockies extreme flexibility with left/right match-ups at the back of the bullpen.

But...

His innings total has been on a steady decline throughout his career and he missed all but 10.1 innings in 16 games for the Reds last year.

He was hampered by tendinitis in his throwing shoulder and was placed on the 60 DL on May 24th. I am not a doctor, and I won't play one on the internet, but we've already established that injury concerns are a primary reason to bolster the bullpen, so a Marshall acquisition feels a little counter-intuitive.

Additionally, he is owed $12M over the next two seasons. The Rockies would need to get the Reds to eat some that in a trade (we'll get to that in a second) if they are still intent on going after a utility guy or backup catcher. Paying the whole contract would be contrary to the moves the Rockies have made lately and would be doubling down on the hopes that he stays healthy.

Another thing to think about is the fact that Sean Marshall's best pitch is a 12-6 curve-ball that might not play as well at Coors Field as it has elsewhere.

As mentioned, since the Rockies would need to trade for Marshall as he is not a free-agent, things get more complicated based on what the Reds are asking for and what the Rockies would be willing to give up.

Troy Renck noted in this morning:

(The Rockies) were on the verge of acquiring the Reds' Sean Marshall on Monday night before concerns about his injuries last season created pause.

Marshall is due $12 million over the next two years, a figure worthy of the left-hander's credentials but a potential budget buster if his shoulder balks again. The deal is not dead.

The Rockies are expected to closely monitor Marshall's health over the next several weeks.


Ultimately, if the Rockies can get out of the financial constraints and not give up anything vital to the 2014 team, Sean Marshall would be a great addition. He pitched in five games at the end of September and was his usual very-good self.

He is, by all accounts, a very good pitcher when he pitches and getting him could mean the Rockies solidify themselves as having one of the best bullpens in the National League.

Ryan Madson

I'm not sure I can speak intelligently about this idea. He was really good when he pitched...which was like three years ago. He had Tommy John surgery before the 2012 season and hasn't pitched since. He fits the molds of low risk/low floor/high ceiling guys that the Rockies seem to be stockpiling in the rotation.

But if the Rockies halted the Marshall talks due to injury concerns, Ryan Madson better be available for a few pennies and some bubble gum. I don't know. I'm not in the room. Maybe Madson is ready to be 2014's feel-good story of the year.

At this point, you know the drill is pretty much "if he's not broken ... yeah, sure."

Joba Chamberlain

Well, at least this guy pitched 42 innings last season! They weren't very good (4.93 ERA -0.6 fWAR) but he sure did pitch them.

Ok, Joba isn't likely to be any Rockies fan's first choice for anything and he hasn't been special since catching lightening in a bottle in 2008. He does put up decent strike-out numbers and it seems possible that a move away from the New York spotlight and away from AL East lineups could be just what the 28-year-old needs to turn himself back into a weapon.

He has, of course, had some injuries in the past (oh who hasn't?) and his ever decreasing ground-ball rate, and ever increasing home-run rate make him a stay-away for me.

I just hope that the people who hate the idea of Joba Chamberlain because of any "antics" or "attitude" issues aren't the same people up-in-arms every time the Rockies front office talks about valuing character. If you don't want Joba Chamberlain on the team because he was a Yankee or because he might be a headcase, you value character and chemistry too.

****

Renck also mentions in his article a few other possible targets for the Rockies, like Aaron Crow (KC not interested so far) and Joaquin Benoit or Grant Balfour who would likely be too expensive.

The Rockies could look to in-house options to fill this void (maybe Chad Bettis) but they seem pretty intent on adding some new blood. Unfortunately none of the deals looks like an obvious win right now. But things change...so stay tuned to Purple Row for all your off-season Rockies needs!

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