One player that is notably not gone is Matt Belisle; the Rockies waiting until the very last possible minute to decide whether or not to accept his $4.25M club option, which they did after they were unable to work out a new contract. Belisle's 2013 was a long-predicted step backwards for the reliever, though I think this was a wise move in context. Belisle isn't necessarily an extremely great bounce-back candidate after the workload he has been burdened with, and the large dollar figure doesn't help, but the pen remains stronger with him in it. Let us just hope he doesn't need to be used quite so much.
A much better bounce-back candidate is none other than Wilton Lopez, Purple Row's 2013 punching bag and interesting case that predictive results stats like WAR don't always correspond to actual results. Lopez essentially pitched fairly well, and did absolutely nothing but lose games while doing so. What an interesting man! Much like Belisle, look for a reworked role in 2013 that focuses less on predictable setup appearances.
Newcomers include LaTroy Hawkins and Boone Logan, both of whom are likely to be shouldering competitive innings in the stead of Lopez and Belisle. Hawkins will be competing for closing time with Rex Brothers, a move I frequently alternate between liking and hating with the fire of a thousand suns. I like the idea of a closer-by-committee approach, and the idea of Brothers being available to bust the team out of jams in the seventh or eighth, but while I like the Hawkins signing (it was an excellent example of shrewd market manipulation, identifying and quickly obtaining a piece that is very likely to put up good production and less-than-average market value), I like Brothers better as the high-impact arm. Just because Brothers doesn't need to close all the time doesn't mean he shouldn't ever be allowed to this season.
Logan, on the other hand, will focus primarily on lefty-dominated lineups. I still think he'll be seeing some work against righties too, but the presence of Franklin Morales might make things more interesting. As I mentioned in yesterday's piece, Morales is unlikely to land a rotation spot without a serious meltdown or injury occurring, meaning he's the leading candidate to land the seventh spot in the pen. A stretched out Morales could serve as a spot starter/long reliever/emergency lefty, but I think the real gem of having three lefties in the pen is the fact that we wouldn't feel pressured to dig for another lefty should one of them go down. Rather than dig deeper to Kraig Sitton levels, we could just call up a Rob Scahill or Chad Bettis and still have two lefties at play.
Joining Brothers as a pre-arbitration reliever coming off a career year is Adam Ottavino, whose name was floated as a setup candidate. While I don't necessarily like the idea of using him for junk innings quite as much as he was in 2013, I think he's a perfect guy to keep on an adaptable, shifting role schedule. Whether in a tight spot or a big blowout, Ottavino can be counted on to pitch in top form, provided that form itself is still in as good of a shape was we saw last season. I see no need to go tinkering with finding just the right spot for him, he fits everywhere.
The biggest wildcard name among 40-man relievers will be our Rule 5 pick from the Yankees, Tommy Kahnle. Assuming Hawkins, Brothers, Logan, Wilson, Belisle, Ottavino and Morales all make the team, Kahnle would require the Rockies to open the season with eight relievers. The team spent a pretty significant amount of the 2013 season carrying an extra reliever, but I don't recall the Rockies opening the season with this roster configuration. Of course, Kahnle could make this decision really easy if he shows up to Spring Training with his career-long control issues, but relievers are also by far the easiest players to carry along through the season as Rule 5 selections. I could see this going either way.
Other peripheral players include the aforementioned Scahill and Bettis. Scahill is likely to return to his 2013 role of "first guy to be called up when needed, first guy to be sent down when not". Bettis' future almost certainly seems to be in relief at this point, but I still want the righty to be kept a a starter until he is either traded or needed with the MLB team. His contract details are discussed in yesterday's article, along with Morales'.
Rounding out the 40-man pitchers are Kraig Sitton and Raul Fernandez, neither of whom has a realistic shot to break camp with the Rockies. Both were surprised Rule 5 protection additions in November. Sitton's addition makes some sense, as the Rockies are extremely light on lefty relief depth, and by ensuring Sitton wasn't picked from under the radar, we have at least one guy to reach down too in the worst case scenario. Fernandez, on the other hand, remains one of the biggest mysteries. At this point, I've accepted that the team sees something that nobody else does. All well and good, but the longer he sticks in favor of other players, the more it will annoy in a nagging itch sort of mold. Sitton figures to be in the Drillers bullpen, Fernandez could land with either Asheville or Modesto, as he spent much of last season injured.
- Matt Belisle $4.25M, free agency after 2014 (Gen. 5 protection)
- LaTroy Hawkins $2.25M, $2.25M club option 2015 (Gen. 5 protection)
- Boone Logan $4.75M, signed through 2016 (Gen. 5 protection)
- Wilton Lopez, projected salary of $2.2M (1 option remains)
- Rex Brothers (3 options remaining, 2012 never burned)
- Raul Fernandez (3 options remaining)
- Tommy Kahnle (subject to Rule 5 protections)
- Adam Ottavino (1 option remains)
- Rob Scahill (2 options remain)
- Kraig Sitton (3 options remain)