I spent much of my energy during last year's franchise-worst 2012 season explaining that while the results were not pleasant, I was enjoying myself. 2012 presented a lot of interesting baseball stories, internally and externally from the point of view of the Rockies, and for me was an improvement on the more mundane failure of 2011.
If there is concession of disappointment regarding the entertainment value of 2012, however, it is that it may also have doomed the Rockies to an extra year of painful trial and error with what may or may not yet become the next generation of Rockies talent.
Injury plagued and inconsistent, filled with a regular stream of indecision and non-committal regarding team philosophy and a whole not of general ineffectiveness prevented the Rockies from accomplishing what they needed to last season: to evaluate a new set of talent and determine whether or not it was worth sticking with. Much of the 11/12 offseason was spent shipping off the then "old guard" and making room for another set of players to get their shot at sticking to the team into the future. Unfortunately for everyone involved, very little could be satisfactorily ascertained from the mess, and we are left now with even more questions than we had before.
In 2013, at least to start, fans can expect a team that looks a lot like the one at the end of last season, albeit healthier, but while it may be difficult to laud the Rockies for their general inactivity this past five months, I believe their choices are understandable. We are essentially calling for a mulligan on 2012 in any terms of legitimate data evaluation and are giving our players a second chance at deciding how 2014 and beyond will be addressed. As much as some out their demand the same, regularly unrealistic expectation of a full fledged franchise remodeling from the top down, the end result of this offseason is consistent with our current organizational position, and probably should have been expected from the start. I'm willing to accept a lack of personnel change, particularly if the team has been putting effort behind the scenes into making sure that this year the talent evaluation is uncontested.
Colorado Rockies MLB Level Trades, 2012-13 Offseason
The Rockies offseason trades consisted of swapping Wilton Lopez into the bullpen in place of Matt Reynolds for the final 1-inning relief slot, with the team planning to use the final three slots of the pen for hybrid pitchers (though I maintain that without the extra roster spot allowed by the four man rotation, this system could collapse very quickly). Lopez, if healthy, is an obvious bullpen upgrade, and should put less pressure on incoming managed Walt Weiss to use Matt Belisle or Rex Brothers so excessively, as all three pitchers are workable setup candidates any given night.
Wheeler and Brignac will compete with the likes of Chris Nelson, Jordan Pacheco, DJ LeMahieu and Jonathan Herrera for infield roster spots, including a third base job that Nelson could easily lose in Spring Training, while Josh Rutledge isn't necessarily a guarantee at second base either. Of this group of infielders, only Nelson and Brignac cannot be sent to the minors freely, while Herrera is the only player making above league minimum.
The loss of Alex White thins the competition for the final two slots in the rotation to Juan Nicasio, Christian Friedrich, Tyler Chatwood and Drew Pomeranz, although the presence of Chris Volstad on a minor league contract is a viable alternative if this field continues to disappoint. This will fill out a rotation behind Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa (who predictably accepted his 2013 player option with the team), assuming the two have fully recovered from their health struggles in 2012, as well as Jeff Francis, the only major league free agent signing the team made this offseason.
While the team may look familiar the coaching staff most certainly not. Jim Tracy's so-called "indefinite handshake deal" lasted a mere year, as the skipper chose not to return to the Rockies. Walt Weiss takes his place, and while much ado has been made of his recent employment as a high school coach, is likely the preferable candidate of a field that also included Giambi and Tom Runnells, who returns as bench coach. Another familiar Rockies face in Dante Bichette takes over for Carney Lansford as hitting coach, while co-pitching coaches Jim Wright and Bo McLaughlin have switched roles, with Wright taking the lead with the starters and McLaughlin serving as bullpen coach.
Though the Rockies did not consume a large pool of fresh talent, there will be plenty of competition going on in Spring, with two rotation spot, three or four infield spots and perhaps multiple hybrid bullpen spots up for grabs. Some players, such as catcher Ramon Hernandez, may be in danger of losing their jobs to other players and being traded before the season proper begins. After a slow offseason, look for an exciting Spring Training to pull everyone in and hopefully warm us up to another season of baseball, murky and enigmatic though it may be.
Other 40-Man Roster Losses:
Andrew Brown - Outrighted to AAA, Elected Free Agency, Signed with NYM - MiLB
Tommy Field - Claimed off Waivers by MIN (later claimed again by LAA)
Jason Giambi - Declared Free Agency, Signed with CLE - MiLB
Matt McBride - Outrighted to AAA, Declared Free Agency, Re-signed with COL - MiLB
Guillermo Moscoso - Claimed off Waivers by KC
Zach Putnam - Claimed off Waivers by CHC (later outrighted, re-signed with CHC - MiLB)
Josh Roenicke - Claimed off Waivers by MIN
Jonathan Sanchez - Declared Free Agency, Signed with PIT - MiLB
Carlos Torres - Outrighted to AAA, Elected Free Agency, Signed with NYM - MiLB
Other 40-Man Roster Additions:
Cristhian Adames - Rule 5 Protectee
Joe Gardner - Rule 5 Protectee
Daniel Rosenbaum - Rule 5 Selection
Josh Sullivan - Prevented MiLB Free Agency
Tim Wheeler - Rule 5 Protectee
Notable MiLB Signings (those with invitations to MLB Spring Training Camp
RHP Miguel Batista
RHP Manny Corpas
C Jose Gonzalez (re-signed)
RHP Logan Kensing
RHP Jeff Manship
UTIL Matt McBride (re-signed)
RHP Mike McClendon
LHP Erick Threets
RHP Chris Volstad