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Wednesday Rockpile: Free agency targets for the Rockies - pitchers

Dick Monfort has indicated that the Rockies have $5-9 million in payroll room for free agent additions next year. Let's help him spend his money, shall we? Last week framed the market for position players - let's do the same for pitchers.


Either today or tomorrow the playing portion of the 2013 MLB season will end and the long baseball-less winter will officially begin. Much to my chagrin, it appears likely that the team I would like least to win the World Series will do so at the expense of my non-Rockies favorite.

At least the Rockies had a strong showing last night in the Gold Glove awards, as both Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez took home hardware honoring their strong defense this year. I admit that I was pleasantly surprised that Arenado was chosen over the higher-wattage David Wright for the 3B Gold Glove. In a last place year like 2013, you have to take the small victories where you can.

Anyway, it's about time to kiss 2013 goodbye and look toward next year. Last week I looked at some of the position players the Rockies should be targeting in free agency this off-season. Now it's time to look at the crop of pitchers.

As most of you know, Colorado had three very good starting pitchers in 2013 in Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa, and (most surprisingly) Tyler Chatwood as well as a couple of strong relievers in closer Rex Brothers and Adam Ottavino. All of those players will be back in 2014. Unfortunately, outside of those players there weren't a lot of stellar pitching performances in 2013 for the Rockies.

One of the main problems appeared to be that the Rockies's policy of limiting their pitch count early on in the season unduly taxed the bullpen - who pitched very well early in the year and fell apart as the season went on. And then there's the back of the rotation. Juan Nicasio was a fixture there, albeit a highly inconsistent fixture who struggled to get deep into games...but at least he provided some great performances. The fifth slot in the rotation was filled with a lot of sub-replacement performances this year that were a big contributor to Colorado falling out of the race in July.

Just like the position players, Colorado's pitching staff could use more depth - but outside of maybe the Dodgers, they actually had the best pitching depth in the NL West in 2013. Here's a table showing the amount of innings pitched the teams in the NL West gave to below replacement level arms in 2013:

Team Sub-Replacement IP Total IP % of Tot
Dodgers 386 1,450 26.6
Diamondbacks 533 1,495 35.7
Padres 496 1,455 34.1
Giants 606 1,447 41.9
Rockies 273 1,436 19.0

Again, outside perhaps the Dodgers with their stellar starting pitchers, the Rockies had the best pitching staff in the NL West last year - and they'll need to repeat that performance if they want to move up next year. I think the Rockies should focus most of their time in the coming months on improving the offense, but the pitching could use a face-lift as well. If the budget is really $5-9 million extra for team improvements, they won't have much purchasing power on the free agent market.

I don't believe there will be a lot of turnover for Colorado by way of free agency this year - instead I believe internal candidates or traded players will fill any open positions. Still, I've found a couple of potential targets for the Rockies to look at.

Here's the full list of 2014 free agents that I'm working from. This is not meant to be an in-depth analysis of proposed free agent signees (that will come next month as the Hot Stove season really heats up). Instead, I'm just trying to frame the discussion as it relates to the Rockies.

Relief Pitchers - it's not a pretty list, filled with aging veterans and journeymen. Lefty Eric O'Flaherty is the best non-closer reliever and would be a good fit for the Rockies...but he's coming off an injury-shortened 2013. Another lefty that could be worth a look is Matt Thornton if his option doesn't get picked up. Among the "closers," Jose Veras might come at a reasonable price.

Ultimately, I'd prefer any bullpen replacements the Rockies might need to come from within. After all, there's a glut of former top starting pitcher prospects who haven't proven themselves at the MLB level yet in Chad Bettis, Drew Pomeranz, Christian Friedrich, and yes, Nicasio. Any of them might be the answer out of the pen for Colorado.

Starting Pitchers - there are a lot of intriguing names on the list who might even be potentially available within Colorado's price range. If he's healthy, Tim Hudson would be a great short-term bridge to Eddie Butler and Jon Gray, as could Paul Maholm or Bruce Chen. Phil Hughes is coming off a bad year, but he could be a great buy-low candidate. Speaking of buying low - they are coming off of a terrible year and are likely out of Colorado's price range, but both Josh Johnson and Roy Halladay are free agents. Chad Gaudin is a good swingman candidate to throw multiple innings or provide spot starts.

Three former Rockies should get consideration: Ubaldo Jimenez (not happening, but would fit the need), Jason Hammel, and Jason Marquis. Either of the two Jasons would be a good solid stopgap pitcher.

The point is that there's actually quite a few options for the Rockies on the starting pitcher market, should they choose to pursue them.

Los Links!

Troy Renck has more on Arenado and CarGo's Gold Glove wins. According to Arenado, this play (at 0:32) against the Marlins was his favorite defensive play this year.

Renck also writes that Tulo is ours and St. Louis can't have him.


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