The first thing to note is that the Rockies have made incredibly significant changes to their 40-man roster so far this offseason. 16 new players occupy spots the roster, significantly more than most other teams. For example, compare our 16 new players to the seven new players of each of the Diamondbacks and Giants, and the eight new players of each of the Dodgers and Padres. More than any other team in the division, the Rockies have reassessed and reorganized their internal resources and also taken advantage of adding new blood to the system via both free agency and trade.
While I am not 100% happy with each of the offseason decisions individually, I do like the team's offseason philosophy. This offseason, I have spent a lot of my energy here on Purple Row towards trying to demonstrate that teams do not have to fit into the buyer/seller activity paradigm in order to be productive. The Rockies have done a little bit of both, and I think it has served them well for the most part. The team is deeper in most of the areas they were weaker in before (catcher being the most notable exception), and took advantage of deep outfield and middle infield pools to nab some better depth in other areas, including a much better set of fifth starter candidates than we assembled before 2013.
The Rockies' most significant acquisition this offseason was Brett Anderson, who figures to occupy the third or fourth spot in the rotation, depending on how the Rockies position Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa at the top of it. Tyler Chatwood should be in command of the other middle rotation slot, leaving only the fifth starter's position, one of the Rockies' biggest weaknesses in 2013, to be filled.
Juan Nicasio, who is eligible for arbitration as a Super 2 and continues to be presented as "definitely a starter" by the front office during offseason interviews, is far and away the leading candidate for the spot. While I do continue to agree that Nicasio may be served better in the future as a relief piece, with the crowded bullpen we have, now is not the best time to work on converting Nicasio, unless we choose to do it in AAA, which I believe to be unlikely unless he's Tyler Colvin bad in the Spring. The Rockies aren't afraid to keep their arb-salaried players in the minors if they have to, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a significant advantage with that rotation spot.
The three next most notable names on the radar here are Christian Friedrich, who has hopefully made significant strides in regard to his health, the newly acquired Jordan Lyles, whose struggles are well documented and seems likely to see some organizational tweaks before being considered a legitimate candidate to hold down a rotation spot, and the returning Franklin Morales, who will be treated as a starter during Spring Training. Both Friedrich and Lyles can be sent to the minors without concern, while Morales cannot. As a result, I believe that Morales is most likely ticketed for a long relief spot in the bullpen, serving mostly as insurance for Anderson and Friedrich's health issues. Lyles on the other hand would probably be first in line if Nicasio did lose his spot, or something happened to one of our other rotation righties.
The Rockies also have three other starting pitchers on their roster in Tyler Matzek, Jayson Aquino and (potentially) Chad Bettis. The chances of Matzek or Aquino making the team out of the gate are extremely slim, with Matzek ticketed to either Colorado Springs or Tulsa and Aquino to Modesto or Asheville. Matzek spent his time in the Arizona Fall League working out of the bullpen, supposedly to limit his innings after another intensive season, but some have speculated that we may end up seeing him permanently converted sometime this year. I'm not sure if that's the case or not, as room can still be made for him in either AAA or AA as a starter.
Bettis is in a similar boat; it is clear at this point that the team sees Bettis as a reliever long-term, but with no room at the MLB level, I believe the wisest course of action is to keep Bettis as a starter for the Sky Sox to keep his value higher as a trade candidate, which may ultimately be his greatest asset to the team. While I am okay with Bettis being used in relief at the MLB level, I will be disappointed if he is used in that role in the minors.
Starting Rotation Breakdown:
- Brett Anderson, $8M, $12M ($1.5M buyout) club option for 2015 (3 options remain, but under Gen. 5 protections)
- Jhoulys Chacin, $4.85M, Gen. 5 arbitration in 2015 (1 option remains)
- Jorge De La Rosa, $11M, free agency after 2014 (out of options, Gen. 5 protection)
- Franklin Morales, projected at $1.8M (out of options, Gen. 5 protection)
- Juan Nicasio, projected at $1.7M (1 option remains)
- Jayson Aquino (3 options remain)
- Chad Bettis (3 options remain)
- Tyler Chatwood (out of options)
- Christian Friedrich (1 option remains)
- Jordan Lyles (1 option remains, 2011 option was never burned)
- Tyler Matzek (3 options remain)