Jorge De La Rosa is the fish the Rockies weren't going to let get away. He possesses a not so secret skill that's almost impossible to find in this game: He's a beast at Coors Field. King of the treacherous mound on the mountain.
When I say De La Rosa's a beast at Coors Field, I don't just mean that he can handle this environment or that his park adjusted numbers are better at this address. I mean his straight up ERA and batting against numbers are better at 20th & Blake.
Take a look at what opponents have done against De La Rosa at home and on the road during the last four seasons (excluding 2012 because he only made three brief starts in September on his way back from Tommy John surgery) ....
At Coors: (Average, on base percentage, slugging, OPS)
2010: .238 / .312 / .397 (.709 OPS)
2011: .247 / .318 / .338 (.655 OPS)
2013: .279 / 331 / .363 (.695 OPS)
2014: .232 / .297 / .377 (.674 OPS)
On the road:
2010: .232 / .339 / .433 (.772 OPS)
2011: .209 / .288 / .324 (.612 OPS)
2013: .259 / .342 / .403 (.746 OPS)
2014: .247 / .327 / .429 (.755 OPS)
This rare characteristic instantly makes De La Rosa more valuable to the Rockies than any other team. He's not a shutdown guy that's going to make the other 29 teams drool if he's sitting out on the free agent market, but he is a guy who can consistently hold an opponent in check a mile above sea level thanks to the way he controls his breaking ball and mixes up his pitches; and doing that in Coors Field is like having an ace on the mound in any other ballpark.
Jorge De La Rosa owns a 44-14 record when he starts at Coors Field and the team has an even more astounding 46-9 mark during the last 55 games he's taken the mound at home. While I generally hate looking at a pitcher's record as a measuring stick for success, and fully concede that much of these numbers are due to significant run support, I also don't think they should be ignored completely. These are numbers so good that they can't only be explained by good fortune and help from his friends named Troy, Carlos, Nolan, and Corey. Also, it's not like we should expect De La Rosa to stop getting plenty of run support at Coors Field anytime soon. Maybe just not quite this much.
As reported by Ken Roseenthal last night, the deal is for two years and $25 million.
Source: De La Rosa extension with #Rockies is two years, $25M. No options.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) September 4, 2014
At first, that may sound expensive, but the cost of good pitching is through the roof these days in MLB.
Last off season, three pitchers received qualifying offers (De La Rosa was extremely likely to receive a qualifying offer this fall before this signing, which would have dragged down his value to other franchises). Here's what they got....
Hiroki Kuroda: 1 year, $16 million
Ervin Santana: 1 year, $14.1 million
Ubaldo Jimenez: 4 years, $50 million ($12.5 million Average Annual Value [AAV])
Other starting pitchers to receive similar contracts in the last year WITHOUT getting a qualifying offer....
Tim Lincecum: 2 years, $35 million ($17.5 million AAV)
A.J. Burnett: 1 year, $16 million
Matt Garza: 4 years, $50 million($12.5 million AAV)
Scott Feldman: 3 years, $30 million ($10 million AAV)
Ricky Nolasco: 4 years, $48 million ($12 million AAV)
Bronson Arroyo: 2 years, $19 million (Came with an $11 million option and a $4.5 million buyout for 2016)
Tim Hudson: 2 years, $23 million ($11.5 million AAV)
Scott Kazmir: 2 years, $22 million (11 million AAV)
Bartolo Colon: 2 years, $20 million ($10 million AAV)
Dan Haren: 1 year, $10 million
Looking at these figures, and knowing they could even tick slightly higher this winter with the next batch of free agents as more money continues to pour into the game, it appears as though the Rockies actually got a bargain for the services De La Rosa provides.
The length of the deal
Two years seems very fair to both sides. The contract will cover De La Rosa's age 34 and 35 seasons, which should still be productive but are also nearing the point where you would expect a player to start to slow down. The $12.5 million a year is a nice $1.5 million raise from the $11 million he was making this season, but the deal also doesn't go long enough for the Rockies to have to worry about overpaying for De La Rosa in 2017 when Nolan Arenado and Corey Dickerson start getting more expensive and the team should be in a contention window.
If De La Rosa continues his dominance at Coors right through the end of the 2016 season, the Rockies can sign him again to another short deal as he'll be getting long in the tooth in baseball years by then.
This is a concern, especially with De La Rosa getting into his mid-thirties and almost all of his teammates landing on the DL. He's been the horse of the rotation this year, but it's only the third time he's thrown more than 130 innings in a season in his career.
On the flip side though, much of this is due to the fact that Tommy John surgery wiped out the last four months of his 2011 and almost all of his 2012, and he just wasn't good enough as a pitcher before 2009 to deserve more than 130 innings. De La Rosa now appears fully recovered from his big injury, and his average fastball velocity's actually increased from 2013 by more than a MPH. In fact, MLB Trade Rumors did a piece earlier this season showing that De La Rosa's velocity has increased more than all but one of the potential free agent pitchers this off season.
As far as that's concerned, he looks great. The biggest things I worry about are his constant finger issues and tendency to pull up lame if he runs too hard to first from time to time. Those things, along with the general fluky stuff we tend to see on the injury front with the Rockies year after year are what I'm most concerned with him in the immediate future.
How it fits into the overall puzzle
This is not the only move the Rockies are going to make for next season. It's just the first move. It does however give us some information about what to expect going forward as well as raises some questions.
First off, the front office believes that it was very unlucky with injuries in 2014. As a result, they think they are closer to playing meaningful games late in 2015 than most fans and want to bring back / bring in impact talent. As long as they don't disrupt the potential they have for 2016 and beyond, I don't have a major issue with this, even if they are overrating the talent and underrating the holes.
The question marks arise however when you consider how much more expensive three of the team's most important players are going to be in 2015 as opposed to 2014. Carlos Gonzalez is due a $5.5 million raise, Troy Tulowitzki is due a $4 million raise, and now this contract gives De La Rosa a $1.5 million raise. This means that the Rockies are going to have to pay an additional $11 million for these services that they didn't have to pay this season, which obviously creates other issues that are going to have to be addressed later this off season.
Still, De La Rosa is part of the pitching side of things that needs improvement, and he's a good guy to have around as the club tries to groom some of its young arms. He's definitely a part of the solution, I'm just not sure if the Rockies will be able to put enough meaningful pitchers around him before the start of next season. 2016 is a different story though as we should have some very big answers on some very cheap talent in Tyler Anderson, Eddie Butler, Jon Gray, Dan Winkler, and Kyle Freeland.
A mutually beneficial relationship
For all of the reasons the Rockies need Jorge De La Rosa (and there are plenty), Jorge De La Rosa needs the Rockies too.
Colorado is the place where he went from a wild young lefty who struggled with control and was fighting just to stay in the big leagues to a polished veteran who knows as well as anybody how to pitch in the toughest ballpark in the majors. Colorado is the place where he's learned to control his emotions and use that energy as a positive as opposed to a negative. Colorado is the place where he suffered a devastating elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery and where he rehabbed and came back as strong as ever. Colorado is the place where he learned how to cut down extra base hits, bear down in big situations, polish his breaking pitch, not give into hitters, and trust his stuff with men on base. Colorado is his home.
When he first arrived here, De La Rosa was an afterthought; the player to be named later in a Ramon Ramirez deal in 2008. Look at him now. He represents a counterpoint to almost everything most people think of when they think about pitching in this organization.
They say the Rockies don't develop pitchers well, but they developed him. They say it's harder to pitch at Coors Field, but it's not for him. They say that nobody, if given the choice, would want to pitch for the Rockies, but he does.
Think for a moment about how awful the Rockies have been over the last four years, and then think about the Rockies 46-9 record in the last 55 games De La Rosa's started at home. This means that over that time, 1.5 million people bought tickets to see the Rockies play at Coors Field and got to see them win at least partially because of him. In times like these, the value of those fans having a pleasant evening at the ballpark can't be undersold.
The Rockies are a great fit for Jorge De La Rosa, and Jorge De La Rosa is a great fit for the Rockies. For better or worse, they are partners made for each other. Our own holly96 may have put it best last night:
He's a decent pitcher who wants to pitch in Colorado (and has a history of pitching well in Colorado) for a reasonable contract. That's the kind of gift horse this franchise can't afford to look in the mouth.
Jorge De La Rosa is going to pitch again for the Rockies Saturday night at Coors Field against the Padres. It won't be a packed house as it's just two bad teams playing out the season in September, but if you're there, give De La Rosa a standing ovation when he comes out in the first inning. He deserves it for everything he's accomplished with this organization, and who knows, maybe a couple of guys named Nolan and Corey will hear it and decide they want to stay here long term too.