The Rockies find themselves in a rather awkward situation heading into the 2015, and if you want to understand the moves they make this winter (or perhaps more accurately, the lack of moves they make), you have to understand where they sit in the broader landscape which extends beyond the 2015 season.
Before I go into that however, I want to repeat something I said in the comments section back in mid-December regarding an annoying myth that's been developed and accepted by far too many fans of this franchise: the old wise tale claim that the Rockies never make any real changes and just keep bringing back the same players year after year after year and hoping for better luck. Well that couldn't be further from the truth:
If you take the 30 players (15 hitters with the most plate appearances and 15 pitchers with the most innings) with the most playing time in 2011, only six of them were on the roster in 2014. They are Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Juan Nicasio, and Matt Belisle (and Nicasio and Belisle are already gone so it's now down to four).
The idea that they keep bringing back the same team over and over again just hoping for better luck year after year after year is a myth. That roster has been almost completely turned over during this four year dry spell, and now there's been changes in the front office too.
The only players the Rockies consistently keep bringing back hoping for better luck are Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Jorge De La Rosa, and Jhoulys Chacin.
Yes much of the 2015 roster is going to look like the 2014 roster, but you know what, that's not a terrible thing. The reason is twofold:
1) Injuries really were bad enough in 2014 to justify bringing back many of the same pieces.
2) This path likely gives the Rockies the most flexibility heading into 2016 when their stock should really start to rise.
If you look at the Cot's Contracts page that details the control time and payments due to everyone on the Colorado roster, you'll notice something interesting: The vast majority of the current core is under team control beyond the 2015 season, and in many cases well beyond the 2015 season. There are only four players who either don't have a contract with the Rockies for 2016 yet or won't have at least six years of service time allowing them to enter free agency at the end of this season. They are Justin Morneau, who has a mutual option with the team to sick around in 2016, Drew Stubbs, who for reasons I talked about last summer kind of makes sense to keep, Jhoulys Chacin, who wouldn't fetch anything in a trade right now thanks to his 2014 injury, and LaTroy Hawkins, who's retiring at the end of this season.
This is where that awkward situation comes into play. The Rockies like the general core of players they have, but also realize they need to add to it. However, they don't have the resources to add what they truly need in 2015 without damaging their future.
What the club does have though is five young arms born less than three and a half years apart at different points in their developmental journey. Between Tyler Matzek, Jon Gray, Eddie Butler, Tyler Anderson, and Kyle Freeland, the Rockies feel like they finally have some impact pitching coming out of their system that could make baseball in Denver a whole lot more fun in the coming seasons. Not all of these arms will reach their potential, but you can now clearly see a group of young pitchers who are either close enough to the majors leagues or already polished enough to warrant excitement. They won't be able to flip a switch overnight, but they should represent a steady flow of young, cost controlled, and hopefully effective arms to fill a whole this roster has consistently displayed since the spring of 2011.
This is the game changer the Rockies are banking on when added to their current core of players. By not making any other major moves now, they buy themselves more financial flexability going forward when they have a better idea of what they truly need when they get to the point where they're trying to fill cracks in the roster instead of gaping holes. This type of fix on the free agent / trade market is something much more reasonable for this club, especially since the team is already so far down the road they're on in building from within with this group of young pitchers. It's sort of like being in an amusement park and realizing that you still have another 30 minutes to go in line before you can get on the ride. Maybe you can get on another ride instantly right now, but the line you're currently standing in is over two hours long so since you're waited this long you might as well stick with it and see what this particular roller coaster is all about. Once you abandon this wait by either trading away pieces that could be valuable to your next window or tie up so many financial resources that you can't fix cracks, you're not getting this ride.
Now the one thing the Rockies can do right now is shop guys like Morneau, Stubbs, and Hawkins. However, they can also do that at the trade deadline this summer if things don't work out in the first half of the season. The risk here is that they might not have the same value in July as they do right now if they perform poorly or get injured, but if the offering prices are too low this winter and can't bring anything significant back any anyway, that's a gamble worth taking.
In short, the Rockies are not having a quiet offseason because they never make moves or because they don't care about competing with the other teams in the division; they're having a quiet offseason because it makes perfect sense in a larger plan that extends beyond 2015 and is pretty clearly relying on some help from the farm they haven't had in years. This plan may not mean instant success in 2015, but good things come to those who wait.
Reports are coming out this morning that James Shields has a mystery team offering him at least five years and $100 million. According to these reports, it would push the Marlins, Red Sox, Giants, Padres, D'Backs and Royals out of the running. Shields is one of two players left on the free agent market along with Max Scherzer who will cost whatever team signs him a draft pick.
It's not surprising, but MLB confirmed yesterday that it's unlikely to institute a pitch clock in 2015. This is good news for Jorge De La Rosa who took the second-most time between pitches on average of any starting pitcher in the majors last season. Also from this link is a couple of interesting notes about possible tweaks to the rules involving sliding directly into second base and keeping one foot in the batter's box.
The Hall of Fame Votes won't be announced until tomorrow but we already have a really good idea of what the results are going to look like. Mark Townsend breaks it down in detail here, but if you want the quick version, here's the link to percentage of votes each player received on ballots already made public. With just over a quarter of the ballots reporting, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio, and Mike Piazza would be elected into the Hall.
However, history tells us that the public ballots tend to be more generous than the private ballots, and with Piazza just barely making the cut on the public ballots, he's likely not getting in this year. Biggio on the other hand is the really, really close call but I think he makes it this time (even though I personally wouldn't vote for him). Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz should get in no problem according to this data, although I can't for the life of me understand why the vote totals are so different for Smoltz and Mike Mussina, especially since I consider Curt Schilling a better Hall of Fame candidate than both of them.
The Rockies-related note here is Larry Walker only getting 8.7 percent of the vote on the public ballots. This leaves him in danger of falling off the ballot completely (which is asinine), but that's unlikely to happen this year since he'd have to get less than 3.6 percent of the vote on the private ballots for that to happen, and even the private ballot voters aren't that rough.