The Winter Meetings are underway in Nashville, and already the speculation across much of Rockieland is focusing on how the team might try to add some starting pitching. Thomas Harding has a post about the Rockies potentially following the lead of their NL West rivals and acquiring a starting arm, and Patrick Saunders talks about how the Rockies will likely have to go the trade route if they want to upgrade their rotation.
If the Rockies' primary focus is to make their 2016 team win as many games as possible, adding a starter makes sense, but if the Rockies are really going to commit to a nuclear rebuild following the Troy Tulowitzki trade that broke so many hearts, they need to prioritize their long term needs ahead of cheap, shortcut fixes that will likely only turn a 68 win team into a 73 win team, or something thereabouts.
With these options on the table, let's take a look at the starting pitchers currently on the 40-man roster via the wonderful Rockies Roster site:
1) Jorge De La Rosa
2) Chad Bettis
3) Jon Gray
4) Jordan Lyles
5) Tyler Chatwood
6) Chris Rusin
7) Tyler Matzek
8) Eddie Butler
9) Tyler Anderson
10) Antonio Senzatela
Let's knock off a couple of early season rotation options here. Right away we know Antonio Senzatela won't be in that role. The only reason he's on the 40-man roster right now is because he needed to be protected from the upcoming Rule 5 draft.
From there, we can also predict that Tyler Anderson will probably start the season in Triple-A since he last pitched in Double-A Tulsa in 2014 before missing all of 2015 with an elbow injury. He did, however, post a 1.98 ERA in Tulsa, so if he comes out of the gates strong and looks good in Albuquerque in April and May, I don't think it will be long before you see him starting games at Coors Field.
Then there's Eddie Butler, who also probably needs to start the season in Triple-A just so he's not playing the role of resident yo-yo like he's done for the last couple of seasons. If he's going to pull out of this mess, he needs a little consistency in his development, and that's been lacking since about June of 2014.
Once you get beyond those three though, the other seven are all realistic rotation options. De La Rosa has been a mainstay here for years now, Bettis seemed to come into his own last summer, Gray is ready for his first full season in a major league uniform, Lyles is a guy we still need to find out more about, Chatwood is back from Tommy John surgery, Rusin showed last season that he might be a late bloomer and is worth another look, and Matzek will go into the spring competing for a rotation spot. (This also gives me an opportunity to link the excellent piece Patrick Saunders wrote over the weekend on Matzek explaining his turbulent situation.)
That seems like more than enough starting pitching for a rebuilding team to me. This isn't to say we're looking at a good rotation. It's mostly filled with raw talent that needs to mature and guys coming back from injury who may need time before they're running on all cylinders. (It would take the Rockies winning the baseball lottery for all of that to come together in 2016.) However, this rotation as it stands right now does have exactly what you want if you're in a rebuilding process - A bunch of young arms who need innings at the major league level to work on their craft.
So if the Rockies are going to prioritize their long term future over dice roll upgrades for 2016, why would they want to tie up resources and try to add more starting pitching, and in this market in particular? Instead, the Rockies should be looking to move Jorge De La Rosa as part of their nuclear rebuild plan. He has just one year left at $12.5 million, and can you imagine what he might fetch in this market? It's the same market that just handed Jeff Samardzija $90 million after he allowed more hits, runs and home runs than any pitcher in the AL last season, and it's the same market that gave John Lackey $32 million for his age 37 and 38 seasons. Even better, think about the type of prospect a team might part with if the Rockies paid a portion of his 2016 salary? De La Rosa does have a no trade clause because of his 10/5 rights, but if the Rockies are also moving guys like Carlos Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon, I think De La Rosa will see the writing on the wall and waive it.
Even if the Rockies move De La Rosa, that still sends them into 2016 with a rotation of Bettis, Gray, Lyles, Chatwood and Rusin, with Matzek knocking on the door trying to get back in. That's exactly the type of rotation a team committing to a full blown rebuild should have going into the season. It's young, it needs experience, and it has a chance to mature right in front of our eyes.
Last year, the Rockies only got a combined 19 starts at the major league level from Gray, Lyles and Chatwood thanks to injuries and Gray not being quite ready yet. This year, if all of them stay healthy, they have the potential to give the Rockies over 90 starts as a group. Add in Tyler Matzek and you get a total of 24 starts last season with a chance to cover over 120 starts in 2016. I don't expect that to happen, but it shows the increased ability the Rockies have to cover outings with their rotation this season. Not necessarily with guys who are going to achieve instant success, but with guys who are building blocks and need this time to grow.
There will be surprises, there will be injuries, and there will be turnover in this rotation as the season hits the summer months, but one thing I don't think this rotation needs right now is another outside arm—not when viewing 2016 as a building block for the future instead of an opportunity to bring a knife to the gun fight Arizona, Los Angeles and San Francisco are currently waging.
Parting with one of the greatest pitchers in Rockies history is going to be tough, especially when he's been so loyal to the organization, but at this point, it's best for both parties if Jorge De La Rosa and the Rockies go their separate ways.