When news surfaced on Sunday that the Rockies released longtime starter Jhoulys Chacin, I was flat-out stunned. Not because of what actually happened (as it turned out), but because of what I thought happened.
See, back in January, it was widely reported that the Rockiesavoided arbitration with Chacin and agreed to a one-year deal that guaranteed the righty $5.5 million. It wasn't true. Since that time, we've been operating under the premise that the Rockies made a $5.5 million gamble on the health of the Chacin's shoulder and the effectiveness of his game. As Kris Hansen put it yesterday in the comments of the game thread, this gave us hope of a useful season from Chacin. If the club didn't think there was a good chance he could contribute, it wouldn't have committed that much money for his services in 2015.
Well, as it turns out, they didn't guarantee Chacin $5.5 million. Instead, the club gave itself an escape pod where it would only be on the hook for about a quarter of that money if it cut Chacin from the roster before Opening Day. That's exactly what the Rockies did.
#Rockies are on hook for 45 days pay for Chacin, which comes out $1,359,890. Save $4,140,110 by releasing him now.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) March 22, 2015
Looking back, this represents a completely different level of commitment to a broken asset. The Rockies determined in January that Chacin was unlikely to contribute going forward, and made other rotation plans. First, they traded with Atlanta for David Hale on Jan. 30 (two weeks after the Chacin agreement), and then they signed Kyle Kendrick in early February. Plug in the events as we know them now into the timeline and all these moves make a world of sense.
Hale's likely addition to the rotation should feel a bit jarring to anyone who 24 hours ago thought the Rockies committed $5.5 million to Chacin for the season back in January, but after reviewing the details, I'm pretty sure the club entered Arizona fully prepared for this possibility. Nowhere is this more evident than in the similar pitching schedules for Chacin and Hale, indicating that the Rockies were probably going into the season with one or the other in the rotation. On Saturday, just one day before the release, Chacin and Hale each started his own game in a scheduled split-squad pair of matchups with the Dodgers and Indians.
Chacin wasn't good. He allowed four runs on seven hits, a home run, and two walks in just three innings of work. By the time the once reliable righty walked off the mound, his spring training ERA had ballooned to a ghastly 6.52. As a result, it would be the last time Chacin ever left the field in a Rockies uniform, the only uniform he's ever known.
The rumor we all feared is now officially a reality. The machine is broken. We'll miss you, Jhoulys.
Oddly, as disappointing as yesterday's news was on a sentimental level, there were also some very encouraging signals from the front office on how they handled this entire situation.
1) The Rockies didn't give $5.5 million to a broken Chacin back in January. They kept him around as long as possible leading up to the season as he's shown he can be great in the past, but they minimized their financial risk and remained grounded in reality. This showed restraint during a time where they easily could have been sentimental.
2) Once the Rockies made that decision, they went out and picked up two rotation candidates in Hale and Kendrick to create a barrier between the bottom of the rotation and top prospects Eddie Butler and Jon Gray. These moves provide more rotation depth without tying up/giving away significant assets for 2016 and beyond, when the Rockies should really start becoming a contender.
3) New pitching coach Steve Foster and the rest of the staff were able to identify that Chacin wasn't right and didn't belong in the rotation in spring training instead of letting him start the season and drown in ineffectiveness. This isn't an easy call to make as good as Chacin's been for this franchise at times, but it's a whole lot better than watching the guy get bombed and the team going 1-5 in his first six starts before needing to cut bait.
4) This quote from Jeff Bridich in Thomas Harding's piece on the subject:
"It was a baseball decision. In our humble, collective opinion, we felt he was out-pitched by a group of players. It's a tough decision to make, especially with the type of person that he is."
Not that broken Chacin sets the bar very high, but with some of the garbage pitching performances we've seen in recent years, it's nice to know that the Rockies feel they have a rotation full of guys who out-pitched him while still (likely) keeping Eddie Butler and Jon Gray below the major league water line to open the season.
In the wake of yesterday's Chacin news, Tracy Ringolsby talks about how it opens the door Gray, Butler and others in the rotation. While nothing is official yet, I really think Hale has the inside track to the last rotation spot in terms of starting the season (I'm sure we'll see changes here as the season evolves). Even if Gray was 100 percent ready, only a fool would start his service clock two weeks before you could get an extra year of control out of him.
The real potential problem for the Rockies is what to do if Jorge De La Rosa's groin tightness prevents him from starting the home opener. At this point, if it's only going to be a start or two, I give it to Christian Bergman and let Gray, Butler, and Chad Bettis all get the work in they need in Triple-A Albuquerque.
You know Tyler Maun from a certain Rockies podcast, but he also gives us some valuable minor league updates. At the bottom of this piece about Cubs' prospect Kris Bryant, Maun tells us that Tyler Anderson said his arm feels great as of Sunday and that his slow schedule now is part of an attempt to make sure he's as healthy as possible during the season. There's certainly reasons to be skeptical here as often as Anderson's been on the shelf, but on this front, no new bad news is good news.
Here's a piece from late last week out of Los Angeles on the tight race for the Angels second base job. Why should you care about this as a Rockies fan? Well, one of the four guys competing for that job is former Colorado farmhand Taylor Featherston, who was selected in December's Rule 5 Draft. If Featherston does not make the Angels Opening Day roster -- and reports are it's going to be really close -- then he must be offered back to the Rockies, which would restrengthen the club's second base depth.
The Dodgers may have a big, big problem on their hands. Last night the official word came down that Hyun-jin Ryu will not be ready for Opening Day thanks to discomfort in his left shoulder, and the way this is going, we could be talking about something that has the potential to sabotage his season. Ryu missed two separate stints last season with shoulder inflammation and before the second one in September, the Dodgers were already trying to give him extra rest in between starts to prevent disaster. This spring, he's already had an injection in his shoulder and feels discomfort again after throwing.
We'll have to see how this plays out, but if there really is something wrong with Ryu to the point where he's going to be inactive or ineffective, it has the potential to slow the Dodgers down considerably. We know this because the club is already mentioning the likes of Joe Wieland, Zach Lee, Carlos Frias and Mike Bolsinger as potential April rotation candidates. Oh, and one of these names could be in the rotation before we've seen any sign of injury trouble from Brett Anderson.
I don't necessarily think Dodger destruction is the most likely scenario here, but you can easily see how, if the Giants send their voodoo dark magic down the California coast and tempt the injury bug to bite the Dodgers rotation there's going to be some very big problems there. You would think that with a payroll north of $250 million, the Dodgers would have solid rotation insurance, but they really don't. Instead, they have a solid to excellent top four/five rotation. If that takes a few hits, and if may have just taken one with this Ryu news, things will certainly get interesting.
Finally, Joel Sherman says scouts are extremely skeptical about Yasmany Tomas' ability to play third base. Naturally, the D-backs vehemently disagree. They better hope they're right though, especially considering they just spent $68.5 million on this project.