Chad Qualls wasn’t supposed to be an impact signing. If anything, he was an indication the club saw 2016 as a bridge year to competitiveness, and Qualls was there to fill in until the young kids were ready.
Unfortunately for Qualls, the Rockies arrived a little earlier than expected, and unfortunately for Rockies fans, Qualls wasn’t ready to be effective on a good team.
At 38, Qualls’ career is likely coming to a close either this winter or next. The big right-hander spent the majority of 2016 struggling to get batters out and even worse, showing clear signs that his stuff had fallen off the table.
Qualls’ K/9 dipped nearly three full strikeouts (from 8.4 to 6.1), and his walks increased to 2.5 per nine innings. Any analysis of his numbers past ERA shows little hope that he’ll salvage the final year of his contract in Denver. There’s nothing to look at and think “this was just an unlucky year.” Qualls is 38 and the stuff just isn’t there anymore.
Fortunately for the Rockies, they may not need him any longer. Unfortunately for the Rockies, they still have to pay him. In a vacuum, the Qualls signing is a failure, it’s a missed opportunity at better arms for a better team. But considering the factors in play outside the signing, it’s a missed value grab that plagues every GM in the league. Sometimes veteran bullpen arms hit, sometimes they don’t. Qualls didn’t, so Bridich has to wear it.
It looks worse because of what the Rockies bullpen became. The bullpen that turned into a demon monster with only one goal: to sink a potential playoff team into oblivion. But, Qualls was just supposed to be a fairly cheap veteran pitcher on a bad team, not an impact right hander on a playoff contender. Instead, he’s an argument the detractors will use to call foul on Jeff Bridich’s team building. Which is neither fair nor unfair, it’s just what it is. Bridich has to take criticism for the product he provides, even if he wasn’t expecting Chad Qualls to be a giant cog in the wheels of disappointment the 2016 bullpen became.
Moving forward, the Rockies have a choice to make. Qualls is set to make $3 million in 2017, which isn’t that much money to eat to send Chad on his way. Considering Qualls may be the easiest arm to ditch from the Cthulu like bullpen of yesteryear, that’s likely going to be what happens. The Rockies are in win-now mode, it’ll behoove them to pay players to not pitch rather than to keep them pitching. That’s the nature of what sits in front of the Rockies.
Chad Qualls wasn’t good in 2016, maybe he wasn’t supposed to be, but the Rockies can’t take risks on guys like Qualls any more. He’s better as dead weight in 2017.