Coming off of a 90-plus-loss season and entering what is -- and pretty much always has been -- expected to be yet another one, the Colorado Rockies didn't make a ton of moves that signal an attempt to be competitive.
In fact, of all the players the team added and subtracted, the best one was Corey Dickerson. He was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays for a couple of pitchers, one of whom -- German Marquez -- is still a couple of levels away from the majors. That signals somewhat of a rebuilding effort, though that can be hard to see with some of the other moves the Rockies made.
Chief among them is Gerardo Parra, who signed a three-year, $26 million deal in January. Parra's signing took place before the Dickerson trade, but everyone knew at the time that it signaled at least one more move down the road. By adding Parra and parting with Dickerson, the Rockies will gain some defensive flexibility and durability, even if it means they'll lose some offense in the long term. Signing the 28-year-old veteran reeks of a win-now move, but considering the Rockies' two best outfield prospects -- David Dahl and Raimel Tapia -- both could be two years away, the presence of Parra makes a little more sense.
Still, adding Parra gives the Rockies three left-handed-hitting starting outfielders, so the club picked up a semi-proven right-hander -- Ryan Raburn -- on the cheap at the beginning of spring training. Raburn has never left the impression that he's an everyday player, but consider this: in 1,167 career plate appearances against left-handed pitchers, he owns an .827 OPS which includes a slugging percentage near .500. Rockies hitters managed a putrid .677 OPS against southpaws last season, meaning Raburn should present an immediate upgrade.
First baseman Mark Reynolds, the recipient of a one-year, $2.6 million deal, should help in that area as well. Reynolds, in addition to bringing that veteran clubhouse presence that the Rockies seem to love, has an .804 career OPS -- including a solid .348 on-base percentage -- against lefties. He should be a decent complement to Ben Paulsen, who really struggled against lefties last year but was solidly above league average (124 sOPS+) against righties.
While the improvement seen by the offense as a result of adding those players will ultimately be marginal, Colorado's bullpen should receive a significant boost with new personnel.
The Rockies made a couple of free-agent additions to their relief corps, signing right-handed veterans Chad Qualls and Jason Motte, and acquired lefty late-innings specialist Jake McGee from the Rays in the Dickerson trade. With Qualls, Colorado gets a strike-thrower -- just 14 walks in more than 100 innings of work over the last two seasons -- who has more than a decade of experience under his belt. Meanwhile, Motte and McGee might signal a shift in the type of pitchers the Rockies want to build around going forward.
As noted by MLB.com's Mike Petriello, Motte and McGee finished 1-2 in Major League Baseball in fastball usage over the last two seasons. The line of thinking from Colorado's perspective is simple: breaking balls don't move much at Coors Field, and while the movement of fastballs is also affected, the influence of altitude is much lower on that pitch. It remains to be seen how successful that will make Motte and McGee at the toughest place to pitch in baseball, but if the Rockies are indeed onto something, their acquisitions could end up as two of the most important in club history.
Sadly, the Rockies' single largest area of weakness -- the starting rotation -- went unaddressed during the offseason. The Rockies were reported to have varying degrees of interest in Yovani Gallardo, Kevin Gausman, Marco Gonzales and others, but the club ultimately passed on picking up an MLB-ready starter. The line of thinking is understandable; Tyler Chatwood and Jordan Lyles are returning from injury, Jorge De La Rosa is Jorge De La Rosa, and continued steps forward are expected of youngsters Jon Gray and Chad Bettis. But the Rockies rarely have been able to rely on just five starting pitchers, and while there's a promising group of arms sitting in the minors, none appear ready to make the jump to the majors quite yet.
All of this adds up to a team that, with better health, could add a few wins to its 2015 total based on the contributions of its new acquisitions. But nobody in their right mind should believe that the team insists this group will be the missing link to contending for a postseason berth.
Tomorrow, in part two of our Rockies season preview series, we'll break down where each position group sits as a whole with the new additions.