The Colorado Rockies have had an eventful offseason already. While things got off to a slow start the Rockies have made three key acquisitions in the last week. First, they signed Chris Iannetta to bolster their catching ranks and provide a veteran presence to their young rotation. Their main focus during the winter meetings appears to have been the bullpen as they have signed Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee to very similar three-year, $27 million contracts, though McGee’s has an option for a fourth year as well.
The Rockies don’t appear to be done either, as they have continued to have talk with Greg Holland about returning to be their closer again. The latest news is that those talks are not close, but their willingness to continue to engage in those talks signals that they are not done with their offseason acquisitions and that another big deal may still be coming.
And they should have the room to do it. When we combine all of the team’s salary figures, the Rockies’ current 2018 payroll is at $121.6 million, and assuming that the team’s payroll in 2018 is roughly equivalent to the 2017 payroll, that leaves $25 million for them to spend this offseason.
That’s a safe assumption to make, as Jeff Bridich said just that before the winter meetings began. 2017’s final number came in at $147.6 million, but that included $22 million in dead money thanks to José Reyes. While the Rockies could end the offseason shy of that number if the right deals don’t materialize, Bridich’s willingness to share that information makes it a solid starting place in projecting the Rockies remaining spending power.
The Rockies currently have two empty spots on their official 40-man roster; however, once Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw’s deals are made official the Rockies will be at capacity.
If the Rockies sign anyone else to an MLB deal, which is highly likely at this point considering the rumors, they’ll need to make space on the 40-man roster for them before the deal can be made official. The lag time between a deal being agreed upon and becoming official gives the Rockies plenty of options for removing players from the 40-man roster including trade, release, or outrighting them to the minors if they can pass them through waivers.
The players most likely to be removed from the roster at this point would be those whose place on the depth chart makes them the most expendable. Jordan Patterson, Zach Jemiola, Shane Carle, and Zac Rosscup.
The Rockies salary situation isn’t quite as clear, but with a few safe assumptions one can get a decent idea of where the Rockies stand and how much money they could potentially still spend this offseason.
At the beginning of the offseason, the Rockies had $63.8 million committed to 5 players with guaranteed contracts: Ian Desmond, Nolan Arenado, Gerardo Parra, Michael Dunn, and Adam Ottavino.
They also have five players eligible for arbitration this offseason, and while those numbers won’t be finalized till later in the offseason, we can use MLB Trade Rumors projections to get a very good estimate of what each player will earn. Together, Charlie Blackmon, DJ LeMahieu, Chad Bettis, Chris Rusin, and Zac Rosscup are projected to earn $25.7 million.
The Rockies have already agreed to new contracts with three free agents this offseason. While we only have the exact contract details for Iannetta, we have a rough estimate for both Shaw and McGee and and will have to make our biggest assumption by saying that the two new relievers contracts will have a flat structure. Obviously if the deals are significantly front or back loaded this could look different, but if they’re relatively flat in the earnings from year to year we should be good. Added up, the free agents signed so far will cost the Rockies $21.6 million in 2018.
The Rockies also still have $4 million on the books for Jose Reyes. Thankfully, that is the last the Rockies will ever have to pay him.
The final piece is the simplest, we add 12 players at a number slightly higher than the league minimum to account for the the pre-arbitration players that would fill out the rest of the Rockies’ active roster if they don’t sing any other players. That total is $6.6 million.
The $29 million the Rockies could have left may look like a surprisingly large amount of money left considering the Rockies two big reliever signings. But it makes it quite clear why the Rockies haven’t closed up shop at the winter meetings and are still being connected to some of the top free agents left and why those bottom players on the 40-man roster shouldn’t get too comfortable.