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Does Wade Davis really make the Rockies better?

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Rockies news and links for December 30, 2017

Wade Davis

Wade Davis and the Long-Term | FanGraphs
The Rockies found their closer on Friday, signing RHP Wade Davis to a record-breaking 3-year, $52 million contract, with a fourth-year vesting player option. Over at FanGraphs, Dave Cameron analyzed the deal and how it may not make the Rockies all that much better, especially for the long term. Davis essentially slots in in place of Greg Holland from 2017. With the Davis signing, the Bryan Shaw deal, the re-signing of Jake McGee, and the solid internal options of Mike Dunn, Adam Ottavino, and Chris Rusin, critics agree that the Rox have a very good bullpen for 2018. However, relievers can be a volatile species in terms of year-to-year performance, and the investments placed in Davis, McGee, and Shaw will take up a significant portion of the team’s payroll.

Even if the Rockies’ bullpen is elite over the next three years, will the offense be? After the Davis signing, Cameron writes that Steamer’s projections increase the club’s win total from 79 to around 80 for 2018. That’s even more optimistic than NEIFI’s 78.2-win total prediction. For the Rockies to maintain a competitive edge over the next few years, it will take healthy seasons from the controllable young rotation, and very good years from guys like Ryan McMahon and David Dahl to push the Rockies over the edge. It seems that the Rockies are banking on the successes of Ryan McMahon and David Dahl, which Cameron writes is “more of a hope-and-a-prayer than a sound strategy.”

I may be slightly biased as a Rockies fan, but I think this team is going to win comfortably over 80 games. When I look at the Rockies organization, I see a lot of depth. When attempting to think of the opening day 25-man roster, I notice a lot of glaring omissions starting the year in Triple-A who would certainly be contributing at the big-league level for a lot of other teams. Assuming a starting five of Jon Gray, German Marquez, Tyler Anderson, Kyle Freeland, and Chad Bettis, you have Jeff Hoffman and Antonio Senzatela waiting in the wings in case of injury or significant struggles. These are two pitchers who are more than capable of stepping into the rotation. I don’t see the rotation doing anything other than taking strides forward in 2018. I’ll talk more about the offense below, but I see depth here as well, especially in the outfield. There are multiple outfield pieces for the Rockies that have had success at the MLB level and quite possibly will be starting the year in Triple-A. In my view, the rewards far outweigh the risks.

Get to know Wade Davis as he brings his curveball and love of animals to the Rockies | Cut4
Enough of the second-guessing. The Rockies just signed the most high-profile closer on the free agent market! Let’s celebrate!

Compared to Holland, Davis had a better K/9 rate, HR/9 rate, ERA, FIP, and xFIP in 2017. This is likely going to be an upgrade! Davis also has only allowed 1.45 runs per average regulation game since 2014, the very best of any MLB reliever with at least 100 innings under his belt. Eric Chesterson at Cut4 details Davis’ deadly curveball, with a sweet GIF of Bryce Harper whiffing at it (The GIF also features a glimpse of Marlins Man too busy checking his phone to notice a baseball game happening in front of his very eyes). Chesterson also looks at Davis’s two trips to the plate since 2014, which both resulted in strikeouts, but he looked good swinging the bat for a closer, I guess?

Colorado Rockies: Jeff Bridich did his job this offseason | Rox Pile
If the bullpen was one of the stated goals of the offseason, I think one would have to agree that Rockies General Manager Jeff Bridich accomplished that goal to the nth degree. Signing Davis, Shaw, and McGee was far and away more than what I had hoped for going into the offseason. As Luke Mullins of Rox Piles writes, “I think it’s safe to say Bridich did his job … and then some.”

On Offense

BSN Rockies Podcast: The Battle for the Outfield | BSN Rockies
In the latest BSN Denver Rockies Podcast, Drew Creasman devotes a good chunk of the discussion to the Rockies’ 2018 outfield. Among other highlights, Creasman suggests that Ian Desmond will have a much better year and have an every-day outfield role over Gerardo Parra, and that Dahl should be the every-day center fielder.

Steamer’s 2018 projections have Desmond hitting .283/.341/.468 and Parra .281/.320/.433. Even just by looking at career averages, it would be safe to assume that this is how we could expect to rank the 2016-2018 seasons of Desmond and Parra (best to worst):

  1. 2016 Desmond
  2. 2018 Desmond
  3. 2017 Parra
  4. 2018 Parra
  5. 2017 Desmond
  6. Fifty feet of crap
  7. 2016 Parra

I’m probably giving Desmond’s 2017 too much credit here, but man, that 2016 season for Parra was just terrible. At any rate, Desmond’s 2017 performance was likely limited by injury, and it is likely we can expect better things from him in 2018.

As for Dahl, Creasman notes that he would represent a defensive upgrade over Charlie Blackmon in center field. While I agree with this assessment, I am honestly not so sure Dahl will crack the opening day roster. Perhaps I’m still caught up in my own speculation over manager Bud Black’s comments from July, but from my own interpretation, it doesn’t appear to me that the organization is ready to give Dahl a spot on the MLB club until he can prove he can have sustained successful at-bats following his injury.

Creasman later delves into whether Jordan Patterson has any sort of chance at cracking the opening day roster. Barring multiple injuries, this seems like quite the long shot. Patterson is very talented, but it’s safe to wonder at this point if he will ever have a chance at contributing in full-time capacity for Colorado. As always, the entire podcast is well worth a full listen.

Blackmon looks to keep improving in 2018 | Rockies.com
Speaking of Blackmon, he appears to be in a very good mindset heading into the 2018 season. MLB.com’s Thomas Harding has lots of great quotes from Chuck Nazty about how he is still motivated to be better himself while helping his teammates get better at the same time.

Colorado Rockies: Should they acquire Christian Yelich from Miami? | Rox Pile
As the Rockies ranked 27th in MLB in wRC+ in 2017, it would be wise to explore offensive upgrades from outside the organization as well. One option is Christian Yelich of the Miami Marlins, whose 115 wRC+ would have been third on the team to Blackmon and Arenado in 2017. Yelich is understandably unhappy with how the offseason has transpired in Miami under the reign of Derek Jeter, and the Fish have shown a willingness to listen to offers on the talented outfielder. Rox Pile’s Noah Yingling offers more information on what a special player Yelich is.

Colorado Rockies rumors: Is there interest in Josh Harrison? | Rox Pile
The Rockies have also been connected to Josh Harrison of the Pittsburgh Pirates, though Bridich denies those rumors. Harrison had a solid year for the Bucs in 2017 and would likely represent a modest upgrade for the Rockies’ offense. Harrison can play multiple positions, providing his gaudiest defensive value at second base and third base, while also showing at least average numbers in the corner outfield. Of course, second base and third base are not where the Rox are looking to upgrade, so the corner outfield would be the place for Harrison were a hypothetical trade to come to fruition.

Hall of Fame

My 2018 Virtual Hall of Fame Ballot | Sports Illustrated
SI’s Jay Jaffe takes a thorough look at the Hall of Fame voting process and lists his ten candidates that he would vote for if the BBWAA gave him a ballot in 2018. While they are not the exact ten I would vote for, Jaffe makes a solid case for his choices (and plays devil’s advocate for five other players as well). One of his final choices is Larry Walker, so this is a good one!