As part of finalizing their Opening Day roster, the Colorado Rockies announced the baffling decision to designate reliever Miguel Castro for assignment in order to make room on the 40-man roster for Kyle Freeland.
Putting Freeland on the roster is not the problem; he more than earned a spot in the Opening Day rotation. But there were so many ways to open a spot on the 40-man roster that would have made more sense than essentially giving up on a 22-year-old reliever with an upper 90s fastball.
To give the Rockies the benefit of the doubt, they could have a very bad medical report on Castro, who did have shoulder and back injuries last season. Or Jeff Bridich could have a trade in the works, but that seems especially unlikely.
Castro started last season strong, with a 1.50 ERA with eight strikeouts in six appearances with the Rockies in April. Then he gave up nine runs in in 82⁄3 innings in May and June before being demoted to Triple-A Albuquerque. He struggled amid the injuries with the Isotopes, compiling a 10.34 ERA in 16 appearances.
The right-hander came to the Rockies with fellow pitchers Jeff Hoffman and Jesus Tinoco and shortstop Jose Reyes from Toronto in the Troy Tulowitzki trade in July 2015. After Tinoco’s rough season in 2016 and Reyes’ release, designating Castro makes the outlook on the return on that deal look rather bleak, unless Hoffman develops into a top-line starter.
Rather than designating Castro for assignment, the Rockies could have done the same to 38-year-old Chad Qualls, who has battled his own share of injuries since joining the Rockies in 2016 and posted a 5.23 ERA in 44 appearances with just 22 strikeouts in 322⁄3 innings. Instead, Qualls is on the 10-day disabled list with right forearm tightness.
Speaking of the disabled list, the Rockies also could have transferred reliever Rayan Gonzalez, who will undergo Tommy John Surgery this month, to the 60-day disabled list in order to make a roster spot available for Freeland.
Making either of those moves would not have had the long-term effect on the team that giving up on Castro might, and it isn’t easy to see why the Rockies made the decision they did.
It’s not necessarily a trend, but the Rockies have made other pre-season decisions that don’t make a lot of sense. When the Rockies placed pitcher Chad Bettis on the 60-day DL, they added outfielder Stephen Cardullo to the 40-man, and subsequently the Opening Day, roster. Cardullo did have a very good spring training and is worthy of his spot on the roster, but a better long-term move would likely have been to give that roster spot to Jordan Patterson, who is already on the 40-man roster, and add Freeland in Bettis’ spot. They also could have just not signed infielder Alexi Amarista, who made the Opening Day roster over Pat Valaika, who is probably a better overall player and a long-term asset.