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The Rockies could still find low-cost value in free agency

Rockies news and links for January 11, 2018

BSN Rockies Podcast: The free agent who could make Colorado contenders | BSN Rockies
In a podcast at BSN Rockies, Drew Creasman looks at possible free agent options that remain for the Rockies. The primary focus, who Creasman believes “could make Colorado contenders” is catcher Alex Avila. It’s been widely suggested that the Rox see what the asking price is for JT Realmuto of the Marlins, but it is likely that high-end talent would have to be sent to Miami in return.

MLB Trade Rumors ranked Avila as the 32nd best free agent available among the 2017-2018 class, predicting a contract of $16 million over two years. Avila will turn 31 on January 29, and is coming off a very solid campaign that saw him slash .264/.387/.447 over 376 plate appearances. The backstop’s numbers were even better when the lefty was not facing same-handed pitching. Against right-handed hurlers, Avila logged a 134 wRC+, while only managing a meager 44 wRC+ against opposing lefties. The backstop did not manage a single extra-base hit in his limited 44 place appearances against left-handers. This could make for quite the platoon with incumbent right-handed receiver Chris Iannetta.

In 2017, Iannetta mashed lefties to the tune of a .300/.404/.563 line, good for a 148 wRC+. While Iannetta’s numbers against opposing righties were still solid (.234/.333/.490, 109 wRC+), the addition of Avila in a platoon role would clearly represent an upgrade offensively. Avila has also established himself as a very reliable defensive option behind the plate.

A duo of Iannetta and Avila behind the plate would provide significantly more established veteran options than Tony Wolters or Tom Murphy. Both youngsters have serious questions about their defensive capabilities and could certainly benefit from time in Triple-A Albuquerque to continue honing their craft not only on the defensive end of the spectrum, but on offense as well. I am personally a huge fan of Avila’s and was a big advocate of acquiring him at the trade deadline in 2017. Of course, going with Jonathan Lucroy instead did not set the Rockies back at all, as he was a key factor down the stretch.

Avila brings a history of quality defense, high OBPs, and some pop (especially when his appearances against left-handed pitchers are limited). Just about to turn 31, it’s possible that Avila’s best career years could be had playing in Denver. He also will not cost any prospects, and the projected 2-year $16M contract is palatable.

I am pleased that Creasman brought this up in the podcast because I had not considered Avila lately, but this seems like it would be a very helpful move as the Rockies continue their quest to move deeper into the postseason in 2018. I’m not sure I would say that this move would “make” the Rockies contenders (I think they already are), but the combined fWAR of 4.7 that Avila and Iannetta put up in 2017 blows away the -0.7 fWAR that the team received from catchers not named Lucroy.

Another possibility in free agency is a low-cost bat to pair with Ryan McMahon at first base. Mark Reynolds remains an option, but there’s another possibility in Danny Valencia, who offers more positional flexibility. Not only could the right-handed Valencia platoon with the left-handed McMahon at first base, he also has experience playing second base, third base, and the corner outfield. It should be noted that first base is the the only position where Valencia has not provided his team with negative defensive value, but it would probably be a worst-case scenario if Valencia needs to be relied upon to play another position out of necessity. Valencia would also exist more naturally in a platoon role, with his career 136 wRC+ against lefties, compared to Reynold’s 107 wRC+ in that category.

Signing Avila and Valencia would not represent major moves, but could go a long way to improving the Rockies offense in 2018. I recommend you give the entire podcast a listen as Creasman goes further in depth on why these two players would provide a boost to the ball club.

Offseason additions create powerhouse ‘pen |
At, Thomas Harding looks at the projected Rockies bullpen for 2018. There aren’t many surprises featured, with Carlos Estevez and Scott Oberg locking up the final two unassured spots. Harding lists Jairo Diaz, Rayan Gonzalez, Zac Rosscup, and James Farris as other names to watch.

Around Baseball

Agent fired for allegedly filming clients as they showered | NBC Sports
In unusual and disturbing news, Jason Wood of the CSE Talent Agency has been fired for filming players that he represents showering in his home. One player represented by Wood was prospect Riley Pint. Wood also represented talented players such as Andrew Benintendi of the Boston Red Sox and Jake Odorizzi of the Tampa Bay Rays. You can read more information about the allegations from NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra, including the statement issued by CSE in response.

Justin Morneau takes a job as a special assistant for the Twins | NBC Sports
Old friend Justin Morneau appears to have officially retired from his playing career, as he is set to take a role as a special assistant for the team that drafted him back in 1999, the Minnesota Twins. Morneau arguably seemed en route to a Hall of Fame career before concussion troubles took him off course. Morneau did end up having one last go-around of surplus value when he inked a two-year deal with the Rockies prior to the 2014 season. While the second year of the contract was plagued by injury, 2014 saw Morneau hit .319/.364/.496, with a solid 2.6 fWAR. While he played for his native Canada in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, he was unable to generate interest from any MLB teams thereafter. All in all, Morneau will go down as one of the best Canadian-born players ever to log time in the Majors. Good luck to Justin on his future endeavors!