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The Rockies will likely face a tough division again in 2018

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Rockies news and links for January 16, 2018

The Rockies are primed to take the NL West by storm in 2018 | Mile High Sports
It’s not a definitive “The Rockies will win the NL West in 2018” statement, but Chris Bohn of Mile High Sports offers reasons to believe that the Rockies will do very well for themselves over the course of the upcoming season. The three keys listed are Bud Black, the bullpen, and Chris Iannetta. Of course, there is reason for skepticism about how much of an improvement there will be over the 2017 team. Greg Holland, Pat Neshek, and Jonathan Lucroy has essentially been replaced by Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, and Iannetta. While there seems to be a general agreement that the three newcomers do not make the team worse, it remains to be seen if the Rox will indeed have an improved roster over the one that lost the 2017 National League Wild Card Game to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Reasons for optimism are certainly evident though. Black worked well with a young pitching staff that is expected to improve upon its success as the growing pains of 2017 wear off. Since 2014, Davis has established himself as one of the best closers in the game of baseball and, in a vacuum, is probably an upgrade from Holland. Then there’s Iannetta, who was better than any Rockies backstop in 2017, including Lucroy by a full win. Iannetta has never had a 4+ fWAR season, something that Lucroy has done twice (2014 and 2016), so it would be unwise not to acknowledge that Lucroy has the higher ceiling of the two. However, if we are to look from a “what have you done for me lately” standpoint (as the business of baseball often does), Iannetta represents the superior option. And speaking of ceilings, we know that Iannetta’s ceiling is even higher than the 120 wRC+ he delivered in 2017, a number he bested in 2008 during his first tour of duty with the Rockies, and in 2014, with the Los Angeles Angels.

Whether the Rockies have improved or not, the National League West remains a tough division. The Los Angeles Dodgers remain the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Diamondbacks underperformed their Pythagorean record last year, there’s no way that the San Francisco Giants will be as bad as they were in 2017, and the San Diego Padres haven’t necessarily gotten worse. It will be a tough National League West in 2018, but the Rockies seem prepared to face the challenge, a challenge perhaps even greater considering the following piece of news that broke on Monday…

Giants reportedly trade for Andrew McCutchen | McCovey Chronicles
The Giants swung a trade on Monday, acquiring outfielder Andrew McCutchen and cash considerations from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds, right-handed pitcher Kyle Crick, and $500K of international bonus pool money. McCutchen is in the final year of his contract, slated to earn $14.75 million in 2018. The Bucs will be picking up $2.5 million. McCutchen’s .279/.363/.486 slash will help improve a Giants outfield that left much to be desired in 2017. As a one year “rental,” however, the Giants will be tasked with finding an answer in the outfield for 2019 and beyond, though prospect Steven Duggar could be ready for an MLB spot by that time.

Along with the addition of third baseman Evan Longoria, the Giants have gone from the worst team in the NL West to what I would view as the third-best team in a best-case scenario. That said, third place was enough for the Rockies to make the postseason in 2017, however. As stated earlier, the Giants were already highly unlikely to be as bad as they were in 2017, but the team has been making moves that would suggest they are aiming for contention once again in 2018. General Manager Bobby Evans must have realized that it’s an even year. While I would still say that the Rockies are a better team than the Giants, any improvement in the NL West is going to make things more difficult on the Rox as they attempt to last more than one game into the postseason in 2018.

Eric Garcia McKinley wrote more about this trade’s impact on the Rockies here.

BSN Rockies Podcast: The San Francisco Giants are... back? | BSN Rockies
FanGraphs currently projects the Giants to win five more games than the Rockies in 2018. In the latest BSN Rockies podcast, Jake Shapiro and Drew Creasman explore why this isn’t a great trajectory. Looking at the aging curve, the Rockies are on the good side and the Giants are pretty drastically on the negative side. The Rockies have a better offense and a better bullpen. Buster Posey behind the dish and Brandon Belt at first base represent clear areas of strength for San Francisco. The starting rotation is debatable- the Giants have the more experienced big names, but beyond Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Jeff Samardzija, there are some question marks. Shapiro and Creasman consider how one could make a reasonable argument that Jon Gray was a better pitcher than Bumgarner in 2017, and could be once again in 2018. They also give predictions for how the final division standings will shape up for the NL West, among many other topics.

Colorado Rockies: Game times for 2018 officially announced | Rox Pile
Game times for the 2018 season have been released, and we can look forward to some fun matchups. Opening day at Chase Field against the D-Backs will be Thursday, March 29 at 8:10 PM MDT. That may not be ideal for EDT Rockies fans like myself, but I do count it as a blessing that I will not have to work during the beginning of the game, which I’m sure mountain-timers are grateful for as well. It looks like we’ll get to celebrate the holidays with McCutchen, as the Rockies will host the Giants at Coors Field on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. July 24 and 25 will also feature the 2017 World Series Champion Houston Astros playing a quick two-game set in Denver.

Wayne Hagin on Wade Davis: ‘That guy can flat-out pitch with the game on the line’ | Mile High Sports
Even if Shaw, and Iannetta end up being replacements that slot in place of Neshek, and Lucroy, rather than upgrades, there’s something to be said about having their contributions for an entire season. While Neshek and Lucroy were trade deadline acquisitions, a full season of Shaw and Iannetta could be just what is needed to improve the record of the Rox by a few wins. A one-game playoff against your division rival on the road isn’t the most ideal environment if one wants to move deeper into the postseason.

Former Rockies announcer Wayne Hagin shared his thoughts with Mile High Sports about the 2018 Rockies, with a focus on the additions of Iannetta and Davis as closer. You can listen to the full Hagin interview by clicking the link above.

Colorado Rockies: what will it take to lock up Nolan Arenado long time? | Rox Pile
Noah Yingling at Rox Pile discusses what it would take to sign Nolan Arenado to a long-term contract, suggesting that he will demand an 8-to-10-year deal worth $35 million to $40 million as an average annual value. Yingling offers a detailed comparison between Arenado’s statistics and those of Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, who recently agreed to a $10.85 million contract with the Cubs for 2018, a record for a first-time arbitration eligible player. There are many talented third basemen in the game right now, and while they seem to be the popular choices, it probably doesn’t come down to a two-horse race between Bryant and Arenado for who is “the best.” I did enjoy the tidbit about how Arenado has saved 42 more defensive runs at third base than Bryant since 2015. Arenado is unquestionably a better defensive third baseman than Bryant, but the jury still may be out on the offense. Look at their numbers and judge for yourself.

Career Retrospectives

Prospect Retrospective: the career of Justin Morneau | Minor League Ball
A press conference has been announced for Wednesday as Justin Morneau looks to officially announce his retirement from playing and return to Minnesota as a special assistant for the Twins. Minor League Ball offers a retrospective on his career as a prospect as he rose through the ranks to become one of the best Canadian-born players in baseball history. John Sickels details how Morneau was referred to as “a young Larry Walker” by one scout. Of course, one can’t help but wonder if Morneau could have become a Hall of Fame player like Walker had he never dealt with concussion issues, but for now, we will reflect on the solid career that he had and the talents he will now bring to the Twins front office.

Doug Ault and the Triumph of Joy | Baseball Prospectus
Rachael McDaniel from Baseball Prospectus Toronto shares the truly inspiring story of Doug Ault, the man who hit the first (and second) home run in Toronto Blue Jays history. Ault struggled with depression and a belief that he was never quite good enough at the sport he had spent his entire high school and college career thriving at. Ault is also remembered for his leadership and empathy. In 1978, when women reporters were first allowed into the New York Yankees clubhouse, Ault was the only member of the Blue Jays or Yankees interviewed to share his belief that women should be allowed inside the clubhouses, because the women sports reporters he had come across in his career “were damn good.” McDaniel’s piece is a fascinatingly compelling read that will leave you with feelings of simultaneous sadness, joy, and hope.