The offseason is now for the Colorado Rockies. That means the questions they were always going to have to confront are coming into focus, although much sooner than anyone would have liked. Let’s take a look.
Will DJ LeMahieu be back?
DJ LeMahieu is the best second baseman the Rockies have ever had, and time and again players in the Rockies clubhouse say how important he is for the team. But he’s a 30-year-old glove first second baseman who may not have room on the Rockies for the price and years he’ll demand in free agency. Garrett Hampson played impressively as a utility infielder in 2018, and the Rockies top prospect Brendan Rodgers cut his teeth at Triple-A.
It makes less sense to secure LeMahieu long-term than, for instance, Charlie Blackmon. The most likely scenario may be the Rockies offering LeMaheiu a Qualifying Offer that he’ll reject, and then he’ll sign something like a four-year contract elsewhere.
Will the Rockies exercise Gerardo Parra’s option?
As opposed to LeMahieu, the Rockies have the option to bring back Parra for just one year. He has a team option that would pay him $12 million in 2019, which is less than a Qualifying Offer would be. While Parra probably shouldn’t be more than a fourth outfielder, he played the second most games in the outfield for the Rockies in 2018, after Charlie Blackmon. Whether or not to bring Parra back brings us to what the outfield could look like in 2019.
The two shoe-ins for outfield spots are Blackmon and David Dahl, but that leaves one spot open. Assuming the Rockies and Carlos González don’t continue their one-year contract dance, that probably leaves Raimel Tapia as the top contender for the third spot if Parra isn’t back. Either way, the Rockies will once again have a glut of left-handed outfielders, with Noel Cuevas as the on-again off-again right-handed option. If the Rockies don’t see Tapia as a starter and decide to explore the free agent market to make up for Parra’s lost playing time, Adam Jones would be a good right-handed option.
Will Adam Ottavino back?
Adam Ottavino was perhaps the Rockies best reliever in 2018, and he’s about to hit the free agent market. That’s notable because it came right after the Rockies went on a relief pitcher spending spree. The Rockies have $42 million committed to Mike Dune, Jake McGee, Bryan Shaw, and Wade Davis in 2019. Just because they already have all that money dedicated to the bullpen isn’t enough reason to not re-sign Ottavino, but because most of those contracts look like a really bad idea now might be. Ottavino is lovable and has at times looked un-hittable in his Rockies career, but players like him don’t have a good track record for longevity.
Will anything be done about Ian Desmond?
Ian Desmond was better in 2018 than in 2017, but if that’s not damning with faint praise I don’t know what is. As long as Desmond is the starting first baseman — the “versatile” Desmond played 89% of his 2018 innings at first — the Rockies are likely to be one of the least offensively productive teams at the position. It’s not clear what the Rockies can even do with him though. The most fitting role for Desmond is still probably super-utility platoon player — someone who mostly hits left-handers and gets a fair share of playing time at multiple positions. That would allow Ryan McMahon to take most playing time at first, who probably give better offensive production there. He almost certainly wouldn’t be worse than Desmond.
Desmond could also move to the outfield and be that right-handed option, but the issue of low productivity from the places team’s want it — the infield and outfield corners — would remain.
Will the Rockies “make a splash”?
I completely understand the front office’s resistance to fan appeals to “make the big move,” and I also get why beat writers try to temper down those calls. They’re hot takes that assume of the form of an imagined reactionary front office chasing the shiny objects. They also don’t always work out. It wasn’t long ago when AJ Preller and the Padres splashed their way to the bottom of the NL West.
But the Rockies need only look at the team that dismantled them in the NLDS to see how some splashy moves work out exceedingly well. The Brewers traded their top prospect for a player who is likely to win the NL MVP and signed an outfielder who will probably finish in the top 10. They had the best record in the National League and will play host in the NLCS. If any Rockies fan thinks that it wouldn’t have been a smart move to trade Brendan Rodgers for Christian Yelich or to sign Lorenzo Cain and find places for them to play, I have a bridge made of offensive mediocrity to sell you.