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Colorado Rockies roster and payroll update ahead of the Winter Meetings

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How things look as the Rockies head to Las Vegas

The Winter Meetings are often the high point of the MLB offseason. The fact that the high point is a lot of team execs in suits milling about a fancy hotel in early December probably says a lot more about baseball than it should, but I digress. This week will be filled with signings, trades, rumors of signings and trades, and also the Rule 5 Draft.

Two years ago, the Rockies walked away from the Winter Meetings with a shiny new Ian Desmond. Last year, they signed Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee and made progress toward signing Wade Davis, though that signing wasn’t completed for another couple of weeks.

That list gives one a bit of pause, if only based on results (2018 bWAR: Desmond, -06; Shaw, -1.1; McGee, -0.8). But the Rockies come into this year’s meetings in need of a few upgrades, especially on offense, and general manager Jeff Bridich seems to be aware of that fact. To get a better idea of what those needs are and how much the Rockies seem likely to be able to spend, let’s take a look at the roster, depth chart, and payroll, all with help from our good friends over at Rockies Roster.

The 40-man Roster

The Rockies currently have 39 players on their 40-man roster. Ahead of the non-tender deadline last month the Rockies moved Ryan Castellani, Justin Lawrence, Josh Fuentes, and Sam Hilliard to the 40-man roster, designated Jordan Patterson for assignment, and non-tendered Sam Howard. Here’s the 40-man roster as it stands heading into the Winter Meetings.

Colorado Rockiess 40-man roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters (7)

Tyler Anderson (L)
Ryan Castellani (R)
Kyle Freeland (L)
Jon Gray (R)
German Marquez (R)
Antonio Senzatela (L)
Jesus Tinoco (R)

Relievers (15)

Yency Almonte (R)
Chad Bettis (R)
Wade Davis (R)
Mike Dunn (L)
Carlos Estevez (R)
Rayan Gonzalez (R)
Jeff Hoffman (R)
DJ Johnson (R)
Justin Lawrence (R)
Jake McGee (L)
Harrison Musgrave (L)
Scott Oberg (R)
Seunghwan Oh (R)
Chris Rusin (L)
Bryan Shaw (L)
Catchers (3)

Chris Iannetta (R)
Tom Murphy (R)
Tony Wolters (L)

Infielders (7)

Nolan Arenado (R)
Ian Desmond (R)
Josh Fuentes (R)
Garrett Hampson (R)
Ryan McMahon (L)
Trevor Story (R)
Pat Valaika (R)

Outfielders (7)

Charlie Blackmon (L)
Noel Cuevas (R)
David Dahl (L)
Yonathan Daza (R)
Sam Hilliard (L)
Raimel Tapia (L)
Mike Tauchman (L)

The only other transactions the Rockies have made to date in the 2018-19 offseason is for minor league contracts and invites to Spring Training. So there are no new names on that list to speak of. But it doesn’t quite communicate where the Rockies’ needs are and for that we’ll turn to the depth chart.

The Depth Chart

This is a guess of how the 40-man roster would shake out into a 25-man roster were the season to begin today. Players who would be in the minor leagues are in italics.

Colorado Rockies 40-man roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

1: Kyle Freeland (L)
2: German Marquez (R)
3: Tyler Anderson (L)
4: Jon Gray (R)
5: Antonio Senzatela (R)
AAA: Ryan Castellani (R)
AAA: Jeff Hoffman (R)
AAA: Jesus Tinoco (R)


Relievers

CL: Wade Davis (R)
SU: Seunghwan Oh (R)
SU: Scott Oberg (R)
SU: Jake McGee (L)
MI: Mike Dunn (L)
MI: Chris Rusin (L)
MI: Bryan Shaw (R)
LNG: Chad Bettis (R)
AAA: Yency Almonte (R)
AAA: DJ Johnson (R)
AAA: Carlos Estevez (R)
AAA: Harrison Musgrave (L)
AA: Justin Lawrence (R)
AA: Rayan Gonzalez (R)
Catchers

1: Chris Iannetta (R)
2: Tony Wolters (L) AAA: Tom Murhpy (R)

Infielders

1B: Ian Desmond (R)
2B: Garrett Hampson (R)
SS: Trevor Story (R)
3B: Nolan Arenado (R)
UTIL: Ryan McMahon (L)
AAA: Josh Fuentes (R)
AAA: Pat Valaika (R)


Outfielders

RF: Raimel Tapia (L)
CF: David Dahl (L)
LF: Charlie Blackmon (L)
OF4: Noel Cuevas (R)
OF5: Mike Tauchman (L)
AAA: Yonathan Daza (R)
AAA: Sam Hilliard (L)

When you put it in those terms, a few things stand out. One, the Rockies probably need to invest in some middle relievers or set-up guys, unless they’re banking on each of Mike Dunn, Jake McGee, and Bryan Shaw to bounce back (which very well could happen). But that bullpen looks mighty thin after Scott Oberg, but they could do worse than having DJ Johnson, who performed well down the stretch and in the playoffs last year, waiting in the wings at AAABQ.

The next glaring hole is in the corners. Ian Desmond is likely to get everyday at-bats, though Bud Black could decide to platoon him with Ryan McMahon at first. If McMahon proves himself capable of hitting lefties and righties, Ian Desmond might switch to the outfield. Even if he does, though, the outfield corps needs some help. Maybe Raimel Tapia finally gets his chance to shine, or maybe the team brings on someone they can slot into a corner or at first. Either way, this is the area that an upgrade would make the most sense, so long as Jeff Bridich sticks to his promise of boosting the offense.

He could also gain some offense at catcher. Positional scarcity means that any upgrade will likely cost a lot in the way of dollars and years or prospects. But judging by the way they were used in September and October, I’m not sure the Rockies feel confident with Tony Wolters or Tom Murphy as a long term solution at the backstop.

The question remains, however, how much they have to spend.

Payroll

Below we have the Rockies payroll as it stands, with the number of years of team control the Rockies have for a player including the 2019 season. Arbitration estimates are based on MLB Trade Rumors’ Projected Arbitration Salaries. Salaries listed are in millions.

Rockies 2019 payroll estimate

NAME SALARY ($M)
NAME SALARY ($M)
Guaranteed
Charlie Blackmon $21M
Wade Davis $18M
Ian Desmond $15M
Jake McGee $8.5M
Bryan Shaw $8.5M
Mike Dunn $7M
Chris Iannetta $4M
Seunghwan Oh $2M
Chris Rusin $1.7M
TOTAL $85.7M
Aribration estimates
Nolan Arenado $26.1M
Trevor Story $6.4M
Jon Gray $3.2M
Chad Bettis $3.2M
Tyler Anderson $3M
Tony Wolters $1.1M
Scott Oberg $1.2M
TOTAL $44.2M
Minimum salaries $4.9M
GRAND TOTAL $134.8M

What the Rockies have going for them right now, payroll wise, is that most of their best contributors are not yet arbitration eligible or still in the early rounds of arbitration. That gives them some wiggle room. The downside is they have some expensive contracts given out to players who struggled last year (once again, Desmond, Shaw, and McGee). Nolan is due for a big raise in arbitration, as is Trevor Story, but the other arbitration eligible players are in the early rounds of arbitration still and won’t command very large salary increases.

All told, the Rockies have an estimated $134.8 million on the books for 2019, which is actually less than the $136.9 million they had for their 2018 Opening Day roster. Considering the Monforts have increased payroll by no less than $9 million over each of the past three years, I would guess Bridich has around $10-12 million to spend on the 2019 payroll. What that would fetch on the free agent market is probably not much, considering the team has a few holes to shore up. Though I would be satisfied if they walked away from Vegas with a nice Arenado extension.

The Rockies are in the middle of a contention window and 60% of the division looks to be below average in 2019. If there’s a time to go all in (Vegas reference), this year is probably the one.

(Thanks to Bless You Boys and Athletics Nation for the idea and help putting together this article)