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What do the Rockies need? An inexpensive lefty reliever

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Here are two candidafes

We know that the 2019 and 2020 Rockies were not good, and we know that the 2020 Rockies bullpen was bad — as in historically bad. We also know that the Rockies had no lefty relievers in their bullpen. Well, for the first 35 games, they had Phillip Diehl and the now-designated-for-assignment James Pazos, who threw for a combined 11 1/3 innings in 2020.

As for the farm system, Tim Collins (who’s had two Tommy John surgeries and opted out of 2020) has declared free agency.

With that in mind, let’s consider some possibilities to beef up this part of the Rockies’ roster.

But first, here’s the framework within which I’m approaching this problem.

Hypothesis 1: In the offseason, MLB teams (including the Rockies) will be fiscally conservative — Teams were already balking at signing big contracts for players. I expect that trend to continue, exacerbated by a 2020 of empty stadiums. In a recent interview, Rob Manfred said that the 30 MLB franchises combined for $3 billion in operating losses in 2020, which is less than the predicted $4 billion but still a significant amount of money. (Manfred has said that gate-related income accounts for about 40% of operating revenues.)

This means, probably, there won’t be much of an offseason market for Nolan Arenado— or at least not a market that the Rockies would consider entering. Moreover, the Rockies have their own losses to consider. Team Marketing Report projects that the Rockies will lose $174,725,631 in 2020. That makes them 14th in terms of projected losses. (FYI, the Yankees are projected to have the greatest loss at more than $437 million.)

We know that Dick Monfort sticks with a budget. In a letter to season ticket holders, Monfort made clear that there would “nothing normal about this offseason” because of MLB’s financial situation. In this 2019 piece from Thomas Harding, he made the following observation: Monfort “credit[ed] last year’s increase in attendance with helping his comfort level with a rising payroll.” And Monfort’s 2019 comments about having “limited financial flexibility” are a reminder that he’s working within a budget. So what happens to the Rockies’ payroll after a season without fans?

Probably, it means no big free-agent signings. Coming after the 2019-20 offseason in which the Rockies made no significant free-agent signings, this seems like a very real possibility.

Hypothesis 2: For a number of reasons, the Rockies will attempt to compete in 2020 — We know the Rockies don’t do rebuilds, and we know the front office believes in this team. Add to that the fact that they probably will not be able to trade Arenado in the offseason, and there probably won’t be much of a market for other Rockies players, at least until the game’s future in the time of COVID becomes clear. So it makes sense to play through it, at least until the 2021 Rockies become unviable as postseason contenders and the market becomes more clear.

Hypothesis 3: Because they are trying to contend, the Rockies will made a few inexpensive deals to shore up their lineup — An obvious hole in the Rockies’ lineup is the lack of the aforementioned lefty reliever. I think the Rockies will pursue one. That said, when you don’t have much money, the next step is to barter. We know that the Rockies don’t trade much, but when they do, Jeff Bridich often trades with teams in the AL East.

So with these three hypotheses in mind, I tried to find some lefty relievers that would work for the Rockies given these constraints. First, the pickings are slim in the lefty reliever free-agent market, and, second, the best ones will probably cost more than the Rockies are willing to spend. Instead, I started by looking to a recent trade partner, the Baltimore Orioles, to see if they might have some viable trade candidates. (Also, FYI, the Orioles’ bullpen coach is Darren Holmes.)

Reader, they do. Meet Tanner Scott and Paul Fry.

Tanner Scott

The 25-year-old reliever was drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 draft. His first year of arbitration eligibility will be 2022 with free agency arriving after the 2024 season. He relies on three pitches: a four-seam fastball, a sinker, and a slider.

Although Scott has had some control issues, he seems to have worked them out in 2020. He had an ERA of 1.31 in 20 23 innings pitched, and his HR/9 was 4.4 with a LOB of 84.7%. His groundball percentage was 58%, and he had a WHIP of 1.06. He was worth 1.2 rWAR. Take a look:

You can read more about Tanner Scott here, here, and here.

Paul Fry

A former seventh-round draft pick, Fry, 28, came to the Orioles from Seattle in 2017. He is arbitration eligible in 2022 and will become a free agent in 2025. He relies on a 93 mph fastball and 85 mph slider with an occasional changeup.

In 2020, Fry earned a 2.45 ERA and 1.409 WHIP with a 1.23 HR/9. Left-handed batters hit .273 off of Fry while righties batted .223. In 2020, Fry was worth 0.8 bWAR. Here’s a video link:

Read more about Paul Fry here, here, and here.

Scott appears to be the better pitcher, but either player seems like a more viable choice than those available on the free-agent market. What the Orioles would want, who knows? But this seems like a conversation that might be worth having.