With Winter Meetings and Rule-5 Draft in the books, where are the Rockies now? Well, with the usually deal-making week in the books, not much has changed for Colorado. Being that the Winter Meetings were held virtually, it’s completely possible for free agent signings and blockbuster trades to happen this offseason since every day is basically a virtual meeting day. For now though, and not knowing what’s going on behind the virtual scenes, the Rockies only participated in Thursday’s Rule-5 Draft, picking up 25-year-old right-handed pitcher Jordan Sheffield, who was a supplemental first-round pick by the Dodgers in 2016. Purple Row’s Renee Dechert wrote more about the acquisition. Sheffield hasn’t played above Double-A and was moved to the bullpen in 2019 for the Tulsa Drillers because of command problems. He was one of eight Dodger prospects who got scooped up by other teams on Thursday.
The move marked the first time since 2013 where the Rockies took a player in the Major League phase without it soon becoming part of a trade or placed on waivers and then picked up by another team. Fifteen of the 18 players where were taken in the Major League phase were right-handed pitchers, even though the Rockies really need more lefties in the bullpen. (Check out how wrong 2020 went here in case you blocked not having a left-handed reliever for a stretch and being terrible even when they did). According to Rule-5 Draft rules, the Rockies had to pay $100,000 to make the deal and now have to keep Sheffield on the active 26-man roster for the entire upcoming season. If Sheffield is moved off the active roster, except for being moved to the injured list, then he will hit the waiver wire. If he’s not claimed there, he is offered back to the Dodgers.
The Rockies didn’t take any other players in the Rule-5 Draft, but they did lose outfielder Vince Fernandez, who was signed by the Giants in the first round of the Triple-A phase. Fernandez was a 10th-round pick in 2016 and hit .257/.346/.543 for the Double-A Yard Goats in a shortened 2019 season because he was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for amphetamines. He has big power, but also strikes out a lot.
And that was all for the Rockies in the Rule-5 Draft, which concluded the Winter Meetings.
On the bright side, the Rockies didn’t trade Arenado or Story, or sign any over-priced, aging free agents (not that they have the budget for this in 2020, but it’s just been their thing the last few seasons; so it still should be celebrated). If there is one thing that remains true in 2020 is that nothing is normal and predictions are more useless than normal. Sports writers should just give up on the clickbait headlines and ridiculous predictions, but with nothing big happening or a flurry of news to write about, I worry the prediction forecasts will be a never-ending vicious cycle.
Speaking of which, the prognostications were bold and they were many for this year’s Winter Meetings. NBC Sports guessed that Nolan Arenado would go to the Nationals (at least it wasn’t the Dodgers), Blake Snell would sign with the Dodgers, there would be superstar signings for the Giants and nothing from over-hyped Mets, George Springer would go to the Jays, and the DH rule would stay in the NL.
Bleacher Report made proclamations like Trevor Bauer and J.T. Realmuto making a big splash by signing with the Mets, the ever-awaited Kris Bryant trade actually happening, and Justin Turner returning to the Dodgers (which might quiet the Nolan to L.A. rumors if this would have or still could happen). One of Bleacher Report’s top eight predictions, actually said nothing big would happen (which doesn’t seem fair if you have seven other big things first, but that’s beside the point). Number eight is more like what just happened. Outside of the White Sox trading for Lance Lynn and picking up Adam Eaton and Kansas City signing Carlos Santana, it was pretty quiet at the Winter Meetings.
CBS Sports went general with their top prediction being “There will be a big free agent signing” because there always is, along with guesses like Cleveland would deal Francisco Lindor or Brad Hand, a lot of catcher deals would get done (including the Mets getting James McCann, the Cubs and Phillies swapping catchers, and the Rays signing Tony Wolters), and the “busiest Rule-5 Draft in years” would take place with over 20 Major League picks. There were 18, which is the most since 19 in 2010, and the total for the Major League and Triple-A phases was 74, which was the most since 2004; so, it was slightly higher than normal.
A newer CBS Sports’ newest piece has a different tone, noted in the title about the “underwhelming week where virtually nothing happened.”
So where does that leave the Rockies at this point in an unprecedented offseason following a pandemic-shorted season? Well, they have 38 out of 40 roster spots filled on the 40-man roster: 14 relief pitchers, nine starting pitchers, eight infielders, five outfielders, and two catchers. That means there are more spots to fill, plenty of trade rumors still whirling, and there is still just one lefty in the bullpen in Phillip Diehl. If the DH remains, the Rockies might look to add another bat. After non-tendering David Dahl, Tony Wolters, and Chi Chi González, Jeff Bridich said, “I would say it’s a start. But things are fluid and we’ll see” when asked if more moves were coming. It doesn’t seem like Sheffield is all he was talking about. The roster still seems very much up in the air, but it also seems somewhat likely that the Rockies will fill those places from within or by signing low- or no-demand free agents to minor league deals and hope to find another Daniel Bard in the rough in spring training. This year’s contenders so far are RHP Dereck Rodriguez, LHP Ian Clarkin, catcher José Briceño, LHP Brian Gonzalez, and outfielder Connor Joe.
Then there is the front office. Bridich obviously isn’t going anywhere, but there have been changes. On Wednesday, the Athletic’s Nick Groke and Eno Sarris reported that the Rockies have lost 2/3 of their data and analytics department. For those counting at home, that is four out of six in what was previously already one of the smallest analytic teams in the MLB. That leaves assistant general manager Zack Rosenthal and Domenic Di Ricco to handle all of the data analyzing duties. The Rockies didn’t lay the four analysts off. To the Rockies credit, they haven’t laid off employees like other clubs (unless you count Dahl, Wolters, and González). The Rockies analysts just left the Rockies and the baseball world altogether. It’s no secret that the Rockies haven’t put a lot of weight into analytics in the past, leaving it to players (mostly Charlie Blackmon) and coaches (like Dave Magadan with Blackmon) to innovate their own solutions to the hitting and pitching predicaments of Coors Field. Maybe the analysts were ignored and/or underappreciated or they just found greener pastures. Whatever the case, the result is bad. Despite Groke and Sarris’s warnings that there is “possibly a brain drain coming to baseball” due to COVID-caused deficits and shrinking front office payrolls, it’s hard to imagine other teams having two people in data analytics. For more on the Rockies need for analytics, check out Chet Gutwein’s Rockpile from Wednesday.
So where do the Rockies go from here? Who knows. All we know right now is that the Winter Meetings didn’t mean much in 2020. With 110 days until the Season Opener, that’s a whole lot of time for big things to happen or for nothing at all to happen.
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Becoming the second Rockie to ever win it, Daniel Bard was named the NL Comeback Player of the Year. Bard’s 2020 campaign remains one of the best, if not the best part of the season with the story of the yips being defeated after seven years. He finished the season with a 3.65 ERA, a 4-2 record, and six saves. Out of the 23 innings he pitched, he held the other team scoreless in 14 of them. He joins former reliever Greg Holland, who got it in 2017, as great comeback stories in Rockies history. In October, Bard won the Players Choice NL Comeback Player of the Year and if the Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year. If anyone else is giving out comeback player of the year awards, they should just give it to Bard now.
Welcome to the Rockies farm, Fresno Grizzlies! After announcing continued deals with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes and the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats and the new adoptee Class A Advanced Spokane Indians on Wednesday, the Rockies officially invited Fresno to be the club’s Class A affiliate. Fresno had been a Triple-A team in the Pacific Coast League since 1998 and at first resisted the lower class. But on Thursday, the Fresno City Council approved the deal.
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