Baseball can take a player through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. As far as roster moves go, players in the Colorado bullpen faced both extremes on Friday.
Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw are no longer members of the Colorado Rockies. The news comes two years into a three-year, $27 million contract for both of them. Daniel Bard will instead pitch for the Rockies; his first pitch for the Rockies will be his first in the big leagues since 2013.
While Shaw was winning an AL pennant with the Indians and McGee was winning a gold medal in the World Baseball Classic, Daniel Bard was several years removed from his time with the Red Sox and was deep into a minor league quest for redemption. He faced “extreme control problems,” with double-digit ERA figures across multiple minor league levels.
Shaw and McGee inked their deals in December 2017 along with Wade Davis, as Colorado hoped to stack their bullpen deck and avenge the runs allowed in the 2017 NL Wild Card Game. As some of the highest paid Rockies, Shaw and McGee faced high expectations and external pressures to perform.
One month after Colorado agreed to those contracts, Bard accepted a position as ‘Player Mentor and Mental Skills Coach’ with the Arizona Diamondbacks. It wasn’t until January of this year that Bard toed the rubber again in North Carolina, showcasing a mid-90’s fastball. The velocity, paired with a restored presence in the strike zone, was good enough for Colorado to come calling.
This is amazing.— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) July 17, 2020
Daniel Bard's last MLB game was April 27, 2013.
Now he'll be pitching in front of 7-time Gold Glove winner Nolan Arenado, who made his MLB debut on ... April 28, 2013. https://t.co/yer5quuhc8
It is easy to feel elated for the 35-year-old Bard (and rightfully so), but an opposite reality has fallen upon the baseball future of McGee (33) and Shaw (32) in unprecedented times. They posted a respective 5.54 and 5.61 ERA after signing three-year deals with the Rockies, and while both collected an impressive paycheck in Denver, neither will have an opportunity to end those deals on a high note. Their most recent body of work could lower their current asking price, in a free-agent market where a lack of 2020 revenue could lead to further spending hesitation.
Bard, McGee and Shaw are entering new chapters in their careers, one unlike the other two. The Rockies’ bullpen will turn to new faces in 2020, and the 2018 assembly of the “Super Bullpen” is officially over.
Dan Richards of Pitcher List goes “outside of the box” with some bold 2020 predictions. His takes include the Diamondbacks winning the NL West, and Sam Hilliard being a top-20 outfielder.
The “elite raw power” and speed of Sam Hilliard could help him to become a premier player. “That kind of power and speed combination is rare in today’s game.” Richard’s writeup dives into the limited stats of Hilliard we have seen, and cites how his max exit velocity (114.1 MPH) can help predict his successes better than other metrics. If his 77 at-bats in 2019 are an indicator, he could cement himself as a lineup staple.
Hilliard will “have to compete for playing time” and could be on a “limited leash,” but with Ian Desmond’s opt-out, Hilliard could see an uptick in action. Matt Kemp was also added to the Rockies’ mix, but the 35-year-old could be more of a DH or pinch hit option than the 26-year-old Hilliard (Which NL Teams Benefit the Most From the DH? | The Ringer).
Richards explains that while the Dodgers lineup is “absurdly stacked,” they could be slowed by a Max Muncy injury, a David Price opt-out, and by a handful of players that did not report to Dodger Stadium on time. Meanwhile, Arizona’s additions of Starling Marte and Madison Bumgarner only help to fuel the Diamondbacks’ ambition for 2020. “With little opportunity for the cream to rise to the top, anything can happen in a 60-game season.”
It isn’t just the Diamondbacks that are getting high praise.
Matt Vasgersian and Alex Rodriguez spoke Thursday morning about Colorado’s postseason chances. Among the topics:
- Bud Black’s managing style (Vasgersian: “I have the utmost faith in his kind of style and leadership.”)
- The challenges for road teams playing in Denver (Rodriguez: “I always found it incredibly challenging, especially in the middle of the hot summer, to go there as a visitor.”)
- Colorado’s pitching (Vasgersian: “I think if they pitch; getting in and out of Denver, the climate adjustment, the altitude adjustment, their biggest challenge always. If they can pitch and they can catch fire, maybe the way they did the end of 2007 season, I don’t know if they will win 20 out of 22 again, but yeah, why not?”)
The above MLB projections reveal a tight race in most divisions (see NL Central!). Nine games separate first and fifth in the NL West forecast; even just half of Colorado’s 2007 winning streak could substantiate a Rockies’ surge in the standings.
Even the Padres, equipped with new uniforms and a ‘win now’ ownership mandate, see a drastic improvement in the projected standings. 36 games separated the first-place Dodgers and fifth-place Padres in the NL West last year.
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In other awesome news:
All 162 will be televised beginning in 2021. https://t.co/NyhX3NBnbI— Drew Goodman (@DrewGoodman42) July 16, 2020
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