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How Nolan Arenado’s injury could affect the Rockies

Colorado Rockies news and links for Wednesday, September 23, 2020

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Nolan Arenado was placed on the 10-day Injured List on Tuesday with left AC joint inflammation and a left shoulder bone bruise, effectively ending his season. In speaking with the media after the announcement, he said he believed the injury occurred during the series in Oakland on July 28-29. The shoulder had been nagging him all season, most notably at the plate since it was his non-throwing arm. His offensive triple slash was .253/.303/.434 in 182 at-bats — his lowest since 2013 (the batting average is his career lowest).

However, since the injury was to his non-throwing arm, Arenado’s defense didn’t suffer much. Entering Tuesday, according to Fangraphs, his 15 Defensive Runs Saved currently lead all of MLB. Only two other players have double-digit DRS this season — Joey Gallo (12) and Dansby Swanson (11). Ironically, the only season in which Arenado has had single-digit DRS was 2018 (7).

So with Nolan now sidelined for the foreseeable future, what could mean for the Rockies going forward, both short- and long-term?

In the short-term, it means that they will have to fill his spot in the lineup. Manager Bud Black mentioned that Ryan McMahon would likely be the primary third baseman in Arenado’s absence, but also hinted at Josh Fuentes (who is Arenado’s cousin, ICYMI) as a possibility if needed. Ryan McMahon has started all three games so far

McMahon was drafted as a third baseman and has been floated around the infield for the majority of his career. As of Wednesday morning, he has played 254 13 innings at third in the majors since 2017, and has eight total DRS — the highest of any position he’s played. However, McMahon has had a down year at the plate in 2020, hitting just .207/.294/.380 in 150 at-bats and has struck out 36.5% of the time — the highest percentage in the National League among qualified hitters.

In the longer-term, it could mean some potential shake-ups to the roster in the offseason. Arenado is due to make $35 million next season, and has a full no-trade clause and a player opt-out available after next season. When asked about potential roster changes next year, Arenado said, “All those things kind of go through your head. I don’t know what’s going to happen next year, but I assume there’s going to be some changes.”

There are a few players for fans to keep an eye on in the offseason. Daniel Murphy has a mutual option in 2021 and with Josh Fuentes playing as well as he has at first base, is it possible that Murphy could have played his last game in purple pinstripes?

Kevin Pillar has gone 22-for-70 (.314) with six extra-base hits — three doubles, a triple, and two homers — since being traded for at the deadline, but is a free agent after the 2020 season. Raimel Tapia has played well in the leadoff spot this year and Charlie Blackmon has looked more comfortable in right field and as a designated hitter, but with David Dahl still dealing with injury issues Pillar could be a fit in center field if the Rockies still aren’t fully comfortable with Sam Hilliard after just 88 at-bats in 2020.

If the Rockies decide to embark on a full rebuild, there are some pieces that could be potentially enticing to other teams.

With Arenado’s opt out and salary, it could be challenging for him to be traded. But Trevor Story or Jon Gray could be potentially enticing to some teams. Both are free agents after 2021, but Story just signed a two-year, $27.5 million deal to buy out his final years of arbitration until then. The Rockies have more depth at corner infield than middle infield or starting pitching, but it’s worth mentioning (it’s also worth mentioning that I am not vouching for any of this).

Depending on the extent of Arenado’s injury, it could affect the Rockies in a number of ways. Short-term, it affects their roster construction for the next week or so; longer-term, it could strongly affect the entire roster. Only time will to tell to what extent things will go down.

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McMahon feeling at ‘home’ filling in at 3B |

Ryan McMahon has had a rough season, but now that he has taken over for the injured Nolan Arenado at third, he seems to be playing a little bit easier. In his first two games since taking over for Nolan, he went 2-for-6 with two RBI, two walks, a run scored, and just one strikeout. In his third, however, he went 0-for-4 with two K’s. He has also turned a few nice plays, including one in the fifth inning of Monday’s game to get Darin Ruf out at first.

McMahon has played mostly second base in the majors because that was the hole that needed to be filled after the loss of DJ LeMahieu, but hopefully moving back to his natural position — even if it is just for a week in a pandemic-shortened season — will help him regain some confidence and allow him to have a much better 2021 at whatever position he plays.

Carlos Estevez’s slide illustrates Rockies’ bullpen issues | The Denver Post ($)

The Rockies’ bullpen is...not great. Patrick Saunders points out that entering Tuesday’s game against the Giants, Rockies relievers have posted a 6.89 ERA — the second worst in MLB. The Phillies are only team with a worse bullpen ERA (7.11). The Rockies’ previous worst was 5.53 in 2004. The loss of Scott Oberg before the season certainly didn’t help, but none of the other relievers have stepped up like they needed to in order to fill his cleats.

Right-hander Carlos Estévez has especially struggled recently, most notably since he was hit on his pitching hand on August 16. Prior to August 16, he had a 3.38 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 10 13 innings. Since August 16, he has a 12.34 ERA and 2.06 WHIP in 11 23 innings. He has also allowed five of his six home runs since then. It’s hard to say if the injury is still bothering him or if it altered his delivery somehow, but it’s certainly a shame to see his slide in this dismal season.

Here’s what comes next after the Rockies’ $106 million bullpen fix fails | The Athletic ($)

The Rockies officially designated Wade Davis for assignment on Monday. The move was initially reported on Saturday, but the move was made official on Monday. With Davis’ release, that means that all three members of the infamous “Super Bullpen” are no longer members of the Rockies. Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee were both DFA’d in July. McGee is pitching in the Dodgers bullpen and Shaw was signed by the Mariners, but was outrighted to their Alternate Site on August 19.

Nick Groke takes us down memory lane as to “how we got here” and takes a look at how this affects the Rockies’ future.

Reminder: The Rockies hate Oracle Park as much as the Giants hate Coors Field | The Athletic ($)

Coors Field has been documented for so long as the most hitter-friendly park in Major League Baseball. Oracle Park, on the other hand, is documents as one of the most pitcher-friendly parks. Grant Bisbee calls it “the purest yin and yang of baseball.”

He then goes on to outline how both teams have fared against each other since Oracle’s opening in 2000:

It’s worth exploring just how much the Rockies hate this place. In the 20 years that Oracle Park has been open, they’ve played 183 games there, or just a little over a full regular season. They’re 69-114 in those games, which is a .377 winning percentage. Apply that winning percentage to a theoretical 162-game season, and it means the Rockies have been the equivalent of a 61-101 record team in San Francisco.

Oof. He also writes that the Rockies have scored 601 runs in 183 games for an average of 3.28 runs per game, and have a team slash of .231/.298/.339 in 6,180 at-bats.

Not the best.

Beyond the stats, Bisbee goes on to outline what this specific series means for the Giants, who have been hopping in and out of the eight seed. The Rockies are further out but are still technically in the race, so it’s their job to play spoiler. They are without Giants-killer Nolan Arenado so that could prove to be a tall order. It is definitely an important series, so hopefully the Rockies are able to come out on top.

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