It seems as if we can’t go more than a week or so these days without the Padres making some sort of move to continue building the most formidable opponent for the defending World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. The Rockies have gone punch-for-punch with the Padres by countering San Diego’s big name acquisitions with...relatively unknown minor leaguers.
So who were the moving pieces in the latest edition of this back-and-forth?
The Padres acquired starting pitcher Joe Musgrove from the Pittsburgh Pirates, who, despite going 1-5 last year, had a 3.86 ERA and 55 strikeouts in eight games. The Rockies signed Nick Longhi, a 2013 draftee of the Boston Red Sox, to a minor-league contract with an invite to big league spring training.
Once again, a division rival took a step forward as the Rockies continued to look for under-the-radar players who, if they achieved any notable level of major league success, would probably be considered a surprise find for the club. But with the Padres consistently on a never-ending quest to get better this offseason and the Dodgers creeping into the Trevor Bauer conversation despite already being home to one of the best rotations in the National League, I’ve started to wonder if the Rockies have a ‘tipping point’ regarding a potential rebuild. If so, how much longer can they stay on the ‘competing’ side of that mark?
The team’s front office has once again restated their belief that they can compete this year, but most Rockies fans will tell you that the team will need a miracle season to even have a shot at grabbing a playoff spot and putting up some sort of fight against the Dodgers and Padres.
Although a top-heavy division hypothetically leaves one more Wild Card spot on the table for the Rockies, they aren’t exactly leaps and bounds ahead of the Giants and Diamondbacks. San Francisco recently signed Alex Wood, giving them a strong arm toward the top of their rotation. Wood has been a consistently solid performer in the majors over the last few years and the Diamondbacks, who like the Rockies have not made any big changes to the roster this offseason, played well below their expected level last year and have the potential to bounce back in 2021.
At this point you have to assume the Rockies will stay the course of competing with their current lineup, pending any low-cost additions. It feels like any other major move by a division rival could pretty much take the Rockies out of the equation for 2021, and could be the final push in jumpstarting a rebuild.
This offseason gives me no reason to believe the Padres or Dodgers will make it to spring training without at least one other big move. Another acquisition could, for all intents and purposes, push the Rockies over the tipping point.
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If the Rockies are hoping to move away from that above tipping point, this might actually be a move that helps them do it. No, the Rockies have generally not found success in signing an aging free agent, but Mitch Moreland is a power bat who could enjoy the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field. With additional reports that a universal DH could be in play for 2021, it might not be a bad signing, especially if the team wants to give Josh Fuentes a shot at playing first base full time. Of course if you’re wary of the free agent first baseman due to a certain recent transaction (i.e. Daniel Murphy), I wouldn’t blame you. The Murphy experiment did not go according to plan and any Mitch Moreland struggles, were the Rockies to sign him, would give Rockies fans an unpleasant feeling of déjà vu.
I’m double dipping from our friends over at Rox Pile today for a little dive into the newest Colorado Rockies player, Nick Longhi. Four years after being drafted in the 30th round of the 2013 draft, Longhi was traded to the Cincinnati Reds where he made his way to Triple-A for periods during the 2018 and 2019 seasons, sometimes manning the outfield, other times tackling first base. Despite never cracking into a big league lineup to this point, Longhi is 25 years old and has ample time to break out—a prospective the Rockies would be greatly appreciative of.
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