It’s still early into the chess match that is MLB’s offseason, but the signs of what’s to come could be emerging as to what the Rockies starting roster could look like in 2022. While it’s impossible to know what’s going on behind closed doors with the Rockies front office, we can look at what we know has happened and what hasn’t as indicators of what could lie ahead.
Unfortunately, there are three red flags that might be ominous prognosticators. The first is the Jon Gray situation. He wanted to stay. He’s part of the best rotation in the history of the organization. Not only did he not get a qualifying offer, but Bill Schmidt was quoted by Nick Groke in his article from Nov. 16 in the Athletic, explaining where things stand with Gray: “There hasn’t been any conversation. We had some at the end of the season. And that’s been it. He said they’d stay in touch. I assume they’re trying to figure out what the market is.”
You know what they say about assuming right? Hopefully, Schmidt does. Either way, Schmidt’s lack of contact with Gray is disappointing.
Without a plan of who to take his roster spot, the Rockies are risking losing Gray and they won’t get the heavily cherished draft pick that they will get when Story signs with his next team. So, no deal at the trade deadline for prospects and no compensation pick. Just a departure and a huge hole in the rotation.
The second red flag is the lack of any free agent deals or rumors so far. With a potential lockout coming, it seems like it might be nice to have some of the “pieces” Schmidt told Groke that the Rockies need more of in place in order to not have an anxiety-filled scramble when business reopens. If you don’t count LHP Jose Mujica, a free agent the Rockies signed on Nov. 27, 2019 who has pitched 4 1/3 innings for the Rockies since then and is now again a free agent, it’s been 1,064 days since the Rockies last signed a free agent who impacted the roster. (In this case, Daniel Murphy).
This is troublesome, but not surprising in many ways. The Rockies aren’t in playoff contention. Their current roster can’t complete in the NL West or NL period. So signing free agents might not make sense if they would rather “draft and develop” toward the next contention window. The Rockies were a playoff team in 2017 and 2018, but didn’t take advantage of their chance, also losing Nolan Arenado because of their inaction.
However, the successful rotation still largely remains, even if Austin Gomber is in and Gray may be out. That rotation won’t last forever though and if the Rockies really believe it’s the best they have ever had, isn’t that worth spending on? Is that worth adding some power to this offense to see what this rotation could be?
Obviously, one deterrent to bringing in free agents is the Rockies track record with Murphy, Ian Desmond, and the disaster bullpen of Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, and Jake McGee. Those were Jeff Bridich moves. Schmidt is in charge now. He needs to show that he’s different than Bridich. He needs to start making his own moves and make this team his own. He needs to bring in some free agents.
So far, Schmidt’s just lost two of the team’s best players and kept others that helped the Rockies finish 15 1/2 games out of the Wild Card and 32 1/2 games out of first place in the NL West. I am not saying that the signings of C.J. Cron, Antonio Senzatela, Jhoulys Chacín, and Thursday’s deal with Elias Díaz were bad. They are good signings. They are just not enough on their own.
The Rockies need power and new players. Instead of fearing free-agent deals because of past mistakes, the lessons the Rockies must learn is to offer shorter deals and more one-year deals, as Paul Holden argued in Thursday’s episode of Locked On Rockies. Not overspending on players past their primes might be good too.
The third red flag is the latest reports of Ryan McMahon’s possible move to shortstop. McMahon is one heck of an athlete and if anyone can change positions in the highest level of pro baseball on the planet, it’s him. But why? When you have a fielder who replaced Nolan Arenado and played better defense, why mess with that? The Rockies have surely learned lessons about moving players to a vacant position they haven’t played at the professional level before. Desmond taught the Rockies this.
More than anything, this front office thought process is concerning because it is another indicator that the Rockies might not be planning to sign a shortstop free agent or perhaps any free agent at all. They might be thinking that young prospects are cheaper like Colton Welker or Alan Trejo.
American poet Maya Angelou famously said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” The Rockies have said they are a draft and develop team. They have said they won’t go back to spending like the past until 2023. Schmidt has said that the roster additions “might not all get done in the wintertime. It might happen during the season as we go along.” I am going to believe them. When we are over one thousand days past the last free agent signing, I won’t believe a free agent is coming until I see it.
In the meantime, I’ll count on a roster that looks eerily the same as 2021 when/if the season opens up on March 31, 2022. I hope I’m wrong.
Way Too Early 2022 Rockies Roster Projection
Rotation: Germán Márquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela, Austin Gomber, and ? (Peter Lambert, or Ryan Rolison or Kyle Feltner)
1. Connor Joe, DH/1B/LF
2. Brendan Rodgers, 2B
3. Charlie Blackmon, RF/DH
4. C.J. Cron, 1B/DH
5. Ryan McMahon, 3B/SS
6. Elias Díaz, C
7. Colton Welker 3B or Alan Trejo SS
8. Sam Hilliard/Garrett Hampson, CF
9. Raimel Tapia, LF
Bullpen: I don’t even want to think about what will happen if this situation isn’t fixed.
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When you have a catcher who hit 18 home runs, 17 of which came from June 1 on, you have to re-sign him. The Rockies did that on Thursday when they inked Elias Díaz to a three-year deal worth $14.5 million. The 31-year-old also had three walk-off hits for the Rockies, bringing power and clutch hitting when the Rockies really needed it.
The Dallas Morning News is reporting that Trevor Story met with the Rangers last week. It sounds as if the odds of Story ending up close to his hometown are pretty good as long as the Rangers are willing to surrender that draft pick.
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On the Farm: Arizona Farm League edition
In their final game of the Arizona Fall League season, Ryan Vilade (No. 10 PuRP) and Willie MacIver (No. 22 PuRP) each went 1-for-3, while Michael Toglia (No. 4 PuRP) drew a walk in three plate appearances and Ezequiel Tovar (No. 12 PuRP went 0-3. With the Rafters being held to four hits in the game, at least Rockies prospects accounted for half of them. RHP Jake Bird took over in the fifth inning with the Rafters already trailing 2-0. He gave up on run on two hits and recorded a strikeout.
The Rafters will play their final game of the AFL on Friday when they take on the Peoria Javelinas.
★ ★ ★
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