Now that the Braves are World Series champions, which I never would have believed going into a postseason like this with the Dodgers and Giants, the offseason has officially begun. The players get to rest and the front offices get to work.
With the Rockies current roster and with new GM Bill Schmidt running the show, while also considering the Rockies history and what they’ve said about their plans so far, what can Rockies fans really expect this offseason?
The free agency market is loaded with talent and the Rockies have lots of holes to fill: outfield power and bullpen assistance, as well as probably a new shortstop and maybe a fourth and fifth starter if Jon Gray finds a home elsewhere. I have heard about the dreams of Nick Castellanos and Chris Taylor in purple, but it seems hard to imagine that the Rockies will be big spenders on the level of noteworthy names like those. With the ghosts of Wade Davis, Jake McGee, Bryan Shaw, Ian Desmond, and Daniel Murphy still haunting the Rockies, a big splash would be surprising.
At the same time, another offseason of minor league contracts, even though the Rockies definitely deserve credit for inking C.J. Cron and Connor Joe this way, would be considered unacceptable if the front office does care about improving the team and winning more in the future.
With a free agent list out with names like Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Kris Bryant, Max Scherzer, Robbie Ray, Kevin Gausman, and many more, it’s fun to dream about a new player to jumpstart the Rockies offense or bolster the rotation. However, new president and COO Greg Feasel has made it clear that the Rockies want to get better, but they don’t plan on spending vastly increasing their payroll, which ranked 18th in MLB at about $105.6 million in 2021, – yet. “We’re going to gain ground in 2022. And we think we’ll be back to ’18 and ’19 levels in 2023. That’s what the plan is.”
On Thursday, Charlie Blackmon exercised his 2022 option, which will pay him $21.3 million next season. Desmond, who’s opted out of the last two seasons, was scheduled to earn $15 million in his final year with the Rockies in 2022. As expected, that will not be the case as the Rockies announced on Thursday that they have declined their club option in the last year of the $70 million deal, instead choosing to buy Desmond out for $2 million.
In 2023, a chunk of Feasel’s increased spending will have to include the $16-21 million due to Nolan Arenado (depending on if he opts out of the contract or not) to play for the Cardinals, or someone else, to complete the $50 million the Rockies gifted St. Louis to take that All-Star third baseman off the Rockies hands.
Schmidt has also made it clear what the modus operandi for the Rockies is:
“At the end of the day, we have to win games. But at the end of the day, we are a scout, draft and development organization. That’s who we’re going to be. That’s not going to change. Do we need better players and add things to the club? Sure. There are a lot of different ways to do that. We’re not the Dodgers. We’re the Colorado Rockies. We scout, draft and develop.”
If we take Feasel and Schmidt at their word, which we should, there’s no point in getting our hopes up for an All-Star or big contract player, even if the Rockies lose Trevor Story and Gray. So what is realistic?
Here are four steps that I am taking to manage my free agency hopes and dreams as to not be devastated if they don’t come true and to possibly be pleasantly surprised if bigger moves are made.
1. Make peace with losing Trevor Story: Even with an astonishingly good shortstop free agency class, CBS Sports ranked Story No. 11 overall and the third-overall shortstop in their top-50 free agent rankings. On the bright side, R.J. Anderson also notes Story’s down year, saying Story could “end up serving as the winter’s Marcus Semien, settling for a pillow contract before landing the mattress next year.” If that’s the case, it will be great to have Story back in 2022.
2. Make peace with losing Jon Gray: The same CBS Sports ranking puts Gray at No. 11. After turning down the Rockies offer despite saying he wanted to stay in Colorado, Gray has put together a solid resume as a mid-rotation starter to make an impact on another team. He could very well make more money and find success on another team. Again, if he ends up signing a one-year deal on a qualified offer in Colorado, it will be a bonus for Rockies fans.
3. Hope for a homer hitter: The Rockies need more home runs. If they sign only one free agent, it needs to be a power bat. It won’t be Castellanos, Semien, or Kyle Seager, but could it be a DH like Nelson Cruz or Kyle Schwarber? Or are Eduardo Escobar or Avisail Garcia more realistic options? Set the bar low and temper expectations.
4. Dream of a big reliever, be ready for a return: Kenley Jansen and Raisel Iglesias are out there, but they aren’t coming to the Rockies, even if the Rockies offered them lots of money. Could Brooks Raley, Hector Neris, or Archie Bradley wear purple? Or are returns of former Rockies like Adam Ottovino or Mychal Givens more probable, with bringing back Jhoulys Chacín the most likely. I’ll prepare for Chacín and see what happens.
It’s important to keep hope, but fans need to set a limit on their expectations for this offseason. The last three years have been hard and we need to practice self-care to protect our fandom.
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Nick Castellanos has officially opted out of his contract. As Kevin Henry states, “Will the Rockies be willing to open the coffers to improve the outfield and add the power of Castellanos to the roster? The answer should be yes.”
Should be is the keyword. History and front office statements lean more toward no. If it happens, it will be amazing. In order to not have my hopes be smashed, I am going to assume this won’t happen and absolutely be thrilled if it does.
Despite defying his age by hitting .304/.390/.499 with 18 homers while being a 34-year-old catcher in 2021, Buster Posey is calling it a career. He earned three World Series titles in his 12 seasons with the Giants and will leave behind a big hole in the NL West champion’s lineup. He ends his career batting .302/.372/.460 with 158 homers, 663 runs scored, and 729 RBI. He was even better against the Rockies, hitting .339/.418/.568 with 29 homers, 109 RBI, 34 doubles, 88 runs, and 77 walks in 644 plate appearances over 159 games.
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On the Farm: Arizona Fall League Edition
Ezequiel Tovar (No. 12 PuRP) hit his second homer of the Arizona Fall League season, a solo shot in the fifth inning, to help the Rafters beat the Solar Sox on Thursday night. Tovar’s bomb was one of only six hits for the Rafters, who were outhit 8-6, but still managed to get the win. Michael Toglia (No. 4 PuRP) recorded one single and Ryan Vilade (No. 10 PuRP) went 0-for-3, but did draw a walk.
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