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A free agent Christmas wish list

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Colorado Rockies news and links for Thursday, December 23, 2021

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It may not feel like it when the temperature outside is in the 50s and 60s, but Christmas really is just around the corner. Seriously, it’s in two days. While we engage in time honored Christmas traditions like grilling on the porch and soaking in the sun, Major League Baseball is still entrenched in an owner initiated lockout. Colorado Rockies general manager Bill Schmidt didn’t make any major moves during the flurry of pre-lockout free agency signings, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of moves that can be made after the lockout ends. Admittedly, several players that would have originally been on this list were signed. However, there are still plenty of enticing free agents for the Rockies to sign.

Dear Santa Schmidt,

I’ve been a very good writer this year. This is what I want for Christmas:

Trevor Story, Shortstop

Trevor Story may have had a down year by Trevor Story standards, but there is still no one I would rather see the Rockies bring back. Despite slashing .251/.329/.471, struggling with injuries in his throwing arm, and a slow start his general offensive power, Story still led the Rockies in rWAR and was ranked the top player on the team. We also named him the Rockies’ most valuable player in our season-end awards.

Story’s 2021 season—potentially his last in Colorado—was full of ups and downs, culminating in not being dealt at the trade deadline and likely walking away from the only team he’s ever known for just a compensatory draft pick. However, both Bill Schmidt and Story himself have not ruled out a return. The Rockies would need to show the superstar shortstop they are committed to winning with him on the roster.

“Winning is at the top of the list and that’s something that has always meant the most to me,” Story said. “I think this is a chance for me to kind of see where that’s at.”

Nick Castellanos, Right Field

A career year for Nick Castellanos has set up the hard-hitting outfielder for a big payday as one of the bigger names of the free agent class. The Rockies’ outfield in 2021 was historically bad in terms of offensive output, and if the team really intends to be competitive they will have to address that issue with a big splash.

Castellanos slashed .309/.362/.576 in 2021 with 100 RBIs and a career high 34 home runs. He also earned his first All-Star election and his first silver slugger. Castellanos has always had good pop in his bat, hitting more than 20 home runs in each of his last four full seasons (2017-2019, 2021). The downsides to this signing would be the displacement of elder statesman Charlie Blackmon from right field, and the fact that Castellanos is a pretty bad defender. In 1123 innings roaming right field for the Cincinnati Reds, he was worth a fifth worst -7 DRS and -1.5 UZR.

Kris Bryant, Third Base and Outfield

One of the few players we know mostly for certain is on the Rockies’ radar, Bryant has allegedly been in talks with team before the lockout. Bryant has the positional versatility the Rockies love as both a third baseman and a corner outfielder. Bryant played the majority of his innings in 2021 as an outfielder with 696 total compared to 386 at third base. He also played a not-insignificant amount of center field and first base, and even clocked two innings at shortstop. This means that if the Rockies sign him, there are plenty of places for him to play if say... Ryan McMahon remains the every day third baseman.

Kris Bryant Defensive Metrics 2021

Position Innings DRS UZR
Position Innings DRS UZR
Left Field 309.2 -1 -2.3
Right Field 276.0 -2 -0.9
Center Field 110.1 0 -1.2
Third Base 386.0 -2 1.2
First Base 92.0 1 0.0
Shortstop 2.0 -1 -0.2
Total 1176 -5 -3.4

Though still lackluster, Bryant’s defensive metrics are better than Nick Castellanos' while his positional versatility grants the Rockies a swiss army knife style approach to keep a strong bat in their lineup. Bryant slashed .265/.353/.481 in 2021 with 25 home runs, an OPS+ of 124, and a wRC+ of 123 while playing for the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants.

Carlos Rodón, Starting Pitcher

Ah yes, the free agent starting pitcher: something the Rockies have been petrified to make a big splash on since the Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle deals blew up in their face. The Rockies have the money in addition to an open spot in the rotation with the departure of Jon Gray, so is it time to finally pull the trigger?

Rodón finally had his career season to live up to the first round, third overall pick the Chicago White Sox used to draft him. In 132 23 innings pitched out of the White Sox’ rotation, Rodón threw 185 strikeouts for an ERA of 2.37 across 24 starts. He also has a similar pitch arsenal to other members of the Rockies rotation that might help him survive Coors Field. His four seam fastball has a much higher spin rate than all but Kyle Freeland. His curveball spin rate is quite low—similar to Antonio Senzatela— while Austin Gomber and Germán Márquez have a high-spin curveball. Rodón also has a heavily utilized slider and changeup.

Adam Ottavino, Relief Pitcher

Adam Ottavino left the Rockies after the 2018 playoff season to live his boyhood dream of pitching for his hometown New York Yankees. He had an excellent 2019 season with an ERA of 1.90 in 73 appearances and 66 13 innings, but struggled in 2020 with an ERA of 5.89 in 24 appearances and 18 13 innings. Ottavino was traded to the Boston Red Sox for 2021, where he rebounded slightly but did not perform to expectations during the regular season with an ERA of 4.21 over 69 appearances and 62 innings. He did, however, perform solidly during the Red Sox’ postseason run with just one run on three hits given up across four total innings.

Adam Ottavino with the Rockies

Season ERA G IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+
Season ERA G IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+
2012 4.56 53 79.0 76 42 40 9 34 81 102
2013 2.64 51 78.1 73 27 23 5 31 78 169
2014 3.60 75 65.0 67 26 26 6 16 70 119
2015 0.00 10 10.1 3 0 0 0 2 13 N/A
2016 2.67 34 27.0 18 9 8 3 7 35 184
2017 5.06 63 53.1 48 30 30 8 39 63 100
2018 2.43 75 77.2 41 25 21 5 36 112 195
Total 3.41 361 390.2 326 159 148 36 165 452 136

Adam Ottavino has an immensely strong body of work with the Rockies with only two seasons out of seven with an ERA over 4.00, and only two seasons out of seven with under 50 appearances. His nasty slider was still wicked enough to work at altitude. His work ethic can’t be questioned. He could also be a much needed veteran presence in a bullpen full of young bucks, à la Jhoulys Chacín.

Who would you like Santa Schmidt to leave gift-wrapped under the Rockies’ tree? Feel free to answer in the comments.

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The Athletic’s Rockies reporter Nick Groke has been doing extra-large mail mags to say goodbye to 2021. In this second part, he addresses a lot of questions surrounding skipper Bud Black, general manager Bill Schmidt, and other members of the Rockies front office.

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