A few hours later, six-time All-Star Félix Hernández opted out of a contract with the Orioles.
The two right-handers have thrown a combined 27 seasons in the big leagues. Their best years appear behind them, but neither have announced an outright retirement (so far) after Monday’s news. Should they enter the free agent market, it is presumable that any team could pick them up for pennies on the dollar.
Colorado is currently down a starter for at least a month while Kyle Freeland recovers from a shoulder strain. With a further loss of Scott Oberg, the team enters the regular season with an already-depleted pitching staff. Chi Chi González has earned the fifth starter nod after lowering his spring ERA to a solid 3.29 — but his 2020 efforts left him non-tendered last winter. The Rockies could find themselves in dangerous territory if their bullpen takes on some extra work: Mychal Givens, Carlos Estévez and Jairo Díaz have ERA’s over eight this spring.
The Triple-A reserve won’t open like normal until May, and the Rockies have reason to stay away from an MLB debut like Jose Mujica’s out of the alternate site. Injuries could be further abounding this year as MLB workloads jump from 60 games to 162, and one of the last things the Rockies can afford is another blow to their starting rotation.
Now may be the time to invest in some cheap insurance — even if it just be for a long reliever.
A full-circle return: The case for signing Jhoulys Chacin
Chacin signed his first professional deal with the Rockies in 2004. He debuted in 2009, pitching six seasons in Colorado before bouncing to the Diamondbacks, Braves, Angels, Padres, Brewers, Twins and Braves again, throwing just five innings in relief for Atlanta in 2020. Chacin reported to spring training with the Yankees this year and pitched nine innings in the Grapefruit League, posting a 3.86 ERA and 1.286 WHIP over 9 1⁄3 innings. He has posted a better spring body of work than 28-year-old Dereck Rodríguez, a Colorado non-roster starter-type that has allowed 12 earned runs in 13 frames.
If the Rockies’ front office continues to prefer a loyalty to their ‘own’ — a la Ubaldo Jiménez in 2020 — they may be further motivated to bring in Chacin.
A legend in his twilight: The case for signing Félix Hernández
Hernández has spent all 15 of his big league seasons in Seattle. The 2010 AL Cy Young winner appeared with Baltimore in spring training this year, making three appearances (all starts) for a combined 5 2⁄3 innings. He worked a spring ERA of 7.94 with a 1.412 WHIP, but his outings also came in mostly-empty parks in the Grapefruit League. It was hardly the environment he thrived on as one of the most emphatic players of recent history.
Coors Field at half-capacity won’t pack itself like his old King’s Court, but an upper deck on a venue is bound to resemble more of what Hernández excelled in.
(Admit it: you were excited when the Rockies brought in Jason Giambi. We’re talking King Félix here.)
These deals are uncommon, but not unheard of
Chacin, 33, and Hernández, 34, are not exactly ideal candidates for a team eyeing a rebuild — but neither was Daniel Bard at age 34. It would be crazy to expect even half of Bard’s production from a last-minute signee, but his story can give life to another move for an aging arm. The timeliness can’t be ruled out either; the Dodgers signed Jake McGee two days before the 2020 season opened.
The market for Chacin and Hernández may heat up quicker than usual, being that both have ramped up in spring training. A 60-game 2020 means there aren’t many free agents like Chacin with MLB-affiliated innings last year. Hernández isn’t one of them, but he also didn’t have to make pandemic adjustments to a 15-year routine.
Stick to the schedule: Off days will preserve Colorado’s staff
Colorado has four days off in the month of April, which lessens the need for an immediate pitcher signing. Bud Black has the option to keep starters on a five-day schedule through those off days (i.e. Márquez, Senzatela, Gray, Gomber, off, Márquez. . .) , which can allow Colorado to avoid a fifth starter on occasion.
The rest days will soon dissipate, however; the Rockies play 55 games in 59 days from April 23-June 20. A single trip to the injured list by a Colorado starter during that time could cause an extreme shortage if Freeland isn’t back by then.
It isn’t desirable to look at a big league staff and tab someone a mere ‘innings eater’, but a new addition could bring a collective sigh of relief to the Rockies bullpen. In the wake of a record-setting reliever ERA, Colorado might need one to save the day in the coming months.
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Garrett Hampson led off on Monday and went 2-for-2, driving in three runs, touching home three times, taking Chris Paddack deep in the fourth and drawing two additional walks. Greg Bird and Yonathan Daza also boasted multi-hit afternoons; the three combined for six of Colorado’s 14 hits on the afternoon.
Colorado’s late innings were dominated by Ben Bowden, Jordan Sheffield, Lucas Gilbreath and Justin Lawrence each throwing a scoreless inning.
Rockies’ Mychal Givens has rough spring but Bud Black projects right-hander as set-up reliever | The Denver Post ($)
Speaking of pitching depth: Mychal Givens has been hit around for a 8.53 ERA in 6 1⁄3 innings this spring, but Bud Black sees him as a vital bridge to Daniel Bard in Colorado’s late innings. Givens has prior closer experience in his time with Baltimore, collecting 20 saves from 2018-2019.
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