Bill Schmidt and the Colorado Rockies have a difficult winter ahead of them. Having missed the playoffs four years in a row, each with a losing record, Dick Monfort penned in a letter to season ticket holders that it was “unacceptable” that this has been the case. He once reiterated their intentions that they are “devoting all their efforts this off-season to improving this team in 2023.”
Make of that what you will, since we have heard this same type of thing copied and pasted for years, but there are plenty of important decisions to be made for the front office if they want to prove they are committed to improving. The first round of these decisions will come in the form of what players they choose to tender contracts, some of which are likely to be on the bubble.
Arbitration is the area that will have the most impact on the Rockies' available funds going into 2023. The Rockies have six players eligible for arbitration this offseason, and there will be some important moves that could be made to the roster.
Right off the bat, we can already pen Brendan Rodgers as a shoo-in to receive a contract and suit up for the 2023 season. The second baseman had one of the more notable seasons at the plate and should be due a nice pay bump from a league minimum. MLB Trade Rumors projects a raise to a little under $3 million, which seems reasonable and the Rockies could even go the route of extending Rodgers to buy out all of his arbitration years.
It also stands to reason that Austin Gomber is a lock to sign a contract, likely around the $2 million range. Despite his struggles, the Rockies are hoping that he can bounce back and crack the rotation again in 2023, or at least provide some long relief stability out of the bullpen. Either way, he’s still figured to be a key part of the Rockies' pitching staff, especially with the added baggage of being a piece in the Nolan Arenado trade.
Speaking of the bullpen, Tyler Kinley will be an interesting case since he is likely out for most of the 2023 season due to injury. After his stellar work this season he would be lined up for a nice salary, but the injury puts a damper on things. The Rockies could go the Mike Clevinger route the San Diego Padres took and buy out two years, with the bulk of the financial bump coming in 2024 when he will be fully healthy and ready to contribute.
On the other side of the coin, the other three arbitration-eligible players feel a little more up in the air. High cost for some, mixed with lackluster production from others, make Schmidt’s job a little more interesting.
The candidate eligible for the largest raise is Dinelson Lamet. Joining the Rockies late in the season, Lamet did provide some good relief out of the bullpen. He had some hiccups here and there but showed some promising stuff, and does still have that option of being turned back into a starter. The aspect that may cause the Rockies to pause is that Lamet made about $4.8 million this season, thus making it likely he could garner at least $5 million for his final year of arbitration. Is that a price the Rockies are willing to pay for a 30-year-old that pitched two months with the team? Or, could they take that money and apply it elsewhere? He’s an intriguing dilemma that I’ll be keeping an eye on when the time comes.
Ty Blach joined the Rockies from day one this season but had so many ups and downs that he found his days in the big leagues limited. The Rockies took a flyer on him as a bullpen piece, but his consistency took a dive at multiple points and he seems like the most likely to not be tendered a contract. However, that doesn’t mean the Rockies wouldn’t retain him purely for the prospect of building pitching depth. Blach wouldn’t command a high salary and there are still some things to like about him, but at 32, he’s taking up space better suited for younger players or other impactful options.
Last, but not least, there is Garrett Hampson. It was a difficult 2022 for the utility man, and the emergence of other young infielders and outfielders has put his status with the team in question. As was pointed out by Evan Lang in our recent Ranking the Rockies article, Hampson posted a career-worst -1.1 rWAR, while posting the lowest offensive numbers since his rookie season in 2018 while also struggling with strikeouts. His defense also took a huge hit, as he was thrown around the field and struggled everywhere. With a projected salary around $2 million, the Rockies could find themselves trimming some fat, with Hampson ending up on the chopping block.
Decisions loom large
Arbitration is the spot where things will cost the most. The Rockies are already figured to be strapped for cash for next season, leaving little hope they will make the necessary improvements to contend. If that means dropping the payroll of some of these underperforming arbitration-eligible players then that is something they will have to get comfortable doing.
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Here’s what went right — and what didn’t — for Rockies in 2022 | MLB.com
Thomas Harding shares six takeaways from the Rockies 2022 seasons. He points out things like the need for better depth, particularly pitching, and the injuries to Kris Bryant. He also points out the needs for improvement, like center field, as well as the rotation. He finally points out that in his eyes, Daniel Bard is the team MVP for the 2022 season just for how good he was out of the bullpen this year.
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Arizona Fall League
Glendale Desert Dogs 20, Salt River Rafters 4
The Salt River Rafters remain winless as they were dominated by Glendale on Tuesday night. Peter Lambert started on the mound for the Salt River Rafters and was roughed up a bit, allowing five runs on seven hits in two innings of work and was tagged with the loss. Offensively, the Rockies had no one start the game, but Braxton Fulford did enter the game as a pinch hitter in the sixth, where he would remain at catcher for the rest of the game, but Fulford wasn’t able to accomplish much, going 0-for-2 at the plate.
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