The Colorado Rockies need a boost in the starting rotation.
One of the glaring problems of the 2022 season was the degradation of the team’s pitchers and the lack of depth when injuries and below-average performances happened. Things will need to be addressed and the Rockies need to get over their fear of signing established starters, and one of the more intriguing free agents that could be available is the god of thunder himself, Noah Syndergaard.
In a recent offseason chat transcript about the Rockies by MLB Trade Rumors, Anthony Franco brought up the idea that Syndergaard could be an option for the team to pursue in free agency and I’m inclined to agree. Despite a bit of a down year by his past standards, Syndergaard has turned in a fairly strong campaign in 2022 with the Los Angeles Angels and the National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies and did it in his first fully healthy season in a few years.
Thor Love and Thunder
In four full seasons with the New York Mets, Syndergaard profiled as a dominant power pitcher. He could wrack up the strikeouts, but it seemed to have an obvious toll on him as he dealt with arm troubles and ultimately had to get Tommy John surgery in May 2020. He finally returned to the mound late in 2021, only tossing two innings, before becoming a free agent. He signed a one-year deal with the Angels worth $21 million as a way to bet on himself and also try to set up a bigger payday in the offseason.
Unfortunately for him, he did not pitch like a $21 million pitcher in 2022 but was still solid. In 15 starts with the Angels, Syndergaard had a 3.83 ERA (105 ERA+), with 64 strikeouts and 22 walks in 80 innings of work. The Phillies then acquired him at the trade deadline where he made nine starts down the stretch, posting a 4.12 ERA with 31 strikeouts and nine walks.
He fits the profile of pitchers now that the Rockies tend to lean towards. He features a heavy sinker and slider mix as his go-to pitches, mixed in with a changeup, fastball, and curveball, all of which are intended to induce groundballs. In fact, he totaled a 0.66 GB/FB ratio and induces plenty of weak contacts, which is something the team loves to see out of their starting pitchers.
Longevity within a game is something that stands out to me as well. In his 24 starts this season, Syndergaard completed at least five full innings 20 times. In those 20 starts, he had nine quality starts and never allowed more than five earned runs in any game this season. He’s a professional pitcher with a competitive edge that is needed on the mound and I feel he would bring a tough mentality to attach pitching at altitude.
Thor The Dark World
Despite some of the positives that Syndergaard could bring to the club, there are some signs of worry.
Obviously, the biggest area of concern is the health of Syndergaard. The Tommy John surgery took a toll on his arm, resulting in a lower velocity on his fastball, but he has also dealt with other injuries that have kept him off the mound at some point in the past few seasons. Injury is a concern for every team and pitcher, but if you’re going to bring in a pitcher of Syndergaard’s status, you need him to pitch because you can’t afford another Kris Bryant situation.
The other concern is that Syndergaard isn’t quite able to induce as many swings and misses as he used to do. His whiff percentage ranked in the 11th percentile of MLB pitchers this season. That puts more weight on the fact that the defense needs to be solid, and Syndergaard’s margin of error when pitching is lessened if he can’t miss bats when he needs them. Plus, you just never know if he can adjust to Coors Field and how that will impact his pitches and ability to be consistent.
The other drawback for Syndergaard that is probably the defining factor is the cost. We already know Syndergaard earned $21 million this season and will likely be looking for a multi-year deal. The Rockies are projected to be pushed up to franchise limits in spending for next season (and all the money tied up in extensions and other places doesn’t help), and Syndergaard is likely to command a double-digit AAV. Still, it may be worth it if Dick Monfort is willing to spend some more money to sign Syndergaard to a two or three-year deal with an AAV of at least $13 million.
Thor Love and Thunder
While I’m not confident the Rockies would pursue Syndergaard (or that he would ever want to play for the team), the fact remains that they need to up their game if they want to compete. Good players will find a way to play good baseball. Syndergaard is a veteran with playoff experience that would fit in nicely with the pitching philosophy of the organization and help bring some more edge to the team as a whole.
Even if Syndergaard isn’t the target to focus on, a higher-quality starting pitcher that isn’t just a warm body is of the utmost importance as they look to fill holes for the coming years.
Would you want to see Thor bring the thunder to Colorado? Or would you rather they pursue a different starting pitcher?
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It’s a simple article from Thomas Harding, but it asks some important questions for the Rockies this offseason. He asks questions like “will they depart from the norm and trade aggressively?” and, “how much more shakeup is coming?” There is a lot of work to be done and the Rockies need to be able to provide quality answers to some of these questions.
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Arizona Fall League
Fineas Del Bonta-Smith started on the mound for the Rafters, tossing 2 2⁄3 scoreless innings without allowing a hit. He tossed 45 pitches, and did manage three strikeouts, but did give up three walks as well. Still, he had a nice little outing as the Rafters offense exploded three runs in the top of the third. Zac Veen also started in left field and led off for the Rafters. It was a quiet night for Veen, going 1-for-5 with a walk and no strikeouts.
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