No one expected the Colorado Rockies to have a flashy offseason. As fans of this organization we’ve been largely trained against that line of thinking over the last decade or so of front office decisions. The Rockies were never going to get Carlos Rodón—despite my wildest dreams—Carlos Correa, or Jacob deGrom. They were also never going to sign players from Japan like Senga Kodai, Yoshida Masataka, or Fujinami Shintaro. Those kinds of moves just aren’t part of the team’s modus operandi.
What the Rockies have done without much fanfare over the winter so far is put together a quiet but productive offseason. Through a combination of low-key trades, waiver claims, difficult decisions, and contracts both major and minor league, the Rockies are putting the work in to address the problems and needs of the organization. It’s unlikely they get the recognition for this, so I figured now is as good a time as any to shed light on a busy offseason flying under the radar of the fans.
A recurring issue with the Rockies roster has been pitching depth both in the rotation and in the bullpen. When a pitcher went down the Rockies were left scrambling to fill in the gap. It’s clear the Rockies are operating within their means to solve this issue for the upcoming season. They have brought in (or brought back) a whopping 16 pitchers since the end of the 2022 campaign.
Major League Pitchers
The Rockies kicked off November by re-signing RHP José Ureña to a one year deal worth a modest $3.5 million with a team option for 2024. Ureña joined the Rockies as a minor league acquisition last season but was eventually promoted to the major league roster when the injuries began stacking up. Ureña ended up making 17 starts for the Rockies in 2022 with a 5.14 ERA over 89 1⁄3 innings. With the departure of Chad Kuhl and Antonio Senzatela sidelined as he rehabilitates a torn ACL, Ureña is a solid depth piece for the rotation.
Claiming LHP Brent Suter off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers was the first of several big league moves the Rockies made to bolster their arm barn so far this winter. The 33-year old Suter has a career ERA of 3.51 over seven seasons with the Brewers and the Rockies quickly signed him to a $3 million contract to avoid arbitration. The Rockies also signed Colorado native RHP Pierce Johnson to a one year deal worth $5 million plus incentives after he spent three seasons with the San Diego Padres. Talented 26-year old righty Nick Mears was claimed off waivers from the Texas Rangers early this month and just the other day Boston Red Sox top 30 prospect RHP Connor Seabold was acquired via trade earlier this week as additional—and young—big league reinforcements with upside.
Minor League Pitchers
The Rockies have signed or otherwise acquired 11 minor league pitchers with varying levels of experience over the last three months. Familiar faces LHP Ty Blach and RHP Matt Carasiti join righties TJ Zeuch, Phillips Valdez, Matt Koch, and lefties Fernando Abad and Josh Rodgers as bullpen arms with major league experience signed to minor league deals.
The remaining four minor league pitchers acquired so far have yet to make their debuts and are at different stages of progression. In early November the Rockies traded Sam Hilliard to the Atlanta Braves for 6’6’’ righty Dylan Spain, who will likely start the 2023 season with the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats. In December the Rockies made two more trades. RHP Chad Smith went to the Oakland Athletics for RHP Jeff Criswell, who I think has a chance to break camp on the Opening Day 26-man roster while fan favorite Connor Joe was sent to the Pittsburgh Pirates for RHP Nick Garcia. Garcia will likely start the season in Double-A, and both Garcia and Criswell have the ability to work both out of the bullpen and in the rotation. The Rockies also brought back 27-year old RHP Nate Hadley—who spent time with the organization last year—as a minor league depth piece.
For position players the biggest move of the offseason has been the acquisition of former Cleveland Guardians top prospect IF/OF Nolan Jones in exchange for Juan Brito in November. The 24-year old Jones is a big lefty bat with a power stroke who could start the season with Triple-A Albuquerque, but I’m hoping he makes the Opening Day roster.
On the minor league front the Rockies signed shortstops Connor Kaiser, Cole Tucker, and Harold Castro for middle infield depth now that Garrett Hampson has departed and Ezequiel Tovar is set to be the every day starting shortstop for the big league club. Castro is the most intriguing of the three, having performed well with the Detroit Tigers last season with a .271 batting average. He also has the post positional versatility as a utility man. The Rockies also signed undrafted free agent third baseman Nick Gile, who played college ball with Illinois State.
To round things out so far, the Rockies signed 15 international prospects this last Sunday with the opening of the international signing period. At the top of the list is no. 24 international prospect Robert Calaz. Calaz is a power-hitting center fielder that is just 17-years old and is already 6’2’’ and weighs 202 pounds.
While the Rockies haven’t been flashy this offseason, they certainly have been busy. General manager Bill Schmidt and the front office are working to address the needs of a team that is skewing younger and building for the near future, and they still have almost three months until Opening Day to continue making moves. I’m curious to see what shape this organization is taking when April rolls around.
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Highly touted catching prospect Drew Romo, drafted out of high school by the Rockies in 2020, is one of the organization’s most anticipated minor leaguers and one of the best catching prospects the team has seen since Chris Iannetta or Ben Petrick. Romo has been named to MLB Pipeline’s list of Top Ten Catching Prospects for the upcoming season with other big names such as the New York Mets’ Francisco Álvarez and the Seattle Mariners’ Harry Ford.
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