It’s a thin time of year for baseball news. The Colorado Rockies 2023 season is well in the rear-view mirror and the “hot stove season” has yet to take effect. The best we can do at this time is start looking forward to what could be in store for the Rockies – which is code for hypothetical.
There’s already been plenty written for what directions the Rockies could go during this off-season. Last week, Skyler Timmins looked at some realistic starting pitching options on the free agent market – presenting a strong case for three modestly-priced starters that could boost the rotation.
Pitching is the clear need for Colorado (as always) and the free agent market is certainly an avenue that can be utilized to improve the roster. The trade market is another path to explore, and one that could likely be much more fruitful for an organization looking to build for the 2025 season and beyond.
One of the biggest names being suggested in the trade market rumor mill is from north of the border in Toronto Blue Jays’ RHP Alek Manoah.
The American League starting pitcher for the 2022 All-Star Game, the former first-round selection out of West Virginia University in the 2019 draft seemed poised to break-out as a cornerstone rotation piece for the Blue Jays.
Over his first two seasons, Manoah held a 2.60 ERA and sparkling 25-9 record over 308 ⅓ IP – all coming over 51 games started. He averaged nearly a strikeout-per-inning, kept opponents to a very reasonable 6.5 H/9 and 2.7 BB/9 during that time and ultimately produced a 157 ERA+ – a top-ten mark in all of baseball during that stretch.
Following his top-3 finish in the AL Cy Young race, the wheels completely fell off in 2023. Manoah got the Opening Day nod for Toronto and stuck in the rotation through May, but was ultimately sent down after posting a 5.46 ERA and 6.24 FIP over 57 ⅔ innings. After his brief minor league stint, Manoah returned to the rotation in July before getting shut down a month later after enduring inflammation in his shoulder throughout the season.
Acquiring another starter going through an arm injury is a less than ideal proposition for a Rockies organization currently going through the ringer with arm injuries both on the big league roster and throughout the farm system. But the latest reports mark Manoah as healthy and all coverage on the big righty has been clear that there is no structural damage detected in his scans.
However, there is genuine uncertainty regarding the righties’ status until Spring Training kicks off for the 2024 season. That uncertainty in tandem with a very disappointing 2023 campaign has weighed down his value, making him an appealing buy-low option for other organizations. Add in the current state of the Toronto rotation – which was mostly able to handle the loss of Manoah in 2023 thanks to a rotation headed by Kevin Gausman, José Berríos and Chris Bassitt – and it’s easy to understand why his name is being floated around right now.
Kevin Henry touched on this exact topic in his piece at Call to the Pen last week, illustrating the pros and cons for Manoah’s value and even listing the Rockies as a potential destination for him. It’s an understandable fit considering Colorado’s needs…but what about Toronto’s?
Well, the Rockies may make even more sense as a trade partner than you may initially assume. Henry sheds light on this by pointing out the trade history between the two organizations in his piece. But the hole goes deeper when you consider what the Blue Jays may be in-line to lose via free agency this off-season with Matt Chapman and Whit Merrifield no longer under contract. This aligns with the two most valuable veteran assets that Colorado currently holds – 3B Ryan McMahon and 2B Brendan Rodgers.
Is there risk in this move for the Rockies? Absolutely. If Manoah’s shoulder is more of a time-bomb than reports indicate, any deal to acquire him could go down as a major bust. But there is also realistic, proven, top-of-the-rotation ability being brought-in if you see the glass as half-full. Plus, consider the fact that Manoah’s struggles and injuries last season left his service time at 2.130 years – just short of Super-Two eligibility and giving Colorado an extra year of control if they were to acquire him.
Given the direction of the franchise and the scarcity of controllable starting pitching on the market, it certainly feels like a risk worth seriously considering for the Colorado organization.
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Thomas Harding puts the spotlight on RHP Jaden Hill, who has shown well as a reliever in the Arizona Fall League this season.
Shameless plug. Patrick Lyons and I sat down to discuss the outlook for the NL West this off-season, the merits of an Ezequiel Tovar extension and how Colorado can best position themselves to begin competing in 2025.
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Pebble Report: Arizona Fall League
It was an unceremonious ending for the Salt River Rafters, as they finished their season outside of the AZFL playoff picture with a 14-16 record and negative-7 run differential. The Surprise Saguaros ultimately took home the championship with their 6-5 win on Saturday against the Peoria Javelinas.
The biggest story of the season for Colorado is the performance of Benny Montgomery, who finished with a .333/.436/.500 line, three home runs, ten stolen bases and 16 runs scored — the best offensive performer on the Rafters roster. Sterlin Thompson wasn’t far behind with his nine extra-base hits and .935 OPS.
On the pitching side, Alec Barger impressed with his 13 strikeouts to 2 walks in 9 1⁄3 IP while Jaden Hill punched-out 13 in 11 1⁄3 innings. Case Williams held the opposition scoreless in three of his six starts along the way.
2023 AFL Hitters (Season to Date)
2023 AFL Pitchers (Season to Date)
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