With apologies to Jane Austen, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a baseball team lacking possession of a healthy starting rotation, must be in want of inexpensive pitchers on a fixed-term contract.”
And if there is a thing the 2024 Colorado Rockies will need, it’s additional starting pitching given that Germán Márquez and Antonio Senzatela will miss at least half of the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The Rockies will still have Kyle Freeland, Austin Gomber, Peter Lambert, and Ryan Feltner, but their need for MLB-pitching will remain acute. Yesterday, Kenneth Weber explored the possibility of adding Alek Manoah to the Rockies’ pitching staff while Joelle Milholm has made a case for re-signing Chase Anderson. (She also wrote Flexen’s “Ranking the Rockies” entry.)
But it’s worth asking if Chris Flexen deserves similar consideration.
Remind me: Who is this guy? (Sorry, but the Rockies used a lot of pitchers in 2023.)
The native of Newark, California, was drafted in 2012 in the 14th round by the New York Mets, earning a $370,000 signing bonus. After spending time in the Mets’ farm system, he made his MLB debut on July 27, 2017, where the Mets were playing at Petco Park. He would go on to give up four runs on five hits. His time with the Mets was uneven, and in December 2019, he was DFA’d.
Soon after that, he signed a one-year contract with the Doosan Bears of the KBO, earning a 3.01 ERA (10.2 K/9) during 2020.
In December 2020, he signed a two-year, $4.75 million contract with the Seattle Mariners. He was solid in 2021; moved to the bullpen in 2022; and in 2023, he made 17 appearances for Seattle (including four starts). This resulted in an 7.71 ERA in 42 IP.
That’s when his odyssey would begin in earnest.
Flexen was DFA’d by the Seattle Mariners on June 27th; got sent down; was traded to the Mets on July 3; and was DFA’d again on July 6. The Rockies picked him up (because they really needed pitching), sent him to Triple-A Albuquerque to get stretched out, and called him up on July 29th.
He would be the 15th pitcher to make a start for the Rockies.
Was he good?
Not really, though he improved a bit as the season went on. Here’s how his season compares to the Rockies’ rotation according to FanGraphs.
As the data shows, he was one of the Rockies’ least-valuable pitcher in terms of fWAR (0.1). In addition, he had the highest, by far, HR/9 (2.09), the highest ERA (6.27), and the highest FIP (5.92 with an xFIP of 5.04).
In 60 1⁄3 innings with the Rockies, he gave up 14 home runs and 19 walks while striking out 45 batters.
It’s nothing to write home about. He was, however, durable and healthy in a rotation desperate for stability.
Should the Rockies re-sign him?
It’s a good question.
Look, the Rockies are going to need a lot of affordable, MLB-ready pitching in 2024, and they should not spend a lot of money on it. First, there’s a tax that comes with signing free-agent pitchers to play at Coors Field, and, second, the Rockies probably aren’t going to be competitive in 2024.
No one wants to hear this, but the coming season is all about getting the kids read to contend in 2025.
Look at the list of free-agent pitchers who might sign a one-year deal with the Rockies: Lance Lynn, Rich Hill, Kyle Gibson, Wade Miley. The list of candidates is not lengthy.
I’m undecided about another year of Chris Flexen, but I’m also not ready to rule it out.
The Doyles were looking sharp as Brenton picked up his first MLB Gold Glove.
Let’s do this again in 2024 — and bring along Ezequiel Tovar, Ryan McMahon, and Nolan Jones.
Surprising no one, Corbin Carroll was the unanimous winner of the NL Rookie of the Year award. But Nolan Jones continues to garner attention.
Patrick Lyons has written a comprehensive analysis of the offseason that’s worth your time. He notes that the uncertainty of the Rockies’ television contract may result in reduced spending in 2024. My favorite sentence of the article is this one: “Groucho Marx once said, “I would never join a club that would have me as a member.” Were he to run this franchise, his skepticism might extend to free agent pitchers who want to sign with the Rockies.” Lyons makes the case for Michael Lorenzen as a pitcher the Rockies might wish to pursue.
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