The offseason is upon us and the big item on the to-do list for Colorado Rockies general manager Bill Schmidt is to address pitching. We’ve already seen them claim Jalen Beeks from waivers, showcasing one of the main avenues the team will likely pursue to acquire arms. There are bound to be trades of some kind to bring in pitching, as evidenced by the trade deadline this past season, but it remains to be seen what the Rockies will do in the free-agent market.
Thomas Harding of MLB.com wrote recently, “Expect the Rockies to push for a late-career starter of some repute, or possibly a pitcher trying to re-establish value.” While the Rockies may push to retain Chase Anderson and Chris Flexen, they shouldn’t settle for the familiar when there are possible upgrades on the market that would be more worthwhile pursuits that won’t necessarily break the bank.
Alex Wood (LHP)
If the Rockies are looking for a one-year deal for a veteran entering his age 33 season, then Alex Wood could be their man. For the past three seasons, Wood has pitched against the Rockies as a member of the San Francisco Giants. In three seasons on the Bay, he pitched in a total of 81 games, including 64 starts, and posted a 4.41 ERA in 367 innings. He had a strong year in 2021 with an ERA under four but was hit a bit harder in 2022 and 2023. By the end of 2023, Wood was being favored out of the bullpen by the Giants putting his viability as a long-term starter in question going forward.
He definitely fits the Rockies’ mold of a sinker-slider soft-tossing pitcher and we know how they love those kinds of guys. He has struggled in his career at Coors Field, posting an 8.80 ERA in 45 innings but he checks some boxes of Rockies criteria and Spotrac.com projects him worth about a $6 million salary.
Brad Keller, RHP
In terms of arms looking to bounce back or try and reestablish value of some kind, Brad Keller is a prime target for the Rockies. At 28 years old, Keller finds himself as a free agent after spending the first five years of his career with the Kansas City Royals. After debuting in 2018 at the age of 22, Keller became a regular on the pitching staff for the Royals. In the small sample size that was the 2020 season, Keller made nine starts and had a 2.47 ERA, including a complete-game shutout.
The past few seasons have been rough after having an ERA over five in 2021 and 2022 and injuries limiting him to 11 games in 2023. In 45 1⁄3 innings he struck out 31 batters while walking 45. He has a diverse mix of pitches but nothing outstanding that would make him a lock for any rotation anymore. Plus, there is an injury concern after he went on the injured list in 2023 due to symptoms related to thoracic outlet syndrome as well as right shoulder impingement syndrome earlier in the year. The Rockies would be better off offering a minor league deal, but he is projected for a salary of a little over $3 million so perhaps a one-year deal with incentives could yield results.
Michael Lorenzen, RHP
If the Rockies were going to go for a longer free agent deal, Michael Lorenzen seems like the kind of candidate they could go for. Lorenzen began his career with six seasons in Cincinnati where he mostly worked out the bullpen. Entering free agency in 2022 he wanted to find a starting rotation spot and went to the Los Angeles Angels where we found some moderate success when healthy. Entering the 2023 season he signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Tigers and rattled off a 3.58 ERA in 18 starts in the Motor City and earned his first trip to the All-Star Game. The Tigers then flipped him to Philidaelphia where he had a mixed bag of results.
In his first couple of starts, he was phenomenal and no-hit the Washington Nationals in his first start at home for the Phillies. He struggled after that however and was eventually moved to the bullpen down the stretch and into the playoffs. It was the most he had ever worked in a season, likely contributing to the loss of production at the end of the season, but he could be a valuable piece for the Rockies. He works off of a fastball that averages about 94 mph to then implement his slider, sinker, and other secondary pitches. He saw his swinging strike rate drop a few points in 2023 but he’s typically been in the 25-30% range in the whiff department.
At times he does struggle with walks, but he makes up for it with an ability to get groundballs in the past. He’s not the perfect pitcher and there is work to be done, but with a rotation in need of some reliable arms, Lorenzen could slot in the back end of the rotation on a two-year, $20 million deal. Good arms are going to reach double-digit numbers on the market, even on one-year deals, so the Rockies will have to be willing to pay that premium while they wait for their other arms to develop.
Get the stove hot
With so much to be done, one would hope the Rockies start moving the needle towards contention. It’s already believed that 2024 will not be anything close to contending, but the team still needs to show improvement across the board if they hope to hit their target of 2025 contention, that could mean showing other potential free agents that are willing to spend for (and hopefully improve) players to come to Colorado. That means figuring out a recipe to bring in established big-league pitching in some form, preferably good arms, as they give their prospects proper time to develop and show when they are ready.
Plus, you can never have too many starting pitching options, as 2023 clearly proved. We’ll likely have another article covering even more free-agent possibilities but in the meantime, all we can do is sit and wait for the Rockies to do something.
The Rockies' 2023 second-round pick didn’t see a whole lot of action this year, but the Rockies already like what they see. He struck out 11 batters in five innings of work and features a fastball that plays well in the zone because of his reach and how quickly it sneaks up on hitters. He’s an intriguing pick for the Rockies and if his other pitches develop, he’s going to be a valuable piece in the future.
Erick Fedde is another name that should be on the Rockies radar. He tossed 180 innings over 30 starts, had a 2.00 ERA, struck out 29% of batters and had a ground ball rate of 70%. His efforts earned him the Choi Dong-won award, the Korean equivalent of the Cy Young Award.
Arizona Fall League
There wasn’t much offense for the Rafters, scoring three runs on five hits. Benny Montgomery was the only Rockies rep in the lineup, going 1-for-4 with an RBI, a walk, a run scored, and his 10th stolen base of the AFL season. On the mound Alec Barger and Jaden Hill tossed the final two innings, each pitcher striking out three batters each.
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