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What did the Rockies get in trading for Cal Quantrill?

Colorado Rockies News and Notes for Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Santa did not bring the Colorado Rockies much for Christmas, but he did give them a very nice early present: A trade for Cal Quantrill. Like a pair of warm socks, this is a practical, useful gift.

After all, it’s no secrete that the Colorado Rockies’ need for pitching is acute.

In 2023, the Rockies used a franchise-record 17 different starting pitchers in a season riddled with injuries.

Of the five starters, two — Germán Márquez and Antonio Senzatela — underwent Tommy John surgery while a third — Ryan Feltner — missed most of the season after suffering a skull fracture. José Ureña was DFA’d, and although Kyle Freeland and Austin Gomber mostly stayed healthy, both finished the season on the IL.

The Rockies spent the season scrambling to find starting pitching. (Hello, Chris Flexen and Chase Anderson!) They went into the offseason knowing this was the area in which they most needed to improve.

It makes sense, then, that they would acquire Cal Quantrill via trade from the Cleveland Guardians. In return, the Guardians received catcher Kody Huff.

Quantrill is expected to earn $6.6 million.

Why did the Rockies trade for Quantrill?

Clearly, they need pitching, but the Rockies also believe that Quantrill, who showed promise early in his career but has since struggled, can return to form.

In his first full season as a starter, Quantrill earned a 2.89 ERA by making pitches like these:

By 2022, he saw some deterioration in his numbers (3.38 ERA). Things got worse in 2023 when he had a 5.24 ERA in 99 23 IP with 58 earned runs.

Quantrill’s situation was not helped by recurring shoulder inflammation.

As Rockies general manager Bill Schmidt told Patrick Saunders immediately following the trade, “He had some shoulder (problems) last season, but if you look at his last six starts, that was the best he was all year. He was pretty good and that showed us that he was healthy.”

Here’s Quantrill in September:

Quantrill also chalks his 2023 season up to injuries, explaining to Saunders, “I think I probably tried to battle through the (soreness) a little bit longer than I should have last year, but the rest got me where I needed to be. I think I finished the season strong. I’m having a good offseason and I’m excited to put together a complete season.”

The Rockies think he can.

During the 2023 Winter Meetings, Schmidt told reporters, “If we can get him back to being the guy who he was in ‘22 and he threw 180 innings. . . . If he can give us 180 innings, which he showed he can do, that was big for us [in making the decision to trade for him].”

Plus, the Rockies like Quantrill’s approach to the game. “First and foremost, he throws strikes,” Schmidt said, “and he’s not afraid. There’s a mental toughness.”

When pitching at elevation, mental toughness is a must-have characteristic in a pitcher.

How’s the pitch mix?

Although Quantrill does not have electric stuff, he is a control pitcher who elicits weak contact.

At the Winter Meetings, Rockies manager Bud Black referred to Quantrill as a “pitcher’s pitcher,” which is high praise from the former southpaw.

He went on to break down Quantrill’s pitch mix: “Four pitches, pitches put the fastball both sides. He’s got a little cutter-slider that he’s able to manipulate the break and the velocity — true pitching.” He continued by pointing out that Quantrill has a “true changeup — he’s got a split, sort of split-change, so an array of weapons with pitchability.”

The split-changeup is a pitch Quantrill is still developing, largely due to his shoulder injury.

“We got to a point where I was grinding a bit with my shoulder,” Quantrill told Saunders, “so I wasn’t able to incorporate it like I wanted to, but I think if you saw what I did in September, it was a valuable pitch, and I used it a lot. It added something to my arsenal — a little swing-and-miss and some weak contact. I’m pretty excited about what I can do with it.”

Given that the Rockies are a pitch-to-contact club, this seems like a good match.

Black also likes Quantrill’s approach to the game.

“Catcher puts a sign down,” Black said, “he’ll decide whether, ‘Hey, do I want to make this an 80 mile an hour breaking ball, or I want to make an 86 mile an hour hard cutter-slider?’ So I liked that part of it based on the hitter and the count, how he’s feeling, all that in the moment. So he pitches.”

From Black, this is high praise.

Can it work?

Maybe.

Quantrill operates with a thin margin for error, and that may be a problem at Coors Field. If Quantrill can keep the ball in the yard, he’ll be effective; if the fly balls get away from him, things could snowball (in a bad way) fast.

Interesting fact: he’s friends with former Guardian and Rockies 2023 breakout star Nolan Jones:

If Quantrill can have the same success in Colorado that Jones has, it will be a win for everyone.

And you can never have too many pairs of socks.

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