There’s no denying the injury bug has been biting the Colorado Rockies this spring. The team was already in a hole with existing injuries to Antonio Senzatela and Tyler Kinley deep into their recovery stages. But more got added before games started being played with Randal Grichuk needing surgery to repair a sports hernia.
The calendar didn’t even reach March before the next – and most significant – piece fell when Brendan Rodgers tore his labrum after dislocating his shoulder in a game. Lucas Gilbreath then fell, with a UCL injury from last year leading to Tommy John surgery. Not long after, it was Sean Bouchard who went down with a left biceps tear. Gilbreath is off the table until 2024 while both Bouchard and Rodgers could also miss the entire season, leaving the Rockies with a significant test to their depth.
After a relatively quiet offseason, the organization entered the year with a bevy of young players slated to constitute that depth. Elehuris Montero, Alan Trejo and Michael Toglia all received big-league time last year while another young bat in that same framework was acquired in Nolan Jones. On the pitching side, the perpetual Peter Lambert and Ryan Rolison conversation continued for the rotation and multiple young relievers like Jake Bird and Gavin Hollowell were already on pace to get a larger role while other acquisitions – Pierce Johnson, Nick Mears, Connor Seabold and Nick Mears – filled in the gaps.
But the need for that depth to step-in has arrived sooner than expected with the overwhelming amount of injuries. It is an unfortunate situation, but one that could present a silver-lining of much needed playing time for young players that would otherwise be too far down the depth chart to gain considerable big-league experience.
That is not the direction the front office elected to go, though. In reaction to the injuries to Bouchard, Gilbreath and Rodgers, management signed three veteran players to one-year deals. LHP Brad Hand was brought-in to replace Gilbreath with Mike Moustakas joining one day later. Now, it’s Jurickson Profar being added with the initial reports indicating he will take over the starting LF job with Kris Bryant moving over to RF.
These three veterans have all been fine players over their careers, with some being longer in the tooth than others. Moustakas’ numbers have taken a nose-dive in recent seasons, Hand was a featured piece of a National League pennant-winning bullpen last season but has had a dramatic velocity drop in recent seasons and Profar has performed to a league-average 101 OPS+ over the last five seasons.
None are signed to a guaranteed deal beyond the 2023 season, with only Hand’s $7 million club-option with a $500k buyout representing any potential carryover. Profar will earn a respectable $7.75 million with incentives bringing it as high as $8.75 million while Moustakas will be in-line to earn the minimum veteran salary if he makes the team, which feels likely at this point.
All of this points to the front office using a “filler” approach for this season. Padding the roster with temporary pieces to play out as much of the string as needed until the prospects are ready to take over, similar to José Iglesias’ role last season.
This is a fine concept for the organization…but only if they actually make the room when the time comes.
Brad Hand could very well spend the entire year out of the bullpen, but if Ryan Rolison returns to health and picks up where his career left off then the organization should prioritize getting him big league innings however possible. This also applies to many of the young relievers the team has graduated to the upper minor league levels in recent years. Mike Moustakas can fill a left-handed bench bat role, but that role cannot be valued more than getting playing time to Montero, Trejo, Toglia and Jones. The same applies to Jurickson Profar, who will likely be the most worthwhile player of the group.
Logic would suggest that the team is well aware of this and plans to give these players a short run before moving them to make room for their younger, unproven options.
If Moustakas continues to be the player he’s been the last two years, he may not make it past May. But that was also true of Matt Adams, who ended up lasting until the end of July in 2021. The expectations are higher for Hand and Profar, with the common narrative being to use them as trade chips at the deadline.
But the Rockies have notoriously been reluctant to trade away veteran players on expiring contracts and appear allergic to the wheeling-and-dealings of July in general. Whether notable commodities like Trevor Story and Jon Gray in 2021 or modest rentals such as Iglasies and Chad Kuhl last season, the team has shown over-and-over their hesitancy to wear a “seller” label during the season.
The roster was already shaping-up to produce a season around 90-losses heading into Spring Training. The recent injuries and signings have done little to sway that outlook, merely preventing the initial hole from getting much deeper. The plan has been for the team to become relevant again in 2024, and 2023 should be a head-start on that by giving younger players experience on the job. If management hinders that by trotting out a team filled with veterans on expiring contracts for most (or all) of the 2023 season simply to fight off the dreaded 100-loss moniker, it will be systemic failure.
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Non-roster invite Harold Castro making a case for Rockies’ opening day roster | Denver Gazette
Another veteran addition, Harold Castro is making strides on earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Daniel Allentuck gives a background on Castro, who was non-tendered by the Detroit Tigers last winter.
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After defeating Venezuela on Saturday, the U.S. team blew-out Cuba 14-2 to advance to the World Baseball Classic championship game. They will face the winner of the semi-final game between Japan and Mexico, which will be played on Monday night.
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