The 2023 Trade Deadline is approaching ever closer. As June begins to play out, before we know it the August 1 deadline will be upon us and we’ll be having plenty of discussions about what the Colorado Rockies did or did not do by that time. Stuck in the lower part of the division and fighting to stay out of the basement in the National League in general, it feels fairly certain that the Rockies could and should be sellers over the next month or two. As we take stock of the pieces the team has in stock, we first look at the bullpen and the veterans the team brought in over the offseason.
When the Rockies signed Brad Hand to a one-year deal during spring training, it was essentially a pivot move of desperation after the loss of Lucas Gilbreath. The team needed another left-handed reliever and Hand fit the bill. He’s turning himself into a nice trade commodity that the Rockies could benefit from moving as the deadline draws closer. In 21 innings of work thus far, Hand has posted a 3.86 ERA with 30 strikeouts to nine walks. Also promising is the fact that he has a 2.14 FIP which shows that he’s been a solid piece of the bullpen this season.
Thanks to some added velocity and swings and misses on his slider, Hand has managed to navigate around opponents having a .400 BABIP against him. Additionally, Hand has mainly been quite effective against left-handed batters as evidenced by a .143/.294/.250 slash line. Hand is primed for a $7 million team/vesting option (contingent on him finishing 25 games) with a $500,000 buyout for 2024. That deal becomes a mutual option if he’s traded, so he’s essentially a pure rental for any team that acquires.
Likelihood of trade: Plausible
Speaking of solid left-handed relievers, Brent Suter is having what is shaping up to be a career year. In 35 2⁄3 innings of work entering Tuesday, Suter has put forth a stalwart effort to the tune of a 1.77 ERA with 30 strikeouts and 12 walks. His 2.69 FIP still proves his effectiveness as does his 1.037 WHIP as Suter is just been more effective across the board this season. The Raptor has often been called upon in the middle innings to put out fires or eat a couple of innings and he has been solid all year save an outing or two.
What makes him even more valuable is the fact that Suter has been effective on either side of the batter's box. Lefties are batting .213/.315/.277 against him and have shown a bit more patience at the plate with seven walks to just five strikeouts. Righties however are batting a paltry .185/.241/.210 with a whopping 25 strikeouts to five walks. Not to mention at the time of writing he has allowed zero home runs. He’s also proven effective at Coors Field with a 3.31 ERA and is a road warrior with a 0.49 ERA and opponents batting .123/.208./169 across 19 1⁄3 innings of work. The Rockies could likely trade him for a solid piece or two, but an extension also feels likely with how he is performing and the lefty depth being fairly shallow in the organization at the moment. However, it’s also important to note that he will be 34 next season.
Likelihood of trade: Pending possible desire to extend him
Pierce Johnson’s 2023 season has been less than ideal for the Colorado native. Installed as the de facto closer to start the season, Johnson has secured 11 saves in 12 attempts while also posting a rough 6.85 ERA in 22 1⁄3 innings. Numbers will always be skewed a bit as a reliever due to a few bad outings, but Johnson has still struggled in the majority of his outings. In nine of his 24 outings this season, he has allowed at least one run, with five of those outings consisting of two or more runs.
Johnson has been hit hard by opposing teams. Opposing batters are hitting .298/.389/.564 against him with a .390 BABIP and a park-adjusted 100 OPS+. Ironically, despite being a Colorado kid, Johnson has struggled quite a bit at home. Coors Field has yielded a 9.69 ERA for him with opponents batting over .300 with all five home runs he has allowed coming at home. On the road, he’s got a much more respectable 2.89 ERA with opponents batting .243 against him. He still gets plenty of strikeouts at 30 but his command hasn’t been as crisp with 14 walks. Still, he’s been tough on lefties while righties have continued to hit the ball hard with a .648 SLG.
At this rate, there might not be many teams calling about Johnson. Despite his solid numbers away from Coors Field, he might not be doing enough for a contending team to exhaust resources to bring him in. Plus, the Rockies love their local kids and could hold on to him to finish out the year.
Likelihood of trade: Not likely
The bullpen is the Rockies’ most valuable part of the team this season. While I’m sure teams would rather have controllable arms like Justin Lawrence or Jake Bird, it’s more beneficial to move effective arms on expiring contracts if they can in order to bolster the depth in some way. Even if they just move Brad Hand, it’s better to do that rather than sit on him until the season is over and get nothing in return.
Elbow injuries and Tommy John surgery continue to be a growing problem in MLB. The Rockies have undoubtedly been stricken by elbow issues this season and elite pitchers around the league continue to have problems. While there isn’t a single clear-cut reason as to why these injuries are becoming more prevalent, it’s a mixture of many things. Velocity plays a role, as does mechanical things, and even workload and preparation play a part. This is a good article that just addresses the issue and some theories, and some measures from medical experts to help prevent injuries from becoming a problem more and more.
It’s a question Rockies fans are wondering. After years of Troy Tulowitzki and Trevor Story, and a season of Jose Iglesias, fans are hoping Ezequiel Tovar can answer that question and become the next franchise shortstop for the Rockies. After a tough first month of the season, Tovar has continued to evolve and grow as a player and is showing signs of the potential that the Rockies are hoping he can be.
On the Farm
Solid bullpen work and productive offense helped Albuquerque power their way over Sugar Land. Noah Davis started on the mound and tossed three innings, allowing five runs on six hits, however, the bullpen combined for six innings of two-run ball. Connor Kaiser had a big night, going 3-for-3 with a double and a home run. Other notable performances included three-hit nights for Yonathan Daza and Aaron Schunk, and two-hit nights for Cole Tucker (three RBIs) and Coco Montes (two RBIs).
It was a valiant effort from the Hartford bullpen, but starter Nick Garcia did allow four runs on six hits in five innings of work that the was ll Somerset needed to win. Hartford’s offense was held to just two hits as they struck out 13 times as a team. Zac Veen hit a double and Grant Lavigne had a single.
Spokane pounded out 19 hits en route to their victory Tuesday night. Yanquiel Fernandez led the way with a 4-for-5 performance with four RBIs and his 14th home run of the season. Additionally, Jordan Beck had three hits, while Sterling Thompson and Benny Montgomery both had two hits, including a home run for each batter. In total, all but two batters had at least two hits in the game.
Trailing 5-1 heading to the bottom of the seventh, Fresno put up five runs between the seventh and eighth for a comeback win against Lake Elsinore. Offensively, Kody Huff had a four-hit night while Jamari Baylor entered as a pinch-hitter and ended the night with four RBIs while going 1-for-1 with a walk and a three-run homer. Caleb Franzen started on the mound and tossed five innings, allowing just one run.
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