With the signing of Ian Desmond to a five-year contract worth $70 million, Colorado Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich has given all implications that the Rockies will compete for a postseason berth next season. The Rockies have been more bold this winter than some may have anticipated, and they appear to have some more moves in them.
There were no rumors regarding Ian Desmond going to Colorado, and the Rockies are taking a gamble on an outfielder who rebounded in 2016 with an outfield that was already filled. In 2016, Desmond hit 22 home runs with 86 RBIs and an OPS of .782 in 156 games. At this moment, Desmond is expected to be the team’s first baseman, although they are still heavily in the mix for free agent Mark Trumbo, according to multiple reports. The option of Carlos Gonzalez playing first base has been discussed, and he even said at the end of July he would welcome it later in his career. With the addition of Desmond, it might happen sooner than Gonzalez thought.
The aggressiveness by the Rockies front office should be applauded, but in order for them to legitimately have a chance to make the postseason, more moves need to be made.
The first big signing for the Rockies was naming Bud Black manager. Black has nine years of managing experience with the San Diego Padres and was named NL Manager of the Year in 2010. Black’s experience should blend well with a young team where a large portion of the roster has not played in meaningful September baseball.
The Rockies investment in Desmond did come at a cost, and more than just financially. The Texas Rangers gave Desmond a qualifying offer, which means the Rockies forfeited the 11th pick in the draft. There is already a fair share of young talent on the Rockies, and the team strongly believed Desmond could speed up the process to relevance.
The Rockies’ have a high-powering offense which is led by one of the best hitters in the game in Nolan Arenado. Also, their Troy Tulowitzki replacement, Trevor Story, broke the record for most home runs by an NL rookie shortstop with 27, while only playing 97 games due to a torn ligament in his thumb. The team also finished second in batting average, runs batted in, and OPS, trailing only the Boston Red Sox. Coors Field’s high altitude probably enhanced those numbers, but this lineup is built for their stadium.
For the remainder of the offseason, all eyes should be on improving the pitching, most notably the bullpen. Entering 2016, Carlos Estevez was the team’s closer but struggled with an ERA north of five, blowing seven of his 18 save opportunities, third worst in the National League. Jake McGee also had a down year with his worst ERA and lowest K/9 of his career. There are still many free agent upgrades on the market, including Boone Logan, whom they should try to retain.
In regards to starting pitching, they had young arms who really impressed last season. Tyler Chatwood and Jon Gray are locks to be in the rotation next season. Gray, their number-one prospect going into last season, most notably showed off his tools with his 100 MPH fastball, striking out 185 batters in 168 innings. Their rotation is still very young and signing a veteran starter with postseason experience to accumulate innings like Doug Fister could be a difference maker. Also, with the signing of Desmond, they could move Charlie Blackmon for a starter, and Jon Morosi reported that the Rockies are interested in Marcus Stroman.
The Rockies had a record of 35-39 in the second half of the season and were three games over .500 at Coors Field. In 2016, they had their best record since 2010, while being in the top three in the league in blown saves. The Rockies have shown that they want to get back on the map of relevance, and if they make the appropriate tweaks, they very well could be in the mix at the very end vying for their first postseason berth in seven years.