While the rumors are growing about the Rockies interest in offensive players the organization’s focus has been on rebuilding the back end of the bullpen and the Rockies took the first step in that endeavor on Tuesday, agreeing to a three-year deal with right-handed workhorse Bryan Shaw.
The Rockies are believed to have agreed to a three-year deal in excess of $25 million, filling the set-up void created by Pat Neshek’s decision to return to the Phillies, which dealt him to the Rockies in advance of the July 31 trading deadline this past season.
Now comes the big challenge – either finding a way to re-sign closer Greg Holland, who is a free agent, or finding a ninth-inning replacement. The Rockies have admitted they have explored signing free agent Wade Davis, and also have had initial conversations with the Rays about right-hander Alex Colome, who led the majors with 47 saves in 2017, and the Orioles about Zach Britton, who led the AL in saves in 2016, but was limited by elbow problems in 2017.
Davis stepped up from a setup man to a closer for the Royals in 2016 when Holland was sidelined by Tommy John surgery, converting 27 of 30 save opportunities, and went 32-for-33 in the closer’s role with the Cubs in 2017. A free-agent for the first time in his career, Davis will be in line for a sizable salary hike from the $10 million he earned in 2017.
Colome would come at a high price of talent in return in light of the fact he will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2020 season. Britton, meawhile, is a bit of physical gamble in light of being limited to 38 relief appearances and 37 1/3 innings in 2017, the lowest totals of his big-league career.
And last week, in advance of this week’s winter meetings in Orlando, the Rockies addressed their catching need, signing Chris Iannetta, who was originally a Rockies, two a two-year, $8.5 million deal.
“Our focus and where most of our energy and time is on catching and pitching,” Bridich said. “It’s not that we can’t multi-task. It’s just that you can have so many irons in the fire in this process that you end up just getting burned. One of the ways we want to go about business is if we are going to create priorities, make sure we stay true to that, unless there is some sort of game-changing scenario.”
In addition to Holland and Neshek, Jake McGee also became a free agent.
The Rockies have let it be known they would have interest in retaining Carlos Gonzalez on a one-year deal but have not discussed terms with agent Scott Boras, and have checked in on free agents to fill the first base or a corner outfield spot, including first baseman Carlos Santana, outfielder Jay Bruce.
Bridich, however, said the team haven’t “had recent talks on (Marlins outfielder Marcell) Ozuna whatsoever,” despite reports they have shown interest, and said the Rockies were not in the financial ballpark to pursue the likes of outfielder J.D. Martinez and first baseman Eric Hosmer, both free agents.
The Rockies are in a position, however, where they need to make sure they address the closer role before they consider a major expenditure on a position player.
They have an offense right now that could be competitive in the NL West, but no matter how good their offense is they have learned over time that to succeed at Coors Field they have a strong back of the bullpen, which is the priority.
Not only did Holland tied a club record with 41 saves in 2017, but the bullpen converted 47 of 61 for a 77 percent success rate, which led the NL. They did struggle in a two-year week stretch after Holland cut the middle finger on his right hand, and tried to pitch through it. Other than those two weeks, though, Holland was 40-of-41 in save situations with a 1.61 ERA.
The Rockies have had three of their top four save ratios in three of the four seasons in which they advance to the post-season. In addition to the club record 77 percent success rate a year they converted 73.8 percent in 2009, second best in franchise history, and 69.4 percent in 1995, their fourth best conversion rate.
The outlier was 2007 when the Rockies had their memorable late season surge that led to a World Series appearance despite converting only 57.4 percent of their save opportunities.
The key to the Rockies post-season run was the work of Holland and McGee, who were helped by the late July addition of Neshek.
In addition to continuing to talk with Holland’s agent, Scott Boras, Bridich admitted “as it relates to Jake we have kept in touch. He is somebody we continue to have dialogue with as well.”
Shaw, meanwhile, has shown his durability. He appeared in 70 or more games all five seasons with the Indians, leading in three of the last four seasons.
In the last five seasons he leads major-league relievers in appearances and is tied with Tony Watson in innings pitched.
Source: Stats Inc.