Last offseason, the Colorado Rockies committed over $100 million in free agent contracts, pushing their chips in for a stretch run that resulted in another postseason appearance.
This year, the Rockies have D.J. LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino as their top homegrown free agents, with most of their other core pieces coming back. In their last season with franchise cornerstone Nolan Arenado currently under contract, the Rockies should look to these free agents this offseason:
Daniel Murphy – 1B/2B
A key contributor to the Chicago Cubs late-season revival last year, Daniel Murphy should be at the top of the Rockies’ list. With a glaring hole at first base, the former second baseman would slide in perfectly, with the versatility to move to second when needed.
On the year, Murphy slashed .299/.336/.454 in an injury-shortened 351 plate appearances split between the Washington Nationals and the aforementioned Cubs. The campaign comes just a year after a pair of consecutive All-Star appearances. In 2016, Murphy also earned runner-up in the MVP race.
The line produced by Rockies first baseman Ian Desmond pales in comparison at a mere .236/.307/.422. As a whole, the position produced a wins above replacement mark of 0.5, a tally that ranked 26th in the league.
In a lineup that was largely homerun or bust last year, Murphy would add an on-base presence, carrying a strikeout percentage of less than 15 percent each of the last 10 season. For comparison, Desmond registered a rate of 23.6 last year.
Going into his 11th season, Murphy would add a veteran presence to the clubhouse as well, with the experience of multiple playoff runs to boot.
Likely one of the most expensive additions on this list, Murphy would force the Rockies to decide on a win-or-bust mindset in Arenado’s possible swan song season with the franchise.
Yasmani Grandal – C/1B
Another option at the corner, Yasmani Grandal can fill multiple needs for the Rockies batting order. Transitioning between being behind the plate and at first, Grandal would bring a switch-hitting, versatile bat to the clubhouse.
Grandal, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers, slashed .241/.349/.466 last year in 518 plate appearances. 135 of his games were started at catcher, with a mere two at first. The games behind the plate were the highest total of Grandal’s career.
Chris Iannetta, a late-offseason addition by the Rockies registered a team-high 110 games behind the plate last year. In those games, Iannetta tallied a .224/.345/.385 batting line.
With a boost of nearly 81 percentage points in slugging, Grandal would give the Rockies added power towards the latter end of their lineup. He also allowed a mere nine passed balls on the year, good for the second-lowest mark in the league.
Going into his eighth season, celebrating his 30th birthday before next season, Grandal figures to be the top catcher on the market this offseason. Though they have been rumored as interested in Miami Marlins’ catcher J.T. Realmuto, Grandal would give the team an option that allows their prospect crop to stay intact.
Kurt Suzuki – C
A cheaper alternative, Kurt Suzuki, formerly of the Atlanta Braves, would boost the team’s production behind the plate as well.
A 12-year veteran, Suzuki has seen his numbers rise in the last two years, batting a combined .276/.341/.485 in his pair of campaigns with the Braves. The catcher has also hit 31 homers in his latest stint, the most in a two-year stretch of his career.
Though he would improve their play at the position, Suzuki does not provide the same positional flexibility that Grandal does. Also, the catcher recently turned 35, signaling the end of his long-term contract prospects.
The Rockies may be better served to let their own prospects in Tony Wolters and Tom Murphy develop, but if they choose to push their chips in this year, Suzuki could pay dividends.
Marwin Gonzalez – UTIL
Though he would not solve their problem behind the plate, Marwin Gonzalez could help the Rockies at every other offensive position in the field.
In his career, Gonzalez has logged at least three games at every position in the field, with 191 games at first, 157 in left field and 110 at second. The three positions are all a possible weak point of the Rockies’ lineup next year.
More importantly, Gonzales has seen significant time at first, a gap on the Rockies’ depth chart.
In recent seasons, the utility player has enjoyed a career resurgence, with his career-best year coming in 2017 when he slashed .303/.377/.530 with 23 homers and 90 RBI. The breakout earned Gonzalez a 19th place finish in the American League MVP voting.
At 30 years old, Gonzales will likely be one of the most sought-after players in free agency, with the Rockies already said to have interest.
Early scuttlebutt — nothing more than speculation — has the #Rockies interested in versatile free agent IF/OF Marwin Gonzalez.
— Patrick Saunders (@psaundersdp) November 5, 2018
Though thought to be merely speculation, the Rockies’ interest would make sense. Gonzalez will come with a hefty price tag given the desire for his bat and above-average glove at nearly every position, but the former World Series champion could make an impact in a young clubhouse.
Josh Harrison – UTIL
Keeping the trend of an inexpensive alternative, Josh Harrison, formerly of the Pittsburgh Pirates is available this offseason as well. His entry into the pool of free agents comes by way of a declined option by the Pirates.
Unlike Gonzalez, Harrison has yet to appear at first base, an area of need for the Rockies. However, he does give them an option to replace LeMahieu at second, with the versatility to make his way to the outfield if needed.
The former second baseman also brings an element of speed to the table, with double-digit steals in four of the last five seasons. A team flush with speed, the Rockies could use the threat of a runner towards the top of their lineup.
In the past, the Rockies have shown interest in Harrison, attempting to strike a deal to acquire him last season according to Jon Heyman. Now, they have the chance to acquire him without giving up any of their own pieces.
Though Garrett Hampson is set to take the role of the likely-departed LeMahieu, Harrison would give the Rockies another option. The former Pirate could also provide wisdom to the Rockies’ youngster.
Tony Sipp – RP
Last year, the Rockies’ best reliever and one of the top relief arms in the NL was Adam Ottavino. Now a free agent, the team’s bullpen is going to take a hit.
The departure comes after the Rockies once again found their place at the bottom of the MLB in terms of bullpen production. Ranking 26th in the league in ERA, the team’s plans for a super bullpen with Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw and Jake Magee being added did not pan out.
Tony Sipp would come in as a 10-year veteran, coming off of his best season, in terms of ERA, in his career (1.86). With Mike Dunn also failing to pan out, the lone reliable Rockies’ left-handed option out of the pen is Chris Rusin. Even Rusin struggled last season though after his return from injury, pitching to a 6.09 ERA across 54.2 innings.
The former Houston Astros reliever would be able to come in and give the Rockies a consistent arm from the pen, without the price tag of an Andrew Miller. At a $6 million dollar clip for the past three seasons, Sipp would likely demand a rate of around $8 million per year. At 35 years old, the Rockies could likely afford to give him a shorter deal, with a higher rate if required.
Though older, Sipp also brings durability to the pen, with an average of 68 games a year in his decade-long stint in the majors.
Joe Kelly – RP
A former starter for the St. Louis Cardinals, Joe Kelly has seen his role shift to the bullpen in the last two years with the World Series champion Boston Red Sox. Coming off a year with the most appearances in his career, Kelly would be a welcomed addition to the Rockies’ roster.
Kelly’s acquisition would be due to the departure of Seunghwan Oh, who has voiced his desire to return to South Korea to conclude his career. The report comes by way of an interview with Oh by reporters in South Korea in mid-October.
The possibility, though not certain, serves as a catalyst for the Rockies to once again add to their bullpen. Enter Kelly.
During the Red Sox recent title run, Kelly pitched in five games, totaling six innings without allowing an earned run. The flamethrower also struck out 10 and allowed only four hits. In the regular season, Kelly registered a 4.39 ERA, lower than the bullpen average of the Rockies’ relief unit.
Regularly touching triple digits, Kelly would bring an element of velocity to a bullpen that has relied on Davis and Shaw, both unable to hit those numbers.
Given the market of relievers in recent years, more specifically high-velocity relievers, Kelly figures to fetch a contract along the lines of a 4-year $10-11 million dollar per year. With the recent deep playoff run, Kelly also possesses big game abilities that could help a Rockies’ pen that struggled at times in big moments.
In a best-case scenario, the Rockies could add Kelly to a highly incentivized one-year deal to set his up further for next year’s market. The short-term deal would allow the Rockies flexibility for the future with large contract decisions looming.