The Colorado Rockies’ 2019 season has not been the one they’d hoped for.
Although the Rockies are still well within striking distance of making the postseason, something feels noticeably off about the group this year. Sure, the club’s core remains intact, and Bud Black is still leading the charge, but this year has not had the same sort of mojo – or juice – like the last two campaigns.
Fans have been left scratching their heads wondering, what happened? How could a team that seemingly improved in back-to-back seasons regress so mightily, in a year loaded with expectations from the players and front office?
“Now it’s really about what it actually feels like for this group to be a playoff team, be a playoff contender, have a legitimate chance to win the N.L. West and be a real World Series threat,” Rockies General Manager Jeff Bridich told Mark Kizla of the Denver Post during Spring Training. “Those are real things for this team,”
There a couple of reasons, but first and foremost, the Rockies inability to upgrade their roster this past offseason hurt their chances before 2019 even started.
Despite maintaining their core group of players, the Rockies lost some key contributors from their postseason runs in ’17 and ’18 – most notably D.J. LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino.
Listen, I’m not going to beat a dead horse. It’s been well documented how the Rockies screwed up by letting these guys walk in free agency, but the most startling aspect of it all was the Rockies’ willingness to let it happen.
From the start of free agency, things were radio silent from the Rockies in regards to striking a deal with either LeMahieu or Ottavino. Instead, the two signed with the New York Yankees for a combined $51 million.
The Rockies pivoted to sign veteran Daniel Murphy to a two-year, $24 million contract, the same deal LeMahieu signed in New York. LeMahieu happens to be three years younger and is a candidate for American League MVP.
At this rate, would the Rockies have been better off re-signing LeMahieu, shifting Ryan McMahon to first base and having Mark Reynolds as a backup?
This is just the first of many issues the Rockies have been faced with in 2019.
The Rockies’ biggest problem has been their pitching staff. The pitching staff has been abysmal this season and has hindered the club’s ability to establish themselves as a legitimate postseason threat.
The rotation and bullpen have at times combined to be competent, but more often than not, the Rockies’ pitching staff has been shelled this season. The Rockies’ staff owns a National League-worst 5.40 earned run average.
Bridich was confident in the rotation entering this season, especially after they posted the second-lowest ERA in franchise history in 2018 (4.17). He opted to roll out the same cast of characters in the rotation for 2019, a decision that’s imploded through the year.
At it stands, Tyler Anderson is likely done for the season after undergoing knee surgery; Chad Bettis has been shifted to the bullpen; Antonio Senzatela has struggled and both German Marquez and Kyle Freeland have regressed.
Miraculously, Jon Gray has been the only consistent arm in Colorado’s rotation.
What’s so gut-wrenching about the team’s inability to pitch is that their offense has been sensational. The Rockies have driven in the second-most runs in the National League this season, behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers; however, their pitching has continually run them into the ground.
As everybody knows, it is impossible to out-slug opponents at Coors Field and expect to win consistently. Due to the lopsided nature of the Rockies performance, 2019 is looking eerily similar to past years.
So, what’s left for the Rockies in 2019?
The Rockies currently sit with a record of 46-50 and have posted a measly 2-5 record out of the All-Star break.
The Rockies are not the only team in the National League to struggle this season. Despite their sub-.500 record, the Rockies are just 3.5 games back of the second National League Wild Card spot.
Colorado is in a bit of a sticky situation. The club is well within striking distance of returning to the postseason, but their inconsistencies have reflected a team not worthy of making the playoffs.
I wrote numerous times earlier in the season that they needed to bolster their pitching staff, should they want to become a legitimate threat in the league. The club opted to stand pat and endure the storm and are now in baseball purgatory.
Sure, the club could still trade for a starting pitcher or a reliever, but what good would that do? Do the Rockies still have a chance to win a World Series this year, or even replicate their success of last year?
Given their inconsistencies, I would say no. My opinion means nothing to the club, but from a reporters perspective, it looks as if the window is closing fast on the Rockies in 2019.
What’s the point of shipping prospects away when the division is a pipedream, and the odds of winning a championship are slim-to-none?
Instead, the Rockies should look to refuel their farm system, or get some money off the books to enhance their team for 2020 and beyond.
That said, the Rockies do not have to rebuild. Colorado has a solid foundation in Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story and David Dahl. The core is strong and can be built around for years to come.
What the Rockies need to do is fine-tune their club as they did in 2017 and 2018. An ample reason they made the postseason during those years was because of their offseason acquisitions. The Rockies opted to stand pat this offseason after entering the marketplace the past two years. One reason for the silence is the amount of money the club previously spent on free agents.
Between Mike Dunn, Wade Davis, Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw, the Rockies invested heavily into their bullpen and it’s possible they did not want to invest furthermore due to the money already tied up to relief pitchers.
After rolling the dice this season, it’s clear that if the Rockies want to return to the playoffs their bullpen and rotations are in need of an overhaul.
One way the Rockies can free up some money is by trading a player or two ahead of the Trade Deadline. The club will not trade any of their core players, but guys like Davis and Ian Desmond could be up for grabs.
Davis is slated to make $17 million in 2020 and has a vesting option for the 2021 season. Although his price tag is high and he has been inconsistent at times this year, teams could still value his services.
He’s a World Series champ and has a track record of success when pitching in high-leverage situations. Additionally, his deficiencies can partially be blamed on Coors Field since the rest of the league is enamored with the park’s effect. On top of that, teams can get desperate for relief pitching and may be willing to pay a high price.
Desmond has been great for the Rockies this season after struggling through his first two seasons in Colorado. Desmond is owed $23 million through 2021 and has a team option in 2022. He’s been a force at the plate this season and could hold value to a team looking to add depth around the diamond.
If the Rockies get a feasible offer regarding Davis or Desmond, they would be wise to pull the trigger on a deal to free up some money. The Rockies could still be as good, if not better, without Davis and Desmond if they invest in the free-agent market properly.
It’s been a long strange trip for the Rockies throughout this season, but as the dog days of summer begin to settle in, it looks like the Rockies best opportunity to win a championship lies in the coming decade.