Rockies tender contracts to Elias Diaz, Jairo Diaz

Aug 12, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies catcher Elias Diaz (35) motions two outs in the fourth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies agreed to terms with catcher Elias Diaz and reliever Jairo Diaz on one-year contracts to avoid arbitration, the club announced on Tuesday.

Both players were among a handful of non-contender candidates currently occupying spots on the Rockies’ 40-man roster. The deadline to make a decision on whether to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players is later today.

Colorado signed Elias Diaz to a $1.2 million deal with a potential $300,000 in added incentives for 2021, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. The terms of Jairo Diaz’s deal have not been disclosed, but it’s worth noting that MLB Trade Rumors, whose model is based on statistics extrapolated to 162-game totals, previously projected him to make $1.2 million next season. That same model predicted Elias Diaz to bank $1 million even, so that could provide an idea as to what Jairo Diaz’s deal could look like.

The Rockies’ decision to retain both players rather than allow them to become free agents is somewhat surprising. Elias Diaz was average defensively but produced a poor showing at the plate, hitting just .235/.288/.353 with two homers in 73 plate appearances. Of course, compared to the team’s other two catchers—neither of whom homered and combined for six extra-base hits—Diaz hit like peak Mike Piazza.

Jairo Diaz was one of the very worst relievers in baseball for a large chunk of 2020. The 29-year-old right-hander ultimately finished in the bottom five among National League relievers in fWAR and posted an unsightly 7.65 ERA in 20 innings. Diaz walked nearly as many batters (14) as he struck out (17), and his average fastball velocity was down a couple of ticks on the radar gun from where it was in 2019, when he was one of the Rockies’ best relievers down the stretch as evidenced by his 63 strikeouts in 57 2/3 frames.

The Rockies still need to make decisions on the likes of Carlos Estevez, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Jon Gray, and Tony Wolters. Gray seems like a fairly obvious trade candidate given the fact that he’s in line to make north of $6 million per MLBTR’s aforementioned projections, but the Rockies could also deem him worth the salary—particularly if he keeps up what has been, to this point, a pattern of odd-year success.

Wolters is another interesting case. The Rockies seem to love his defense, although he rates below average in most advanced catching metrics such as those provided by Statcast and Baseball Prospectus, but he hasn’t hit a lick at the major league level. Wolters, 28, owns a .238/.323/.319 career batting line in parts of five seasons with the Rockies and is projected to make just over $2 million in 2021. That might be cheap enough for the Rockies to hold on to him as their primary catcher for another season, particularly because of how much they value his contributions to the overall success of the starting rotation during his tenure with the team.

Prediction

Look for the Rockies to come to terms with Gray and Wolters while parting ways with Estevez—who has flashed brilliance ever since debuting with the Rox in 2016 but has ultimately never been able to fix his problems with command and pitch tipping, yet is projected to earn more than $2 million—and Gonzalez.

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