The slow-creeping Major League offseason has begun to heat up, and with it, so too have the Colorado Rockies, making their first signing of the free agency period.
Daniel Murphy, though a worthwhile acquisition, should be merely the start.
Doubling down on their acquisition of Murphy, along with improving their offense elsewhere and beefing up their bullpen, are further building blocks for a successful offseason and a step forward in the division.
First on the docket: Fix the outfield.
The team has a pair of options, along with David Dahl, to fill the holes left by the departures of both Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gonzalez. A fellow Gonzalez, with the first name Marwin, along with former Arizona Diamondbacks’ player A.J. Pollock both give the franchise an opportunity to strengthen their offense once more.
Each option carries risk. However, with the move already made for Murphy, we’ve seen the Rockies are not averse to risk.
In Gonzalez, the Rockies would garner the talents of a man that has played every position sans pitcher and catcher. Putting Dahl in center, with Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon in corner outfield spots, the team has a trio of players who have a .350 on-base percentage within the last two seasons. Only Blackmon did it in both 2017 and 2018.
The risk is that Gonzalez reveals himself as the .318 on-base percentage hitter he has been in his career’s totality, rather than the .377 mark and top-20 Most Valuable Player finisher he was in 2017. Though the real answer is that likely he is in between, the possibility of failure is ever present.
Moving to Pollock, the Rockies take on a deferred risk.
The former member of the division rival has shown a ceiling of a .367 on-base percentage, paired with 39 stolen bases and 20 home runs. Pollock at his peak gives the Rockies arguably the best lineup in the National League.
With Pollock, the Rockies would put forth a lineup featuring 12 respective All-Star appearances and five hitters with a top-15 finish in MVP voting in their career.
Though their payroll goes up once again, prior to the pending free agency of franchise stalwart Nolan Arenado, the front office has to at least consider a win-now approach. With Murphy signed for multiple years, along with Dahl, Blackmon and Trevor Story all signed beyond this year as well, the team could prepare for the possibility that Arenado departs.
Subtracting their star third baseman, with the acquisition of Pollock and/or Gonzalez, the franchise would still be a threat in the NL. If he re-signs, those odds only increase.
The other Rockies’ holes are behind the plate and on the mound. With multiple departures in free agency in recent years and a lack of a consistent catching option, Yasmani Grandal and the re-signing of Adam Ottavino are options as well.
Grandal offers another opportunity to weaken a division foe, much like the Pollock signing.
Formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Grandal possesses a switch-hitting presence at the catching spot. In his seven-year stint in the big leagues, Grandal has registered a career .341 on-base percentage with a season-high of .394 in his opening year with the Padres. In his best full season, his apex was .353.
Chris Iannetta and Grandal would be a large upgrade for the lineup. Large upgrades at both the catching position and in the outfield are almost impossible given the club’s payroll at nearly $100 million already without accounting for Arenado, Chad Bettis and others’ arbitration figures.
The final option, also likely their last large move of free agency if completed, is bringing back Ottavino.
Multiple teams have shown interest in “Otto” already this offseason. The Rockies have a slight advantage given his career being spent almost entirely in the Rocky Mountains.
Even Ottavino represents a risk for the club though.
Last year, the right-handed reliever had a career year amassing a 2.43 earned run average in 77.2 innings. His park-adjusted 193 ERA was higher than bullpen superstars like Aroldis Chapman (179) and Craig Kimbrel (160). The mark was only behind the league leader in saves, Edwin Diaz (208).
The year prior though, Ottavino was at just 100, a far lesser value to the club. Replication is possible given Ottavino’s changes prior to the 2018 season, but not guaranteed.
After a spending spree on the bullpen last offseason, the Rockies may decide bringing back their best reliever would be advantageous.
No matter what route the Rockies take to improvement, staying in the rest area the remainder of the offseason is unlikely to allow them to bypass the NL West rival Dodgers.