After the Dec. 10 acquisition of left-hander Brett Anderson, who if healthy should enhance their rotation, the Rockies are still looking to add a late-inning reliever, ideally a left-hander.
Acquiring a left-hander will give manager Walt Weiss more latitude in his use of left-hander Rex Brothers. He closed last year when Rafael Betancourt went on the disabled list three times and could do so again at times as an alternative, if necessary, to newcomer LaTroy Hawkins.
The Rockies could use a right-handed bat and need to decide on a leadoff hitter to replace center fielder Dexter Fowler, who was traded to Houston on Dec. 3. That move will result in Carlos Gonzalez going back to center field, and Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson vying for the left-field job and the leadoff spot in the lineup.
Regardless, Anderson, who turns 26 on Feb. 1, could be a big boon to a rotation whose back end was a sinkhole last year. The Rockies starters were last in the National League with a 4.57 ERA. In games started by Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa and Tyler Chatwood, the Rockies went 49-32. Their record when anyone else started was 25-56.
Included in the latter mark was an 0-19 record by Chad Bettis, Drew Pomeranz, Jeff Manship, Collin McHugh and Roy Oswalt in their 26 combined starts.
"I feel like we've taken a big step with our starting rotation," manager Walt Weiss said. "We started the 2013 season with four guys (Chacin, De La Rosa, Juan Nicasio and Jon Garland) out of our five-man rotation missing either all of '12 or most of '12. So it was a very precarious way to start the season in regards to your starting rotation.
"This year, we got three guys that have really stepped up. ... De La Rosa, Chatwood, in particular, and Chacin. We're in a much better place, and then adding Brett Anderson on top of that, I feel like that's probably one of the areas of our club where we've taken the biggest step."
The acquisition of Anderson leaves Nicasio, left-hander Christian Friedrich and newcomer Jordan Lyles to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation. Friedrich was shut down after four starts last year at Triple-A Colorado Springs with lower back problems after having a stress fracture in that area end his 2011 season in late July after his first 16 major league starts. The 25th re-worked his delivery to make it more conducive for his back.
Nicasio has not had to spend this offseason in a rehab mode, as was the case each of the past two years when he was coming back from a broken neck and fractured skull followed a year later by microfracture knee surgery.
Lyles, acquired from the Astros in the deal for Fowler, has above-average control and a good feel for pitching but lacks an out pitch and gives up a lot of hits, which doesn't bode well for Coors Field. Not so Anderson, who has a 90-92 mph fastball.
Friedrich is healthy and has as well as a slider that is above average or better and an above-average changeup.
In addition, right-handers Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler, the top two prospects in the organization, could reach the majors in 2014, maybe early in the season.
The Rockies acquired Anderson from Oakland for Pomeranz and pitcher Chris Jensen, a fringe prospect who spent last year at the Class A level and who sits at 93 mph with his fastball and has reached 95 mph but has shown poor command with his curve and changeup and likely needs to develop a slider to get hitters off his fastball.
Pomeranz was the centerpiece acquisition in the July 2011 deal that sent pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland. With the Rockies, Pomeranz, 24, had health issues and delivery issues and went 4-14 with a 5.20 ERA in 34 games with the Rockies, 30 starts. He pitched better in four scoreless September appearances in relief, which is where the A's may use him.
"We still believe in Drew, but there's a timing issue with a younger pitcher and where they're at in their career," said Bill Geivett, senior vice president of major league operations. "We felt like Anderson helped solidify us for next year with a little bit more certainty."
To be sure, the Rockies are taking a risk with Anderson that will cost them at least $7.5 million but could bring a huge reward. He'll make $8 million this season with the A's paying $2 million of that salary. The Rockies hold a $12 million option for 2015 with a $1.5 million buyout.
In a career that consists of 84 games, including 73 starts, Anderson has a 3.81 ERA along with a 26-29 record. But he has pitched just 163 innings the past three seasons.
Elbow issues limited him to 32 starts in 2010 and 2011 and resulted in Tommy John surgery in July 2011. Anderson returned to the A's in August 2012 but in his sixth start suffered an oblique injury that ended his season in mid-September.
Last year, Anderson was the A's Opening Day starter. He suffered a right ankle injury. An X-ray revealed the stress fracture in the foot that sidelined Anderson for four months before he returned in September and made nine relief appearances.
"As far as his health, he's been through the last couple years with injuries, the last one being the foot," Geivett said. "But we're comfortable with that and the progress he's made. We feel like we're getting an impact starter in this deal."
--1B Justin Morneau and the Rockies finalized a two-year, $12.5 million deal on Dec. 13. The contract includes a mutual option for a third season. Morneau fills the vacancy left when first baseman Todd Helton retired.
Morneau was one of the most productive first basemen in the major leagues until a concussion slowed him down in 2010. He also had an injury-plagued 2011.
Last season, Morneau batted a combined .259 with 17 home runs and 77 RBIs over 152 regular-season games with the Twins and Pirates. He was traded to Pittsburgh late in the season and played six postseason games, hitting .292 with no RBIs.
--LHP Boone Logan finalized a three-year, $16.5 million deal with the Colorado Rockies on Dec. 16. The 29-year-old was 5-2 with a 3.23 ERA over 39 innings with the New York Yankees last season. Over his eight-year career, he is 24-12 with a 4.39 ERA with the Chicago White Sox (2006-08), Atlanta Braves (2009) and Yankees (2010-13).
--CF Carlos Gonzalez said his sprained right middle finger "felt really good" after taking 50 swings off a batting tee at Coors Field on Dec. 9. It was the first time Gonzalez had swung a bat this offseason. Rather than elect to have surgery to repair the torn ligament in the finger and likely dealing with loss of some flexibility in the finger, Gonzalez opted for rest. He originally injured the finger July 7. It flared up multiple times and limited Gonzalez to 37 at-bats after the All-Star break, none after Aug. 4, and one home run. Gonzalez said his finger is getting stronger and he had "no issues" with it after taking swings off a tee.
--C Jordan Pacheco played about half a season of winter ball in the Dominican Republic for Toros del Estes. In 20 games, Pacheco hit .274 (20-for-73) with one homer and six RBIs. He also finished with a .354 on-base percentage and .370 slugging percentage. Pacheco, who turns 28 in January, went to winter ball after a 2013 season where at-bats with the Rockies became scarce -- he hit .239 with one homer and 22 RBIs in 95 games overall with 247 at-bats -- and he was demoted in late July to Triple-A for three weeks.
--RHP Tommy Kahnle was taken by the Rockies from the Yankees in the Rule 5 draft. In 46 games for Double-A Trenton, Kahnle, 24, went 1-3 with 15 saves and a 2.85 ERA. He only allowed 38 hits in 60 innings and had 74 strikeouts but issued 45 walks. That works out to an average of 11.1 strikeouts and 6.8 walks per nine innings. The stocky Kahnle has a plus fastball that gets up to 98 mph, a fairly good slider and an aggressive approach, but his command has been an issue throughout his career. During his four professional seasons, Kahnle has averaged 12 strikeouts and 5.2 walks per nine innings.
--RHP Juan Nicasio went 9-9 with a 5.14 ERA last season in 31 starts, 18 of which the Rockies lost. Worse, he went 1-3 with an 8.06 ERA in his final six starts, and the Rockies lost five of them. But the Rockies believe Nicasio, 27, can have a breakthrough season in 2014 now that he is at full strength, assuming he wins a spot in the rotation, where he will compete to be the fifth starter with RHP Jordan Lyles and LHP Christian Friedrich. Nicasio underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee in July 2012, and as the 2013 season went on, Nicasio dealt with weakness in the knee that affected his delivery and location. He finished with a career-high 157 2/3 innings after pitching a total of just 129 2/3 innings in 2011 and 2012, both seasons that were cut short by injury. In three starts this winter for Aguilas in the Dominican Republic, Nicasio is 0-0 with a 2.08 ERA.
--RHP Mitchell Boggs was not tendered a contract after going 0-0 with a 3.12 ERA in nine games with five walks and five strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings after St. Louis let him go earlier in the season when Boggs faltered badly when trying to replace injured Jason Motte as the Cardinals closer. The Rockies acquired Boggs from the Cardinals for cash -- an international signing bonus slot worth $206,000 -- on July 9, after Boggs went 0-3 with an 11.05 ERA in 18 games for the Cardinals and had been demoted to Triple-A Memphis. Boggs made $1.475 million last season in arbitration and is projected to make about $1.5 million next season.
--C Wilin Rosario could see more time at first base but remains the regular catcher, despite the signals thrown off by the Rockies in the offseason. They made unsuccessful attempts to sign Cs Carlos Ruiz and Brian McCann. Manager Walt Weiss said the club's intent was to find a way to get Rosario's bat in the lineup more, possibly for up to 25 games or 100 at-bats. Rosario must improve at first base, where he has played five games, including four starts. Four of those games and three starts came in 2013. Rosario should have the chance to see action at first base against left-handed pitching when Jordan Pacheco catches and left-handed-hitting 1B Justin Morneau, who has struggled against left-handers in recent seasons, isn't in the lineup. Referring to first base, manager Walt Weiss said of Rosario, "He's got to get better there, too. But I think he can be serviceable over there to get his bat in the lineup on certain days."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think you take a guy that is one of your greatest assets and you put him in a position to impact the game, even more, by putting him in that position." -- Manager Walt Weiss, on Carlos Gonzalez moving back to center field from left field following the trade of CF Dexter Fowler.
The arrival of rookie Nolan Arenado in late April solved the Rockies' problems at third base, as he became a fixture with magnificent defense and acceptable offense that should improve with experience.
Tyler Chatwood, who like Arenado began the season at Triple-A Colorado Springs, also came up in April and established himself in the rotation, along with Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa, both of whose 2012 seasons were limited by injury.
The Rockies were able to give extensive playing time to OFs Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson because CF Dexter Fowler missed the final month and LF Carlos Gonzalez the final two months with injuries. That situation also resulted in giving INF Charlie Culberson time in the outfield, where his inexperience showed but as he improves, his versatility will be enhanced. Blackmon and Dickerson will vie for the left-field job in the wake of Fowler being traded to Houston and Gonzalez moving from left field to center. Both Blackmon and Dickerson bat left-handed, so right-handed-hitting Brandon Barnes, acquired in the Fowler trade, also could see time in the outfield. Culberson is a work in progress in the outfield, where he has limited experience, but can also play shortstop and second base.
BIGGEST NEEDS: The Rockies would like to add a late-inning reliever, preferably a left-hander, and a right-handed corner bat. The Rockies have decided that Jordan Pacheco's best position is catcher and will have him back up starter Wilin Rosario.
ARRIVALS: RHP LaTroy Hawkins (free agent from Mets), RHP Jordan Lyles (trade with Astros), OF Brandon Barnes (trade with Astros), 1B Justin Morneau (free agent from Pirates), LHP Brett Anderson (trade with A's), RHP Tommy Kahnle (Rule 5 draft pick from Yankees), LHP Boone Logan (free agent from Yankees)
DEPARTURES: 1B Todd Helton (retired), CF Dexter Fowler (traded to Astros), LHP Drew Pomeranz (traded to A's)
FREE AGENTS: RHP Manuel Corpas, LHP Jeff Francis, RHP Roy Oswalt, C Yorvit Torrealba, RHP Rafael Betancourt
Helton retired after the season. Francis and Torrealba are not expected to return. And while Oswalt would like to, it's questionable what he has left at age 36 after compiling an 8.63 ERA in nine games, six starts and 32 1/3 innings, albeit despite missing two months with a left hamstring strain. Corpas could be back in a middle-relief role, but he easily could be deemed expendable as the Rockies reconstruct their bullpen. Betancourt will miss all of next year after elbow surgery.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: INF Jonathan Herrera, RHP Wilton Lopez, LHP Josh Outman, RHP Juan Nicasio
Lopez was a major disappointment in his first season with the Rockies but remains in their plans, albeit in less highly leveraged innings. Outman is a left-handed specialist who struggled against right-handed hitters but was effective against lefties despite a few too many walks. Herrera is a valuable utility player with a knack for hitting for a decent average despite few at-bats. Nicasio will be in the competition for the fifth starter but has had the benefit of a normal offseason unlike the previous two that were devoted to rehabilitation.
IN LIMBO: RHP Rafael Betancourt.
Betancourt underwent Tommy John surgery Sept. 17 and will miss the entire 2014 season. The Rockies won't pick up their end of his $4.25 million mutual option for 2014 but are expected to sign him to a less expensive contract so he can continue his rehab with the Rockies and attempt a comeback with them in 2015, when he turns 40 in April.
--OF Carlos Gonzalez (sprained right middle finger) last batted in a game Aug. 4. He decided not to have surgery to repair the torn ligament in the finger and has responded well to rest. On Dec. 9, he swung a bat for the first time this offseason, taking 50 swings off a batting tee at Coors Field and said his finger felt fine.
--RHP Rafael Betancourt (Tommy John surgery in September 2013) likely will miss the 2014 season.
--LHP Christian Friedrich (lower back inflammation) made four starts at Triple-A and did not pitch after April. A stress fracture in his lower back ended his season in 2012 in late July after 16 starts with the Rockies. Friedrich is throwing with a revamped delivery and is expected to compete in spring training for the final spot in the rotation.
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