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The new glue that will hold the Colorado Rockies bullpen together

Drew Creasman Avatar
July 19, 2020

Parting isn’t always such sweet sorrow.

While it can always be tough on a personal level whenever someone leaves an organization, especially one as tight-knit as the Colorado Rockies, there is no question that from a professional perspective the release of Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw comes as welcome news to fans.

Both were signed to three-year, $27 million contracts two years ago and will bow out before serving their third or allowing options for a fourth to vest.

The move saves the Rockies on money to be spent next offseason and immediately grants them two more bullpen spots to hand to more exciting pitchers.

Perhaps surprisingly, the first reliever named to the roster since this announcement was 35-year-old Daniel Bard who hasn’t pitched in MLB since 2013. More than a nice story if he can find a second wind after retiring in 2017 and even spending time as a coach, Bard doesn’t exactly represent the high-end potential fans have been clamoring for.

The fact that Colorado already has emerging young fireballers in Carlos Estevez and Jairo Diaz, in addition to back-end pieces they like in Scott Oberg and Wade Davis, means they can take a chance on Bard as a potentially stabilizing veteran presence.

Like with Shaw before him, though, he could be on a relatively short leash as the group of players coming up behind him look awfully interesting.

So how does the bullpen stack up now in a season where we expect them to carry 10 relievers with expanded rosters?

Back End: Oberg, Davis, Estevez, Diaz

These four are your foundation. Expect each one to trade off closing and setting up and being used for the big “fireman” situation. Oberg will take the bulk of the most important duties and Davis could either rise up the totem pole or fall down it depending on his performance.

Estevez and Diaz have both shown closer “stuff” but really only started to show consistency last year. A step forward for either could mean becoming the go-to set-up man.

The New Guys: Tyler Kiney, James Pazos, Bard

While Bard technically fits into this category – and again, if he works out he could be one of the best stories in baseball this year – it is Pazos and Kinley who look to take over the kind of workload the Rockies were counting on from McGee and Shaw when they first acquired them.

As we wrote in Spring Training 1.0, Pazos has much more of a track record of excellence than you might expect given the lack of discussion about him. The numbers suggest he could be as reliable as any reliever the Rox have. There’s a similar case to be made with Kinley who has gotten great results in his career so far despite a worrying walk rate.

He has minimized that issue by striking out over 10 batters per nine innings throughout his minor league career thanks in large part to a wicked, 90+ MPH wipeout slider.

DNVR had projected both of these players to be on the roster, and potentially already ahead of Shaw and McGee on the depth chart, which is to say that Bud Black would call on the younger players first. Now that those veterans are no longer on the roster, they are fully committed to this.

The Young Guys: Phllip Diehl, Yency Almonte, Jesus Tinoco

Even with all the extra space on the roster, only two of these players can make the team. And since Almonte is out of options, he holds the advantage over fellow-right-hander Tinoco.

This means that Diehl, who was on fire in Spring and has been great in Summer Camp, will now make the roster when it looked like he would just barely get pushed out by the presence of McGee.

He becomes the second lefty in the ‘pen after Pazos and therefore isn’t just stepping onto the active roster but into an important role. (We assume.)

So here is our updated projected bullpen:

Oberg
Davis
Estevez
Diaz
Pazos
Kinley
Diehl
Bard
Almonte
Hoffman*

Either Jeff Hoffman or Chi Chi Gonzalez is likely to be the long man in the bullpen while the other becomes the fifth rotation starter.

The next lefties in the system that will be called upon if necessary are veteran Tim Collins and prospect Ben Bowden.

Tinoco has a high chance of being placed on the Taxi Squad, a three-man group that will travel with the team and step in at a moments notice if needed. He also serves as quality insurance in the even that the Bard Experiment doesn’t work out.

By finally deciding to cut their losses and move on from McGee and Shaw, the Rockies have not only set themselves up nicely for a more financially free future, they have also paved the way for an open competition for the middle of the bullpen that has the potential to yield some pretty impressive results.

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