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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The 2022 Winter Meetings for the Colorado Rockies was incredibly quiet featuring only the trade of an expendable reliever for a minor league starting pitcher.
The 2023 edition was downright mute.
Even when their activity picks up, it will be equally as forgettable.
“We’re looking for somebody to go with (Elias) Díaz,” GM Bill Schmidt said in the team’s suite at the Gaylord Opryland Resort. “We’re gonna look to try to help Buddy out here and put together a better bench.”
For a club coming off their worst season in franchise history, focusing on adding a backup catcher and improving the bench options may not inspire a lot of hope. But a plan is in place, even if it’s subtle for a squad coming off 103 losses.
Don’t do anything today that will jeopardize tomorrow’s potential.
A trio of rookies — Nolan Jones, Ezequiel Tovar and Brenton Doyle — emerged last year to become what many believe are foundation pieces for the next contender. An extension for some of those players could be beneficial for the future. However, Schmidt and the front office are not at that point. “No, we haven’t addressed any of that,” he said.
Colorado had three rookies contribute in a major way during 2023.
Which of the Rockies top three rookies is primed to be better in 2024:
Nolan Jones, Ezequiel Tovar or Brenton Doyle? pic.twitter.com/gkQaTpb2Jg
— Patrick Lyons (@PatrickDLyons) December 1, 2023
After finishing with 164 home runs in 2023, second-fewest in the last decade for the franchise, the Rockies could target any number of 30-homer bats in free agency this offseason. However, Schmidt sees that as causing a problem more than relieving one.
“I think it’s down the list,” Schmidt said of significantly increasing the power. “Eventually, given some of our young kids — how soon some of our kids are ready — they’ll dictate that.”
The prospects bubbling up from Double-A and nearing their Major League debut will need a place to ply their trade, so blocking them with an overpriced free agent on a multi-year deal doesn’t make much sense either. Stand pat, cross your fingers and pray everyone plays better in 2024.
The need for improved pitching depth continues even after the addition of three big league arms offering three different benefits through three different means over the past month. “We have to use all avenues,” Schmidt said.
LHP Jalen Beeks was selected off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays, RHP Cal Quantrill came over via trade with the Cleveland Guardians and RHP Anthony Molina was taken by Colorado out of the Rays minor leagues with the third pick of the Rule 5 Draft.
Jalen Beeks, Wicked 79mph Curveball (and unique arm action). 🤢 pic.twitter.com/cye33EOMsE
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 17, 2019
“There’s some experience there. Five years of service (and) he’s pitched in the heat of pennant races,” manager Bud Black said of Beeks. “Stuff wise, good velocity to the fastball. He’s got a good changeup not unlike (Brent) Suter. Comfortable against lefties or righties because of the changeup.”
Black thinks Beeks should help fortify the left-handed options in the bullpen alongside rookie Evan Justice and Lucas Gilbreath, who’s expected to get back from Tommy John surgery in Spring Training and impact the roster early in the season.
Quantrill and his two years of club control offers stability to a starting rotation who will need to wait for Germán Márquez and Antonio Senzatela to return to full-strength in 2025 following Tommy John surgery this season.
Cal Quantrill, Dirty 87mph Splitter. ✌️ pic.twitter.com/IDkyGIC1Nl
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 29, 2023
“With his upside and what he’s done in his career, there’s a chance that we get a middle of the rotation starter for less money than we would have to pay on the open market,” director of scouting Sterling Monfort said of Quantrill acquisition.
Monfort also shed light on why the organization was so excited to draft Molina in Wednesday’s Rule 5 Draft.
“Watching the video and seeing it in person, it’s a changeup that he sells really well out of his hand. It’s got pretty good depth to it,” he said of Molina. “He maintains solid arm speed and I think it’s a pitch that’s going to be a weapon for him moving forward.”
The 21-year-old split his time between Double-A and Triple-A last season, pitching to a 4.50 ERA over 122.0 innings. Jack Gillis, the scout assigned to cover Tampa Bay, compared Molina to another former Rays starter from Venezuela, Germán Márquez.
With the third pick of the Rule 5 Draft, the @Rockies select Rays RHP Anthony Molina.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) December 6, 2023
“(Molina) was actually two levels higher than when we traded for Márquez,” Monfort said. “And if you look at it historically, the numbers are about the same as Márquez. Marquez wasn’t a huge strikeout number guy until he really got to us and developed the off speed, fastball and things like that. So we’re hoping — not saying that they’re going to be the same guy — but hoping that we can get somebody like Germán Márquez.”
Molina will likely be utilized in a long reliever role as he can go multiple innings. Beyond 2024, the hope is he can enter the conversation for a place in the rotation in 2025. “If we’re able to get him through the year and keep him healthy, we view him as a no. 2 or no. 3 starter down the way. High impact type of upside.”
As for the rest of the young starting pitching coming through the minors, a spate of injuries to Gabriel Hughes, Jordy Vargas, Jackson Cox, Jaden Hill and Chris McMahon have weakened Colorado’s farm system over the past 24 months. It’s one of the reasons they’ve selected 34 pitchers over the last two drafts and acquired six minor league arms at this year’s trade deadline. “We need to get surprised at some point,” Schmidt said.
Starters such as Case Williams, Joe Rock and Carson Palmquist are the best bets to offer such surprise and build from their success at Double-A Hartford in 2023. “We’ll see some kids in camp,” said Schmidt of young rotation options this spring.
Platoon at 1B/RF/DH?
Kris Bryant will be playing first base a majority of the time in 2024. There’s a belief he can still run out to right field on occasion. Same with Charlie Blackmon who played only 30 games in the outfield last season, fewest in his 13-year career. He’ll primarily be used as the designated hitter once again.
The rest of the time will feature a rotating cast of players vying to playing time at first base, right field and DH: Sean Bouchard, Elehuris Montero, Michael Toglia and Hunter Goodman.
Bouchard and Montero are the dark horses for playing time right now as neither can play multiple positions at this point. Montero has never played outfield and has been deemed a first baseman while Bouchard is an outfielder that has spent limited time at first in the minors.
Sean Bouchard hammers a two-run home run during a 12-5 win by Hermosillo in the Mexican Pacific League.
The 27-year-old finished the day 2-for-4 with a double, homer and 3 RBI.
— Patrick Lyons (@PatrickDLyons) October 15, 2023
“He was gonna get an opportunity last year,” Schmidt said of Bouchard before surgery to repair a left biceps tear in Spring Training. “That’s the way it was designed. Now I think it’s a little bit more of a backup role, extra role, than everyday role. But Sean has a history of hitting.”
Even still, don’t be surprised if the Rockies improve the bench by acquiring a left-handed bat that can play the outfield.
2024 MLB Draft
Colorado won the third-overall pick in the draft lottery on Tuesday night.
Tied with the Oakland Athletics and Kansas City Royals for the highest likelihood (18.3%) of earning the first-overall pick, the Cleveland Guardians with a 2.0% chance ended up winning the lottery. The 82-win Cincinnati Reds received pick no. 2.
In the end, the team with the third-worst record in 2023 came out with the third pick under the new lottery rules.
The Colorado Rockies will have the 3rd overall pick in the 2024 MLB Draft. pic.twitter.com/cqDgEbuYA3
— Patrick Lyons (@PatrickDLyons) December 5, 2023
“We were prepared at wherever. At three, we held serve. We’re going in and we’re gonna have a good pick,” senior director of scouting Marc Gustafson said. “There’s a lot of talent up at the top and so we’ll prepare like we always do.”
With the shutdown of broadcasting partner AT&T SportsNet, Colorado will face a lot of financial uncertainty for the next year. “Rockies games will be on TV, I’ve been told that,” Schmidt said. “What ramifications and all that, I’m not aware.”
The estimated payroll for 2023 is $172 million and this year is projecting to be $142 million should they not add any free agents or acquire a veteran via trade. The concern for the payroll moving forward is unclear. “We’ll see,” said Schmidt. “I’m not sure where we’re headed… We have a payroll, I’m not going to say what it is, but it’s something we have to deal with. It’s real.”
- Schmidt said the entire coaching staff will return for the 2024 season.
- In order to create room on the 40-man roster for Molina, RHP Connor Seabold was released on Wednesday morning.
- No players were taken from the Rockies’ farm system during the big league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Five were selected in the minor league phase: RHP Fineas Del Bonta-Smith by the Pirates, RHP Nick Garcia by the Giants, RHP Gabriel Barbosa by the Yankees, RHP Nelvis Ochoa by the Orioles and RHP Alan Perdomo by the Mets.
- Colorado selected RHP Brendan Hardy of the Mets and RHP Thomas Ponticello of the Guardians in the minor league phase.