Colorado finished in the basement of the NL West last year with a 74-88 record. It was the second year in a row the Rockies' finished in the cellar of the division. I caught up with Greg Stanwood of Purple Row recently to look back at what Colorado has done to prepare for the 2014 season.
DAVID: What was the biggest offseason move the Rockies made?
GREG: The Rockies made several significant moves this offseason, but the one at the top of the pyramid that affected the entire offseason plan is the trade of Dexter Fowler to the Houston Astros. The Rockies used the money saved from Fowler's mostly for some combination of signing Boone Logan and Justin Morneau, plus the salary the Brett Anderson acquisition. Fowler is also the player of the highest value involved in any Rockies offseason move.
DL: What was the biggest offseason move Colorado DID NOT made?
GS: If we're talking about moves that we know the Rockies actually considered, signing Jose Abreu is definitely that answer. The Rockies finished somewhere between 2nd and 4th behind the White Sox for Abreu's services, and it would have changed our entire offseason workflow had we been at the top. If we're thinking more about moves that the Rockies didn't seem to even consider, I'd have preferred the Rockies to have gone after an outfielder instead of Justin Morneau, and move Michael Cuddyer to first. More discussion on this below.
DL: What was the worst offseason move the Rockies made?
GS: No one was happy with the return with the Fowler trade, but in the interest of diversifying the answers, I'm going to go with the Morneau signing here. Now I'm not one to rule out the possibility of a career renaissance of sorts for the first baseman, but the signing didn't make sense for several reasons, most notably the fact that we had an excellent opportunity to move Michael Cuddyer to first base where his overall value would thrive with him out of the outfield. Instead, we chased Morneau from the start. We certainly could have done worse, but had we simply not signed Morneau, we could have kept Fowler in center and used our Drew Stubbs + Corey Dickerson/Charlie Blackmon platoon in RF with Cuddyer safely at first base. We might easily have been a better team in that scenario, especially since we likely still would have had the resources to handle the Anderson trade, which is my favorite move of the offseason.
DL: Where does the team stand now as a whole? Are there a lot of weaknesses that will be fixed in spring training?
GS: I grade the Rockies offseason as a C+. Overall, we look like a better team than we did last year, but by how much, I'm not sure. Most of the Spring battles going on right now are for bench spots, with maybe a few surprises happening at second base or in the bullpen. Jhoulys Chacin's unfortunate setback will likely get one of our depth starters a chance to break with the team and continue to audition through two real starts.
DL: What is Colorado's biggest strength heading into the season?
GS: The Rockies have assembled much better pitching depth than they did in the last year. Many people failed to notice that last season, Rockies pitching was actually their strongest asset. While certain players such as Jorge De La Rosa and Tyler Chatwood may be in line to experience some amount of negative regression, the inclusion of Brett Anderson and the lack of any Jon Garland/Jeff Francis/Roy Oswalt types put us in a spot where we may be more able to counteract that regression and keep our staff strong. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw another season of surprisingly strong Colorado pitching.
It will get more likely to happen each successive year the Rockies fail to contend, but I don't expect either to be traded this season. The Rockies are not looking to move either player, and have better options for trade deadline candidates like Cuddyer and De La Rosa, if they're performing well enough to warrant a rental trade. It's highly unlikely the Yankees have a strong enough farm system to make a push for Tulowitzki as their Jeter replacement, so I think that talk is especially overdone at this point. So, it's not impossible, but don't look for it to happen either.
GS: Who is a rookie to look out for this year?
Starting prospects Eddie Butler and Jon Gray have a chance to see time with the Rockies this year. I still would rather keep them in the minors for the year if possible, but if the team is competitive and we lose a key rotation member, they may get the chance to debut this season.
DL: Who is your pre-season Cy Young for the Rockies?
Jhoulys Chacin is the Rockies' best starter beyond any doubt, and if he catches up healthy fairly quickly, he should have a good shot to be that guy for all but the first two weeks of the season. From a relief perspective, your readers are probably aware of my love for Rex Brothers from previous question sessions last season. The Rockies may be trying something interesting this year, using Rex not as a typical ninth inning closer (with that role going to LaTroy Hawkins), but as a "key situation" guy, able to come in at any high leverage point of the game to clean things up. A lot of Purple Row's community feels that this is the way closers should truly be used, and it will be interesting to see if it works.
GS: Who is your pre-season MVP for Colorado?
Pretty hard to go with anyone other than a healthy Troy Tulowitzki. If he's healthy, a healthy Carlos Gonzalez. If he's not healthy, well, is the discussion even worth having any longer?
DL: What do the Rockies need to do to make the playoffs?
GS: Stay healthy and see success from guys like new faces Brett Anderson and Justin Morneau. These two players are the two who are likely providing the biggest one-for-one upgrades over their 2013 equivalents (Todd Helton and the aforementioned Garland/Francis/Oswalt carousel of doom). They probably also need the Dodgers to be injury ridden, regardless.
DL: Where do you see Colorado finishing at the end of the regular season? Record, place in division, place in playoffs, etc.
GS: Somewhere between second and fifth. I believe the Rockies are in the mix with the bottom four teams in the division, and much like last year, I expect all four of them to finish together in a big clump in the slightly-below-500 zone. But as you may recall from our previous Q&A sessions, I hate making predictions. Anything could happen; the Giants' staff could have a resurgence, the Padres' early injuries could impact the team less than expected, Mark Trumbo's power or an early appearance from Archie Bradley could make a bigger difference for Arizona... who even knows. I say, let's just let it happen and see.