The Rockies rebounded from an 87-loss season to 87 wins in 2017 and a wild card appearance. Can they return to the postseason again in 2018 for the first back-to-back playoff berths in franchise history?
Wade Davis (free agent), Bryan Shaw (free agent), Chris Iannetta (free agent), Jake McGee (re-signed)
Greg Holland (declined option*), Carlos Gonzalez (free agent*), Matt Reynolds (free agent*), Tyler Chatwood (free agent), Jonathan Lucroy (free agent*), Pat Neshek (free agent), Ryan Hanigan (free agent)
*still a free agent
One of the reasons I pushed back these NL West team previews was because of this slow market, and the Rockies still have four free agents who haven’t signed anywhere yet. In other words there is still time for Colorado to improve, and if they have designs on contending in 2018 they should.
The Rockies made a big splash this offseason in one area though, spending $106 million on a trio of three-year deals for Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee. Add in the already-signed Mike Dunn ($7 million) and Adam Ottavino ($7 million) and Colorado is paying $44.5 million to five relief pitchers in 2018, making them one of the most expensive bullpens in major league history.
On a fundamental level the Rockies’ strategy makes sense. Colorado has had trouble attracting free agent starting pitchers ever since the Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle debacles 17 years ago. So instead the Rockies will try to shorten the game from the back end instead, trying to buttress a young staff (see below).
Pitching was a strength for the Rockies in their surprise wild card run in 2017, and will probably be so again this year. But the question is can the offense hold up their end of the bargain?
The Rockies did lead the National League in runs scored in 2017, led by legitimate MVP candidates Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado. But despite that Colorado still managed to underwhelm offensively.
Colorado had just a 91 OPS+ and an 87 wRC+ overall, hitting .248/.312/.390 on the road. Outside of Blackmon and Arenado, only Reynolds and Lucroy (acquired at the trade deadline) had at least an average OPS+ or wRC+.
As of now the Rockies are counting on improvements from Trevor Story and Ian Desmond, among others, and for David Dahl to claim an outfield spot after missing all of 2017 with rib and back injuries.
Adding Chris Iannetta, a career league-average hitter who posted a 114 OPS+ (.254/.354/.511) for Arizona last year, will help. But even accounting for those rebounds Colorado seems like it could still use another bat to round out the offense.
The Dodgers and Rockies avoid each other for nearly the first third of the season, going 46 games before meeting at Dodger Stadium. The two teams don’t play in Denver until June.
Colorado got a whopping 93 starts from rookie pitchers in 2017, with German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman combining for a 4.61 ERA as starters, which in Coors Field counts for a 109 ERA+. The former pitcher and longtime pitching coach Bud Black seemed a perfect fit in his first year as Rockies manager.
Add in that ace Jon Gray is just 26 and made only 20 starts last year, there is room for improvement and a lot to like on the pitching side in 2018.
I am thrown by Bovada violating the cardinal rule of over/unders (always set it at a half-number). I do like the Rockies’ pitching but overall their offensive shortcomings will hurt them. I put Colorado in the same boat as the Giants, over .500 and on the periphery of contention, but falling just short of the playoffs. I reserve the right to amend this if Colorado adds a bat or two.