Results tagged ‘ LaTroy Hawkins ’

How far are the Rockies from contending? The offseason strategy depends on their answer

Will shortstop Troy Tulowitzki be turning two elsewhere?

Will shortstop Troy Tulowitzki be turning two elsewhere?

New general manager Jeff Bridich, manager Walt Weiss and the front office he has put together are making quick work of assessing the Rockies’ roster. With the general managers meetings starting Monday in Phoenix, they must be prepared for talks with other clubs and negotiations with potential free agents.

I have no money for free agents. My front office staff consists of the birds and squirrels running around the neighborhood. So I’ll take some time to dig through the roster and bounce the ideas off you, the fans. Feel free to spend your lunch break (well, your work time, but we’ll keep that between us) walking through the tough Rockies questions with me.

Feel free to comment on Twitter: @harding_at_mlb

WARNING: There’s a lot here. The squirrels and birds crunched numbers and presented many scenarios. They’ve got a future in management.

Let’s look at the key question.

What type of pitching do the Rockies need to contend now and in the future?

Their last two playoff appearances could offer guidelines.

The Rockies went to the 2007 World Series based on pitching depth. They lost three of their five starters in August, and changed closers during the season, but developed and acquired good enough parts to stay in the race and win the National League Wild Card.

In 2009, they earned the NL Wild Card based on health and quality — five guys made all but eight starts, which mean they were whole enough and good enough to keep taking the ball. There was enough bullpen strength to withstand second-half injuries to lefty Alan Embree and closer Huston Street.

So, as trade rumors fly, it all comes back to the question: How close is Rockies’ pitching staff to the depth of 2007 and the quality of 2009?

Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez also could be on the move.

Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez also could be on the move.

That explains why the Rockies are listening to offers, not only for veteran first baseman Justin Morneau but for the very top guys on their payroll, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.

Let’s look at the rotation as it stands as the Rockies attempt to leap from 66-96 to contentions in the NL West:

• Lefty Jorge De La Rosa is the clear leader.  He’s by no means the equal of the front of the rotations of the defending NL West champion Dodgers or the World Series champ Giants, but not many folks can say they’ve thrived at Coors the way De La Rosa has.

• Righty Jhoulys Chacin saw his 2014 limited to 11 starts by issues with his rotator cuff and labrum. Chacin, the club and doctors decided on rehab and strengthening rather than surgery. Success of the decision will depend on the effectiveness of his rehab, diligent maintenance and, to some degree, good fortune. Not impossible, but it’s a lot.

• Righty Jordan Lyles and lefty Tyler Matzek, each 24, showed ability in their first seasons in Purple Pinstripes. Lyles went in with big-league time with the Astros. Matzek was making his debut. Can they go from developing talents to stalwarts? Once again, it’s asking a lot, but it’s not impossible.

The Rockies will need Jhoulys Chacin to bounce back from labrum and rotator cuff issues.

The Rockies will need Jhoulys Chacin to bounce back from labrum and rotator cuff issues.

• Beyond those four, there are options but none that compare to the competition. Righty Christian Bergman has more heart than stuff, but is promising because of his brainpower and competitiveness. The prospects behind him all have questions. Righty Eddie Butler’s debut year was spoiled by shoulder pain. Righty prospect Jon Gray is coming off his first full pro season, and the Rockies were careful with him because of fatigue at the end. Lefty prospect Tyler Anderson finished the year with an elbow issue that he’s trying to rehab over the winter.

Now, let’s look at the bullpen:

• Ageless LaTroy Hawkins returns as closer. With no big changes, it’s the same plan as last year – hope another option develops so Hawkins can pitch earlier in games.

• Righty Adam Ottavino overcame a month of struggles impressively enough last season that the Rockies see a bright future. There’s still the need to improve against left-handed hitters. Who knows? Maybe if he finds the magic against lefties, he could slide into the ninth inning.

• Lefty Rex Brothers went from a dazzling year in 2013 to a simply awful one in 2014. Part o the problem was the workload that fell to him when lefty Boone Logan was hampered by elbow issues throughout the first year of his three-year contract. The Rockies need rebounds from both.

• Righty Tommy Kahnle stuck out the full year as a Rule 5 Draft pick and showed a workable fastball-changeup mix. He’ll need to take this year’s experience and show greater savvy to earn an increased role.

• Beyond that are guys trying to establish themselves. Righty Brooks Brown’s control and ability to change speeds during his callups put him ahead of many pitchers who were on the staff the full year. The Rockies also hope for progress righty Juan Nicasio and lefty Christian Friedrich, who struggled as starters and were moved to the bullpen.

Weigh the dependable parts, the hopefuls and the holes, and you get a pitching staff that needs several quality pitchers in the rotation and the bullpen. Given that, how possible is it for the Rockies to contend in 2015? Are they prepared if they don’t content?

There are many ways to construe the Rockies' $15.3 million qualifying offer to first baseman-outfielder Michael Cuddyer

There are many ways to construe the Rockies’ $15.3 million qualifying offer to first baseman-outfielder Michael Cuddyer

A fine piece yesterday from Dave Cameron of Fangraphs suggests that extending the $15.3 million qualifying offer to first baseman-outfielder Michael Cuddyer could be construed as part of rebuilding rather than an attempt to hold the current lineup together. Cuddyer gets a nice payday, and if the Rockies are struggling at the deadline he could be dealt.

But these are the Major Leagues, where the majority of teams are in position to at least dream at the deadline. While there is a future to contend with, I and the wildlife outside my door want the Rockies to have a fighting chance in the present.

So here are some questions:

•Say the Rockies hold a strong lineup together and hold onto their big multi-year contracts, Tulowitzki and Gonzalez. They could hope to receive a solid veteran for the starting rotation for Morneau. Then they could go bargain hunting via free agency for another starter – say righty Justin Masterson, who is trying to rebuild his value after a rough 2014, or lefty Brett Anderson or righty Aaron Harang, who have proven ability but questionable health histories.

•Say the Rockies push hard to deal Tulowitzki and Gonzalez. Both are coming off shortened seasons because of surgeries, which might give other teams pause. The Rockies have said they will listen, and have given indications that clubs would have to make offers based on the players if healthy. Can they expect to receive star players who can rebuild the team?

What could NL batting champ Justin Morneau bring in a deal?

What could NL batting champ Justin Morneau bring in a deal?

•Let’s say the Rockies seek immediate payroll relief, rather than star-for-star deals or situations where they’re eating huge portions of the salaries of Tulowitkzi and Gonzalez. This is where the dreams get big.

With the money saved, maybe they can’t land any of the big three free-agent starters — James Shields, Max Scherzer or Jon Lester — and second-tier starters such as Ervin Santana and Brandon McCarthy could be risky propositions at Coors Field. But how about catcher Russell Martin, who could have strong offense at Coors and help the young starters? How about a big offer to righty reliever Andrew Miller, who could be the closer immediately? Righty setup Luke Gregerson pitched for the Athletics last year, but he has a long history in the NL West based on his days with the Padres.

All this leaves the Rockies with tough decisions.

The feeling has been they want one more run with their lineup core, only with some pitching added. They will have to believe they can acquire enough pitching through dealing not just Morneau but two arbitration-eligible chips – catcher Wilin Rosario, who could be a fit as a catcher-designated hitter in the American League, and outfielder Drew Stubbs, who recaptured some of his run-producing potential with the Rockies.

To succeed, such a plan has to have the Rockies stay healthy in the rotation, contend enough to be able to make trades at next summer’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, and finish the year with a roster and payroll capable of succeeding in future years.

All this makes the big trade sounds attractive, but there are risks.

Any deal involving Tulowitzki or Gonzalez would leave a big hole. When healthy, they not only are All-Stars and offensive threats, but they’re Gold Glove Award types. Also, if the Rockies don’t eat salary, the return might be less than if they were more willing in that regard. They’d have to count on any position player having his stats enhanced at Coors Field, and any young pitcher being an immediate help — an iffy proposition, based on history.

Should the Rockies take the plunge and deal Tulowitkzi or Gonzalez, or both, they key is not stopping there. Some of the players who come in a trade may have to be spun to other teams, especially if they use hitting prospects they receive to pull in pitchers.

– Thomas Harding

Disclaimer: No indication Rockies owner can be swayed into dealing Tulo … Still, team has to be prepared if talks occur

We preface everything here with the simple statement, based on conversations with sources inside and outside the Rockies organization:

 

Owner Dick Monfort has no interest in trading shortstop Troy Tulowitzki at Thursday afternoon’s non-waiver Trade Deadline. The belief that a healthy Rockies club, with an improved rotation and a bullpen overhaul, is a winner next season means odds are against Monfort moving Tulowitzki — signed for extreme riches through 2020 — this offseason.

 

But the way to not get caught off guard is to be prepared, even if you know nothing may happen.

 

In the days leading to the Trade Deadline, the Rockies are getting ready for the magic phone call, even if it’s not coming.

 

The Rockies spent much of Monday studying the Mets organization, looking at current Major Leaguers and prospects, and gauging the abilities of young pitchers who have not reached their arbitration years. Any Mets pitcher who is anyone, whether he is working in Queens – like National League Rookie of the Year candidate Jacob deGrom – or prospects such as righty Noah Syndergaard (No. 1 on the MLB.com Mets Top 20 Prospects list) or Rafael Montero (No. 6), the Rockies are prepared to discuss. If the names of numerous position players come up, the Rockies are prepared.

 

But here’s the thing. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson on Monday said it is “unlikely” the team will make any deal, and sources throughout the game are saying it’s unlikely anything serious will occur with the Rockies. And, as can’t be stated enough, it’s all fantasy unless Monfort changes his belief that the Rockies will win with Tulowitzki.

 

But that’s the way these things work. Oh, it’s not only the Mets. We hear the Rockies have beefed up their knowledge on the Cardinals and the Angels – two teams with the money and Major League-ready players to make the Rockies’ baseball people at least listen if they were to call – and a few other teams that may have interest. Speaking of which, since Tulowitzki’s showing up at Yankee Stadium Sunday sparked so many conspiracy theories, we are told the Yankees are not one of the teams that the Rockies believe have players it takes to pull off a Tulowitzki deal.

 

There’s absolutely no indication either team will make that call before the deadline. Nonetheless, the Rockies want to have detailed information if talks ever begin.

 

Other fronts appear to be quiet, although there is interest.

 

• We recently identified the Pirates as a team that is taking a look at Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins, and now we’re told that 5-6 clubs are interested in Hawkins, knowing he can pitch in any situation. But two issues are making it hard to deal the 41-year-old reliever with the ageless right arm:

 

The Rockies believe his influence is strong enough on young players and young pitchers that they want to keep him around, even though the team is in last place.

 

The Rockies’ requirement for help at the start of next season, plus pitchers under club control applies to Hawkins. Teams in contention haven’t offered what the Rockies want.

 

• It’s doubtful the Rockies will move lefty Jorge De La Rosa, who has pitched better at Coors than any pitcher in their history. The Rockies have been listening when clubs inquire, but after it surfaced that the Rockies coveted Orioles righty Kevin Gausman and a whole haul of prospects, no other team’s interest made it to the rumor stage. Expect the Rockies to make the $14 million qualifying offer for De La Rosa, a free agent after this season, and use that as the basis for keeping him.

 

• While the Rockies have scouted lefty Brett Anderson since his return from a broken left index finger, there are no active discussions. The Rockies are expected to pick up Anderson’s $12 million option for next season.

 

– Thomas Harding

Pirates believed to be interested in Rockies closer Hawkins

The Rockies don’t appear to be willing to make a major trade at Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, but interest could pick up in a smaller deal for closer LaTroy Hawkins.

 

The Rockies won the first two games against the Pirates this weekend by big margins, so Hawkins was not forced into a save opportunity. However, the Pirates are believed to be interested in the 41-year-old right-hander. With the Rockies requiring players that can help them at the start of next season and always searching for young pitching under club control, a deal could be difficult but not impossible.

 

It would be a case of the rich — in terms of power arms to protect a lead — getting richer. They have righties Jeanmar Gomez and Jared Hughes, lefties Justin Wilson and Tony Watson and righty closer Mark Melancon. And Melancon has proven adept in closing situations recently.

 

If the Pirates want to beef up their bullpen, it would be in middle relief or possible insurance in case Melancon struggles, is ailing or is unavailable on a given day. Hawkins, who can pitch in any situation and tends to become more effective as the season progresses, could be a fit.

 

Hawkins could be an upgrade over righty Ernesto Frieri, who has struggled since coming in a trade with the Angels for righty Jason Grilli.

 

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is quite familiar with Hawkins’ ability and leadership skills. Hawkins was part of the bullpen when the Rockies went to the 2007 World Series under Hurdle.

 

A trade could be a boon for Hawkins. Although he has been effective this year, the struggles of the Rockies have reduced his opportunities to pitch. He has 37 appearances so far. In his career, he had 980 regular-season appearances going into Sunday. Getting t 1,000 is a goal for a solid pitcher who has never been to the All-Star Game. The opportunities can be more frequent with a contender.

 

But Hawkins enjoys Colorado, and the Rockies believe he has value even if the team doesn’t win this year. The Rockies’ young pitchers have struggled but some have bright futures, and the club believes Hawkins’ work ethic and willingness to lend experience are valuable even if it doesn’t show up in the younger pitchers immediately.

 

– Thomas Harding

 

Moyer to throw Minor League game; Rockies’ ‘regular’ lineup set for game vs. Angels

Rockies left-hander Jamie Moyer, scratched from a start on Friday because of soreness in his left leg, will throw in a Minor League game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Coming back from elbow surgery at 49 involves more than just making sure the arm is sound. Moyer has always put himself through difficult full-body workouts during Spring Training and between starts. He has continued to do so this spring, but he’ll have to find a balance.

“My last couple years of playing, I’ve tried to modify that,” said Moyer, who suffered his injury in the middle of the 2010 season while with the Phillies and spent last season out of baseball, before signing a non-roster contract with the Rockies. “It’s not like this year I’m trying to do something completely different. It’s trying to work smart, recover quickly and appropriately and continue to prepare for my next outing.”

In the main game, against the Angels at 1:05 p.m. at Salt River Fields, right-hander Juan Nicasio will start.

With veteran third baseman Casey Blake returning after missing a week with neck soreness, the Rockies are using what could be their Opening Day starting position player batting order.

Here are is the Rockies lineup:

ROCKIES LINEUP

Dexter Fowler, CF

Marco Scutaro, 2B

Carlos Gonzalez, LF

Troy Tulowitzki, SS

Todd Helton, 1B

Michael Cuddyer, RF

Ramon Hernandez, C

Casey Blake, 3B

Juan Nicasio, RHP

ROCKIES RELIEF PITCHING

Esmil Rogers, RHP

Josh Roenicke, RHP

Carlos Torres, RHP

Zach Putnam, RHP

 

Vargas seeks fresh start with Rox

Uncertainty doesn’t compute with Rockies veteran right-handed pitcher Claudio Vargas, who is in camp on a Minor League contract.

 

In 2009, Vargas joined the Brewers in a deadline trade with the Dodgers and went 1-0 with a 1.78 ERA in 28 games as the primary right-handed setup man. Vargas parlayed that performance into a one-year, $900,000 contract with the Brewers.

 

Problem was the Brewers also signed LaTroy Hawkins to be the primary righty setup man. In a floating role, Vargas went 1-0 with a 7.32 ERA in 17 games before the Brewers released him on June 4. Vargas signed with the Dodgers and went to Triple-A Albuquerque, but went 2-6 with a 5.89 ERA in 10 starts and eventually was released.

 

“It was different for me,” said Vargas, who turns 32 on May 19. “Even when the season started, they never told me what role I was going to have. That’s hard when you don’t know when you’re going to pitch. It’s hard when one day you pitch when the game is one-run or tied, and the next day you pitch when the game is one-sided.

 

“This game is hard. You have to set up your mind like a computer.”

 

Realizing he’ll have to prove himself, Vargas went 4-1 with a 3.49 ERA in 16 games in the Dominican Winter League this past season. The performance earned him a shot with the Rockies.

 

Vargas said the Rockies were a good fit for him.

 

“They want to win, and they’re taking more veteran people,” he said. “I don’t say young guys can’t do the job. But they prefer somebody with experience on the mound. We’ll see what happens. I feel very good, and I know I’ll have a good spring.”

 

Commercial appeal for CarGo

 

This winter, Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez was featured as part of Gillette’s “Young Guns.” Gonzalez spent the afternon and into the evening working through anotehr commercial shoot.

 

 

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