Your favorite little big league team is having the offseason you’d expect

Dec 14, 2022, 3:03 PM
Kyle Freeland...
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The Colorado Rockies inked Pierce Johnson to a one-year deal worth $5 million Tuesday, and when the right-hander takes the field in purple pinstripes he’ll become the fifth out 15 active big leaguers from Colorado to play in the Rockies organization.

Johnson, once a top pitching prospect in the sport when with the Cubs, flamed out as a starter and worked out of the Padres bullpen the past three seasons after spending the 2019 year in Japan. What must be a nice homecoming could be a good reset for the 31-year-old. He missed most of the 2022 season with tendinitis in his right forearm after reestablishing his MLB carer. Johnson finished his Padres tenure throwing 93 innings with a 3.39 ERA, 1.290 WHIP, 125 strikeouts and 44 walks.

Johnson could be a solid addition to the Rockies bullpen considering his plus fastball and solid breaking stuff. That backend already features a very good Daniel Bard and solid Tyler Kinney, plus another capable local product in Lucas Gilbreath.

There is no issue in Johnson, or even Gilbreath. Both are fine pitchers to have on a big league roster. But you should consider this, rivals in San Francisco have inked stud shortstop Carlos Correa to a monster 13-year, $350 deal, and San Deigo signed their own star shortstop to an 11-year $280 million deal and that’s not to mention Los Angeles, who have won nine of the last 10 division crown. The Giants, Padres and Dodgers have consistently made moves to one-up another for several years now.

Meanwhile, the D-Backs haven’t made the playoffs since 2017 and the Rockies since 2018. Both have made noteworthy moves here and there, with Arizona getting Madison Bumgarner and Colorado signing Kris Bryant. But those underscore the bigger losses, like each losing a top-three MVP candidate from the past year—Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.

Bryant is one of the last eight free agent signees for the Rockies, a group that includes three Coloradans. Adding to the two already on the roster in Kyle Freeland and Gilbreath. The Rockies quintet of locals has accounted for 17.8 WAR of the 78.97 WAR accumulated by the 15 centennial state-born players or about 23%.

Again, this would all be mostly fine if it wasn’t the Rockies main focus.

There’s now mounting evidence that the Rockies care more about fielding a CHSAA super team than a club that competes within the National League West.

It’s definitely cool the Rockies are giving opportunities to locals to play on their big league club, but that should be a side story, not the main show.

Talk to any of the five Coloradans on the team, or heck, any Coloradan, and I’m sure they’d say they just want the Rockies to win. This offseason thus far has not inspired much belief that the Rockies will be winning any time soon.

“We’re not going to be a perfect club,” Rockies general manager Bill Schmidt said last week at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.

The Rockies have already missed out on plenty of players who could’ve helped them. They still desperately need help on the mound, in the outfield, and behind the plate. But will Colorado make any more additions to the minuscule moves they’ve already made? The Rockies already looking at a record-breaking opening-day salary number.

“We’re not where we need to be,” Schmidt during an interview with MLB Network last week. “But I use the bamboo theory. There’s a lot of stuff growing underneath that people don’t see, and it’s gonna pop here. When it does, we’re going to be good.”

The Rockies crop of prospects doesn’t necessarily pop off the page, but there are some promising young players on the farm. Yet it may never pop, at least the way the Rockies are currently run. Bringing a bit of outside help this offseason is a start, though they’ll need to do a lot more of that to catch their NL West foes.

“We’ve brought some people in, but that’s neither here nor there,” Schmidt told Fangraphs. “I don’t think we’re stagnant. We have a belief that we think is strong, and if you ask anybody inside our organization, they will tell you the direction we’re going. We might not be up on top of the mountains screaming it out, but we know what direction we’re heading in.”

Hopefully for Rockies fans, Schmidt’s plan for rebuilding the Rockies roster is not ‘he must know how to pitch at altitude because he was born in Colorado.’ Hopefully for the fans, the club is actually invested in doing something more savvy or splashy.



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Your favorite little big league team is having the offseason you’d expect