The Rockies have finished in last place in the division each of the last four seasons, and it looks like that streak could extend to five years in 2016. The most significant roster moves the team made this winter were acquiring relief pitchers. In addition to sending backup OF Corey Dickerson to the Rays in exchange for RP Jake McGee, the Rockies signed free-agent RPs Chad Qualls and Jason Motte, who is expected to start the season as the team’s closer. A major question mark facing the team is the availability of SS Jose Reyes, who has been suspended indefinitely by Major League Baseball until his domestic abuse trial, which is scheduled to begin April 4, is over. Once the trial ends, commissioner Rob Manfred is expected to decide on how long of a suspension, if any, to give Reyes.
The Rockies finished last season with a .265 average and 186 home runs, both the second best in the National League, and an NL-best 702 RBI. Helping to lead the way were 3B Nolan Arenado, who hit .287 with 42 home runs and 130 RBI, and OF Carlos Gonzalez, a .271 hitter who hit 40 home runs and 97 RBI. So, if a team is near the top of its league in offense but finished the season 26 games under .500, that means they probably didn’t have good pitching, right? Right. The Rockies’ 5.04 ERA was the worst in the NL. The best ERA among starters was SP Jorge De La Rosa‘s 4.17 ERA. He threw a team-leading 149 innings, which isn’t an impressive number. He’s currently slated as the No. 1 starter, followed by SP Chad Bettis, who posted a 4.23 ERA last season. Also expected to start the season in the rotation is SP Tyler Chatwood, who hasn’t pitched in a major league game since April 2014. The bullpen wasn’t any better, which is why the team decided it needed a makeover in the offseason. Motte, the expected closer, is coming off of a season when he posted a 3.91 ERA and went 6 for 7 in save opportunities with the Cubs.
The offense was among the NL’s best last season, and with most of the players returning this season, don’t be surprised to see that continue. With Reyes likely unavailable for the start of the season, and possibly longer, the Rockies will likely have to count on young players in his absence, with SS Trevor Story, who has yet to play a game in the majors, and SS Cristhian Adames, who has played in 33 major league games thus far in his career, are the leading candidates to fill in for Reyes. On the mound, the Rockies still don’t have an ace in the rotation, with De La Rosa, who will turn 35 days after the season starts, the closest thing to it. And questions also abound in the bullpen, with Motte having served as a full-time closer just once, with the Cardinals in 2012. RP Adam Ottavino, who was supposed to be the closer last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery in May, could return to the team by midseason and possibly take over the closer’s role by the end of 2016.
The Rockies were the worst team in the division last season, and that will likely be the case again this year, especially considering some of the moves the Diamondbacks and Giants made to improve their teams this winter. The Rockies are likely looking at another last-place finish this season.