Colorado Rockies to Have Upgraded Bullpen in 2016

Jul 2, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jake McGee (57) throws a pitch against the Cleveland Indians at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 2, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Jake McGee (57) throws a pitch against the Cleveland Indians at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Rockies had, arguably, the worst bullpen in 2015, but after several new acquisitions, the bullpen looks to improve drastically in 2016.

In 2015, the Colorado Rockies possessed the worst bullpen in Major League Baseball, posting a 4.70 ERA and .270 BAA (batting average against). Outside of Adam Ottavino, the Colorado Rockies had no one in their bullpen capable of getting hitters out on regular basis. LaTroy Hawkins opened the 2015 season as the Colorado Rockies closer; however, he struggled out of the gate, leaving Ottavino to assume closing duties.

Next: Colorado Rockies: Grading the Corey Dickerson Trade

After posting a 0.00 ERA in 10 appearances, the Colorado Rockies revealed that Adam Ottavino had a partially torn UCL, which led to him being shut down for the remainder of the 2016 season after having successful Tommy John surgery. With Adam Ottavino on the shelf for the remainder of 2015, the Colorado Rockies turned to former-closer John Axford; however, he was wildly inconsistent in the back-end of the bullpen.

The closer role for the Colorado Rockies was a revolving door, with several different pitchers seeing time in the ninth inning. The Colorado Rockies found that none of their relief pitchers were go-to options late in games and created a void that needed to be filled going into 2016. At the conclusion of 2015, the Colorado Rockies designated three relief pitchers for assignment, including John Axford, Rex Brothers, and Tommy Kahnle

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The Colorado Rockies traded Brothers and Kahnle shortly after designating the pitchers; however, Axford hit free agency and ultimately signed with the Oakland A’s. With three players out of the bullpen, the Colorado Rockies needed to address their glaring hole; thus, they signed veteran relief pitchers Chad Qualls and Jason Motte. While neither pitcher presents massive upside, they bring veteran leadership and stability to an otherwise gaudy bullpen.

Chad Qualls experienced a down 2015 season, but he saw success in both 2013 and 2014, as a member of the Marlins and Astros, respectively. In 2015, Qualls registered a 4.38 ERA, but he managed to put together a 3.52 FIP. By posting a lower FIP than ERA, the Colorado Rockies hope that Qualls was just a bearer of bad luck last season. Chad Qualls posted solid K/9, BB/9, and K/BB ratios in 2015, hinting that he may have success in hitter-friendly Coors Field.

In addition to Chad Qualls, the Colorado Rockies signed Jason Motte, who spent the 2015 season with the Chicago Cubs. Jason Motte adds a veteran presence and playoff experience to a limited Colorado Rockies bullpen. Just last season, Jason Motte made it to the NLCS as a member of the Chicago Cubs, so that bodes well for the Colorado Rockies if they were to make a postseason push (although highly unlikely). In 2015, Motte posted a 3.91 ERA and 3.61 FIP.

The Colorado Rockies expect Qualls and Motte to upgrade their bullpen in 2016, but neither should be viewed as an answer to their bullpen woes in 2015. Also, neither of the duo answered the question of whom would assume closing duties heading into 2016; therefore, the Colorado Rockies decided to trade for left-handed relief pitcher Jake McGee, which left people scratching their heads. 

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The Colorado Rockies decided to deal Corey Dickerson and Kevin Padlo for Jake McGee and German Marquez. After the Colorado Rockies signed Gerardo Parra, it was safe to assume that they would make a trade from their plethora of left-handed hitting outfielders. However, Corey Dickerson seemed like the least likely player to be traded, due to him being the youngest starting outfielder the Colorado Rockies possessed.

The Colorado Rockies made another questionable trade by dealing Corey Dickerson after an injury-riddled season where his value was probably at an all-time low. Now that the trade is done, the Colorado Rockies must move forward with the pieces they acquired, with Jake McGee all but locked into the closing role heading into 2016. As a member of the Rays, Jake McGee served primarily as a setup man, but he had the capability of stepping into the closer role.

With the Colorado Rockies having no other options at closer, Jake McGee should be the front-runner for the gig heading into 2016. Jake McGee is one of the most dominant left-handed pitchers in baseball; however, he is somewhat of an anomaly, dominating hitters with primarily just his fastball. McGee experienced great seasons in 2014 and 2015; however, it should be noted that he struggled to stay healthy for a good portion of last season.

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  • McGee owns a career ERA and FIP of 2.77 and 2.58, respectively. Also, he demonstrates superb control with his pitches, owning a career 11.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. More notably, over the past two seasons, McGee never walked more than 2.0 hitters per nine innings, showing that his command is improving with age. It remains to be seen how effective Jake McGee will be as a member of the Colorado Rockies, but he certainly adds a dominant arm in the bullpen.

    With the new additions of McGee, Motte, and Qualls, the Colorado Rockies are trending in the right direction, and they may even have more help within their farm system. Miguel Castro and Jairo Diaz figure to be key components in the Colorado Rockies bullpen in 2016, adding high-powered arms to bridge the gap from the starting pitching to the back-end of the bullpen.

    Miguel Castro and Jairo Diaz could hold high-leverage positions heading into the 2016 season, with either of the duo seen as a potential setup man for Jake McGee. Also, Castro and Diaz present nice complements for the Colorado Rockies’ bullpen, giving them an opportunity to finish out games with a dominant righty, lefty combo. Any combination of Castro, Diaz, and McGee figures to be a solid one-two punch for the Colorado Rockies in 2016.

    The Colorado Rockies will enter the 2016 season with a new-look bullpen, with McGee, Castro, Diaz, Motte, and Qualls headlining new impact arms capable of transforming the worst bullpen in the MLB. After finishing the 2015 season in the cellar, the Colorado Rockies’ bullpen might be on the verge of an impressive turnaround. Despite the additions to the bullpen, the Colorado Rockies need to address their starting pitching if they plan to be contenders in the N.L. West.

    Next: Colorado Rockies: Grading the Corey Dickerson Trade

    The Colorado Rockies are still in the midst of a rebuilding process, but they are heading in the right direction; although, cutting ties with Corey Dickerson is a debatable transaction. If the Colorado Rockies find themselves out of contention early in 2016, expect them to deal Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, Gerardo Parra, and/or D.J. LeMahieu. The Colorado Rockies will be battling it out for fourth place in the N.L. West with the San Diego Padres.