On Sunday it was confirmed that the market this winter for MLB relievers is one that favors free agents. The signings of Brandon Morrow for $11 million a year by the Cubs and Luke Gregerson for $11 million over two years by the Cardinals were just the latest in relievers cashing in.
Following years of high-quality prospects being traded for 20-30 innings of late innings relief after the deadline, the free market is reflecting that of the trade market.
Right or wrong, relievers are going to set a club back a bunch of bucks.
How can the Colorado Rockies essentially rebuild the entire back-end portion of their bullpen this winter given the circumstances?
The Colorado Rockies budget will allow them to most likely spend up to $145 million. I toyed with this idea last week and found that the Rockies can spend around $30 million additionally to what has already been spent on relievers.
Which can be scary but also good, look at the moves made yesterday.
The highly volatile Morrow started last season in the minor leagues and was called up to the majors due to a contract loophole. He went from failed Padres starter to one of the best eighth-inning guys in baseball. Of course, major injuries have derailed the 33-year-old's career as he once had much promise but his situation speaks volumes. Chicago still invested big on a player with great numbers—1.7 fWAR, 2.06 ERA, 10.31 K/9 over 43.2 innings—by far and away his best marks since he was a starter in 2012. He also did have the best velocity on his fastball out of anyone available on the market.
The 33-year-old Gregerson was once one of the best setup men in baseball with Oakland and San Diego and his last go around in free agency he went to Houston over Colorado. In his three years with the Astros, he regressed to replacement level last year over 61 innings over work. Granted it was his worst career season and he still stuck out 10.33 per nine but it seems that the changes to flyball rates or perhaps the ball itself effected him very negatively as the righty gave up 13 dingers in 2017.
The point being in all of this is that these are hefty commitments to two variable players at a highly turbulent position. What is it going to cost to acquire someone who is not only more stable but better? And on top of that, the Rockies need a closer and neither of these players are coming into pitch the ninth which adds more money to the equation.
Here are the Rockies options now, they can either spend big on the open market, make a trade or hope what they have already is okay.
What the Rockies have already is Adam Ottavino coming off of his worst year, left-handed specialist Mike Dunn, swiss army knife Chris Rusin, hard-throwing but inconsistent righty Scott Oberg and the young Carlos Estevez.
Obviously, Colorado needs to add here.
Spending $13 million a season over four years for Greg Holland may very well be worth it given the market. He was an all-star, and the Rockies know what they can get out of him. Paying for a longer contract should bring his price per year down yet given what Morrow just signed our initial projection of Holland's contract might be lower than what he actually ends up getting.
Going back for a second, even Mike Minor signed a three-year, $28 million deal with Texas. Low for Minor potentially as it has been hinted he took less money for a chance to start once again. Holland is no doubt more valuable to the Rockies than Minor would've have been.
With that Holland and the rest of the crew is still shaky as we saw last year, and that's not even counting Jake McGee who was solid all season.
What else can the Rockies do, re-sign Pat Neshek. Due to the market, it may cost $18 million over two years but that seems worth it considering how he pitched in 2017 compared to Gregerson.
Addison Reed or former Rockie Juan Nicasio would likely cost upwards of $10 million a year too and neither has the cache of Holland or Wade Davis as a potential closer.
Elsewhere the Rockies could find value in Joe Smith or Bryan Shaw. Each former Indian has their upside, Smith went walkless down the stretch coupled with 11.8 strikeouts per nine. Over the season he only allowed four homers in 54 innings. Shaw has made 442 over the past six seasons and is one of the best workhorses in baseball with his hard cutter. Each could probably be had for $24 million over three years.
If the Rockies want to buy lower than that former Pirates closer lefty Tony Watson seemed to figure it out at the end of the year for the Dodgers and he kept his hard-hit rate low all year but the balls still have flown over the wall coming out of his hand. The 32-year-old would be priced in the same range as Gregerson.
Past Watson, it could get ugly. It depends on how low or high the Rockies want to buy but they certainly do have the money to rebuild their bullpen to not only a respectable level but to an elite one.
That's how the Rockies could build their bullpen, the pieces, money and resources are there but the clock is ticking.