Denver Post sports writer Patrick Saunders with the latest installment of his Rockies Mailbag.
Pose a Rockies — or MLB — related question for the Rockies Mailbag.
Mr. Saunders, in my opinion, the Rockies should call up (shortstop) Ezequiel Tovar immediately and, most importantly, give him a ton of playing time with the big club. I can see no downside to having him play ASAP and for the remainder of the season.
The Rockies are mediocre, at best, and boring to watch. (Manager) Bud Black’s optimism is getting old, as are the players’ excuses. Maybe Tovar can improve their abysmal defense and add the spark that the 5% of us true Rockies baseball knowledgeable fans deserve. The worst thing they could do is call Tovar up and not play him. He needs to mature by playing every day in the majors or languish playing in the minors. Wondering what you think of my opinion?
— Jerry, Parker
Jerry, I’m eager to see Tovar play in the majors because I believe he has a legitimate chance to be a special player. That was made clear to me by several people I interviewed in my Sunday profile on Tovar. And I agree with you that this team lacks pizzaz.
However, I talked to several people, including former Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, about the advantages and disadvantages of calling up a 20-year-old shortstop to the majors direct from Double-A.
Essentially, “Tulo” told me that it takes a special player to make that leap. He was talking about a player’s self-confidence, work ethic, and passion, more than he was talking about baseball talent. Tulo also said it takes the right clubhouse to support a young player. Tulo said he didn’t think the Rockies have that “right clubhouse,” at least not right now. He added that unless the circumstances are just right, calling up a young player is “playing with fire.”
I also talked to some other former Rockies players who follow the team closely. One of them was adamant that calling up Tovar this season would be a big mistake, adding that the Rockies should allow Tovar to thrive at Double-A Hartford and not move him to Triple-A Albuquerque or the majors right now. The environment at Triple-A can be counterproductive for young players.
Here’s my opinion: If Tovar continues to play great baseball at Double-A, the Rockies should look to trade Jose Iglesias sooner rather than later in exchange for prospects. The Rockies can use Garrett Hampson at shortstop and also call up Alan Trejo.
Then, in late August, they should call up Tovar and allow him to get some major-league experience, much like Tulowitzki did at the end of 2006. From everything I’ve been told, Tovar has the right stuff to deal with the adversity that will surely come.
Patrick, throughout the league we are seeing more and more young, talented prospects getting their opportunity for full-time major-league duty. At what point this season do the Rockies maybe trade away some veterans or open up some roster space to start promoting some of the youth in the farm system?
— Conor, Broomfield
Conor, I touched on this a little bit in my response to the previous question. I believe that the Rockies will attempt to move outfielder Randal Grichuk and shortstop Jose Iglesias, and possibly even C.J. Cron before the trade deadline. It’s time to admit that this team is not close to being a playoff contender, even if Kris Bryant returns from injury.
The Rockies are not going anywhere this season, so why not test the waters?
Keep in mind, however, that most of Colorado’s very best prospects are not close to being ready for the majors yet. I’m talking about outfielders Zac Veen and Benny Montgomery, and catcher Drew Romo.
However, outfielder Ryan Vilade should be called up soon. Corner infielder Elehuris Montero, who already made his major-league debut earlier this season, was called up to the big-league club on Tuesday. I also think it’s time to get a look at first baseman Michael Toglia in the majors this season.
We have two related questions about the Rockies’ bullpen.
Looking at the Rockies’ record, they have lost at least 10 games because of poor relief pitching. They gave Kris Bryant way over $100 million and he has provided nothing positive. Why did they not spend this money on good relief pitchers? It would seem this should have been an easy decision.
— Tim Eitel, Orlando, Fla.
The Rockies’ bullpen is getting hammered. Late blowout innings doom the team to a poor National League West finish. What is management doing to get Buddy (Black) decent bullpen pitchers to finish out games?
— Scott, Franktown
Guys, outside of closer Daniel Bard and set-up right-handers Tyler Kinley and Alex Colome, the Rockies bullpen is extremely erratic. But that’s not news to you, I know.
Spending a lot of money on relievers is not because many relievers are notoriously volatile from season to season, and that’s especially true in Colorado.
You need to remember that after the 2017 season, coming off their first postseason appearance in eight years, the Rockies decided to spend big on relievers Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee. Former general manager Jeff Bridich signed them all to three-year deals — Davis, $52 million; Shaw, $27 million; and McGee, re-signed for $27 million. That was a total of $106 million.
“The aggressiveness in the bullpen, especially this offseason, fits with a grander plan about our pitching, just adding the level of talent, the level of impact, and trying to do so in waves — not just one guy here, one guy there,” Bridich said at the time.
It was a bold move but it didn’t work.
As for the rest of this season, I doubt the Rockies will do much to give Black to work with. We’re going to see a lot of bullpen blowups. Some pitchers will learn from their failures, others won’t.
In the future, if the Rockies are contenders, it would make sense to sign one solid free-agent reliever in the offseason, attempt to develop other bullpen arms, and then make a midseason trade for a veteran reliever if it’s warranted.
Patrick, we have three pro teams — Nuggets, Avalanche and Broncos — who are all in the conversation for a championship. At the very least, they are competitive (the Broncos on paper for now) and are making moves in the right direction. What do the Rockies have to do to get into this conversation?
— Miles, Parker
Miles, if I had a great answer for that, I would be getting paid big bucks by a major-league team. But I’ll give you my opinions.
Step one: Admit that the team is farther away from contention than owner Dick Monfort and GM Bill Schmidt have said, at least publically.
Step two: Don’t spend for big-money players like outfielder Kris Bryant unless there is enough talent on the team to be a legitimate playoff contender. The Rockies wanted Bryant for his box-office star power but that’s not working out.
Step three: Bring in some front-office people from outside the organization and give them some power. That would bring some fresh perspective to the organization.
Step four: Don’t fall in love with players to the extent that it hurts the team over the long term. If the team is not close to contention and other teams make a solid offer for a star player toward the end of his contract, be willing to listen. Don’t let players escape without getting something in return.