Playing GM: What Pitchers Should the Rockies Target?


In my last venting session post, I shared some of my frustration around the speculated moves the Rockies could make to “upgrade” the pitching position. The moves that Woody Paige suggested, or other moves that have been rumored to be running throught the Rockies front office are simply not what the Rockies need at this point. I will say this until I am blue in the face but I am begging Dan O’Dowd to please, for the love of all things holy, put the telephone down and ponder making a meaningful move.

Mar 1, 2013; Salt River Pima-Maricopa, AZ, USA; Colorado Rockies manager Walt Weiss (center, no hat) during batting practice before a game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

I can hear it now; all these loyal readers muttering at their computer screen, “This idiot just goes on and on about how they need better pitching but doesn’t put any of his suggestions out there for Woody Paige to laugh at!”. Well buckle up hombres because I am about to put some flesh in the game.

This morning I pulled down a list of starting pitchers, who pitched > 140 innings in 2012. That’s it. Simple right? The search returned 101 results. Any guesses on how many of these pitchers were Rockies??

Zero. Zilch. Nada. None. Blank.

I actually didn’t believe it either so I went and looked at just the Rockies 2012 season pitching stats. After I got back to my computer from a profuse vomit session in the bathroom, I confirmed that Jeff Francis lead all Rockies pitchers in 2012 with 113 IP in 24 games (please note: that is not even 5 IP per outing). You know, when you start actually looking specifically at Rockies pitching stats your whole day goes down hill. I don’t suggest doing it.

Jumping back to my list of starters who showed up to pitch in 2012, I first sorted based on two advanced metrics. I wanted to see pitchers who in 2012 had a FIP < 4.20 (recall that 4.00 is the proclaimed “average” level) and gave their team > 2.0 WAR (“solid starter” value level). That culled the list to 64 players. I next went through the list line by line. Of course you have your star ace pitchers (Strasburg, Verlander, Kershaw, King Felix) at the top of the list… but I don’t need to be teased. I am trying to be realistic too. I aimed for a list that the Rockies could realistically land, most likely by dumping a load of talented INF/OF and loosening the purse strings.
Here are my Top 10 (yes there were 10!!!) pitchers the Colorado Rockies should target right now along with their 2012 W-L, FIP/WAR and career FIP/WAR per season:

Jeff Samardzija: 9-13; 3.55/3.3; 4.16/0.34
Lucas Harrell: 11-11; 3.75/2.8; 3.92/0.8
Jake Westbrook: 13-11; 3.80/2.3; 4.26/1.0
Jon Niese: 13-9; 3.80/2.4; 3.91/0.62
Bartolo Colon: 10-9; 3.82/2.4; 4.30/2.4
Edwin Jackson: 10-11; 3.82/2.7; 4.35/1.14
Ricky Nolasco: 12-13; 3.87/2.7; 3.94/1.11
Wandy Rodriguez: 11-13; 3.95/2.4; 4.14/1.52
Matt Harrison: 18-11; 4.03/3.8; 4.40/1.78
Justin Masterson: 11-15; 4.16/2.3; 4.04/1.3

So there you have it. How does it look? I hand-picked guys who had mediocre records from 2012, but solid stats. To me this signals more bad luck than bad pitching. A couple of these guys are probably going to be hard to touch (Samardzija & Harrison namely) and a couple might be a little too old and worn out (Westbrook & Colon?)… But all of these guys perform near the average level and consistently give their team wins above replacement — not just in 2012 but over their careers.

If I were forced to narrow this list to three names, those would be Samardzija, Harrell, and Niese. Out of this list Niese would probably be the easiest to nab, because the Mets are about as awful as the Rockies and could stand to make some moves. Samardzija would be next, but I bet with his GM and President being Sabermetric guys they know what value he adds to that roster. Harrell would be a dream — young and full of potential. That also makes him least likely to be landed by the Rockies because no GM in their right mind would trade away that semi-unproven talent. I also wouldn’t be opposed to a proven veteran like Nolasco or even an older guy like Colon, who turned out to be a very valuable stop-gap for the Athletics last year. One pitcher the Rockies already tried to get via trade appears on this list too (Rodriguez), though prying him away from his new contract with the Pirates would probably be a challenge.

As a dark horse, one name I left off this is Francisco Lirano (6-12; 4.36/1.7; 3.86/1.23) who battled injuries last year for the White Sox and is out indefinitely after breaking his arm in a bizarre accident this spring. Liriano is in the last year of his deal though and once healthy would jump up to the top of my list of pitchers to nab.
Overall I would not be disappointed one bit to see any of these pitchers linked to the Rockies in the next few months. Rox Pile faithful, what do you think?