The Colorado Rockies are rumored to be targeting several former closers, but is it a good plan?
Outside of the Dillon Gee and Ryan Vogelsong rumors, outside of the idea that the Rockies may or may not have offered James Shields over 100 million dollars to pitch for them, outside CarGo and Tulo even, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding wrote this week that the Rockies primary focus for signing relief pitchers might be in former closers.
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Filling up your bullpen with former closers isn’t a new experiment for any team in major league baseball. It gives you options if your current closer suddenly starts to stink like so many closers to, as well as providing the bullpen with a possible sense of stability.
But, are Rodriguez or Axford or Soriano the right kind of guys the Rockies should be looking at?
Yes, signing former proven relievers and hoping they return to their former glory is a solid strategy proven by teams like St. Louis and Tampa Bay and even Boston for years….but John Axford? Axford’s last good season was 2011. Since then, he’s had an ERA over four and his peripheral statistics don’t exactly strike the chord of hope that 2011 will return. His HR/FB rate jumped nearly 10 percent over 2012-2014 and the HR/9 rate is turning downright scary.
If Axford is truly on the Rockies radar, the radar may be malfunctioning because nothing about that deal makes sense.
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Soriano, however, is an intriguing look. The Nationals pitcher struggled at points this season and caught hold of a bad closer narrative, but all things considered, he’s been a pretty consistently good reliever the last five seasons.
He’s a bit of a fly ball pitcher and that always seems to look bad on the surface, but his home run rate never went above one per inning in Yankee Stadium and it significantly dropped this year in Washington D.C. It’s not always the fact they are a fly ball pitcher that can kill players in Coors, it’s if they’re home run prone.
If Soriano can keep the ball in the park for the most part in the dumbest home run park in the league, who’s to say he can’t in Colorado? His strikeout rate has improved and his GB% has sustained itself. Nothing has dramatically indicated that Soriano can’t continue to succeed as a reliever.
Finally, there’s K-Rod.
Francisco Rodriguez has had an interesting last five or so seasons in baseball, to say the least. He’s found himself in New York and Milwaukee and even in the minor leagues and has shown to be one of the most frustratingly inconsistent pitchers in baseball during that time.
There were times in New York where Rodriguez was the best closer in baseball, stretches of time where he showed he was worth the contract to bring him over. And well, there were times when K-Rod couldn’t keep a man off base, either. His first year in New York, 2009, Rodriguez’ walk rate jumped nearly a full point. Those walks came back to bite him too, as his ERA shot above four for the first time in his career.
Of all the options Harding lists, K-Rod is the biggest name with the biggest risk. A signing of K-Rod could prove to be an ultimate win or a failure that catapults the Rockies back into the basement.
So, if this is the plan, there they are.