It’s been no secret that the Colorado Rockies bullpen has been in a state of flux for some time now. Meltdowns against the San Diego Padres in two separate games over the weekend have magnified that fact.
On Tuesday, the Colorado Rockies made another move that was a statement to how much change is needed within the bullpen’s performance. For the second time this month, a veteran reliever was designated for assignment. This time, it was left-hander Mike Dunn, who was DFA’d before the Rockies began a critical nine-game road trip through the National League West, with the first stop coming in Arizona against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night.
Dunn was replaced on the active roster by utility man Pat Valaika. It was no surprise that the Rockies would call up a position player before the nine-game road trip. We predicted it in this article. It was perhaps a surprise that the swap was Valaika for Dunn, however.
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But maybe it should not have been. The Rockies had already designated Chris Rusin for assignment back on June 7. That’s two veteran left-handers DFA’d by the franchise within a span of less than two weeks. That’s not a coincidence. That’s a statement.
Rusin struggled in two games after returning from injury before his designation. Dunn, meanwhile, was part of Colorado’s epic Friday night meltdown against the Padres, which was the worst loss in franchise history. Starting the ninth with an 11-5 lead, Dunn surrendered four runs and registered just one out. The Rockies would eventually lose the game 16-12 in 12 innings.
His one game after coming back from the injured list was the final straw for Dunn’s time with the Rockies, which began before the 2017 when he signed a three-year, $19 million deal. He was earning $7 million of that this season while producing a 7.13 ERA with six walks and 15 strikeouts over 17.2 innings of work.
Dunn and Rusin both being designed for assignment sends a couple of clear messages to the Rockies bullpen, which has been the spot where general manager Jeff Bridich has spent so much of his team’s resources in recent years.
First, if you’re a veteran producing mediocre results, don’t get too comfortable. The Rockies understand the margin between making the postseason and staying home is thin.
Second, the Rockies have realized that their offense isn’t going to be able to bail out their pitching every night. A weekend split with the Padres where the Rockies scored 48 runs is proof of that.
With a bullpen that ranks 16th in Major League Baseball with a 4.43 ERA, there is room for improvement. Veteran or not, if you can’t get the job done for the Rockies this season in late innings, there will be consequences. Seunghwan Oh and Wade Davis might want to make note of that.