Thankfully the 40-man roster is going to be eliminated for the 2020 season to restore some integrity of the last month of the season for the Colorado Rockies and every other Major League team and bring some competition to arguably the most important month of the regular season.
The Los Angeles Dodgers certainly don’t need any more help winning the division while smaller market teams sometimes don’t even expand rosters. For that and for the sake of the length of this article, we will explore the prospect of what a 26-man roster would look like for the upcoming season. Especially from the perspective of the bullpen.
While the bullpen wasn’t the biggest culprit of the decline in 2019, the group declined in many ways. First the ERA spiked from 4.62 ERA in 2018 to 5.05 ERA this year (as of the time of this writing). Adam Ottavino’s beautiful slider was certainly missed but the absence of his veteran presence, as one of the greatest Rockies relievers of all time, was hurting more. Wade Davis with his 7.02 ERA will make $18 million in the last year of his contract next season with only Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon making more. In ’18, he had a career high 43 saves compared to 15 in ’19. He will start the 2020 season as the closer solely because of the money he is owed. He has already not justified his contract even if he has a bounceback season next year. This is likely to be Davis’s final year in Denver.
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Thankfully Scott Oberg picked up the slack and over the past two years does not have an ERA over 2.50. He should eventually become the closer. He is signed through 2019 and the Rockies could sign him to a team-friendly deal and use the savings to sign a first baseman. More on that later.
Chad Bettis’ ERA increased a point in the bullpen and his transition didn’t seem to work. His contract expires at the end of the season and may very likely not be back in 2020. Seunghwan Oh was important for the run to the 2018 playoffs but with a 9.33 ERA signed back with his original team the Samsung Lion in South Korea.
Jake McGee may not be worth the $9.5 million he will make next year but he was hardly the problem and the Rockies desperately need more lefties in the pen. Especially since Harrison Musgrave is gone too. He will need to become an even more integral piece to this bullpen next year.
Expect Chris Rusin to make it back next year but these aren’t the fundamental changes that the bullpen needs to be a bright spot. The sentiment and effort put into investing in the bullpen is much appreciated by a majority of fans. It was spent strategically and even on great candidates. That effort has ultimately failed and it is time for retooling.
Will Smith of the likely-to-rebuild Giants would be a tremendous addition to the pen who has 32 saves, a 3.00 ERA and made his first All-Star appearance in 2019 at the age of 30. He would command a lot of money but not even half of what Davis is making next year and gives the Rockies the legitimate lefty that they so desperately need. Sean Doolittle, who admittedly doesn’t have the best ERA of his career in 2019, may be a nice alternative if the Nationals do buyout his contract.
As far as righties go, Will Harris (originally a Rockie with a 8.15 ERA) will be a free agent and would be a dream with a 1.62 ERA in 2019 but the World Series front-runner Houston Astros are likely to resign him. While not an exactly inexpensive option, Yusmeiro Petit of the Oakland A’s with a team option is a stable righty. He never throws above 90 MPH but he doesn’t need to as he has ranked in the top two for innings pitched for a reliever in the last three seasons. He can eat the innings that this young starting rotation needs to be effective. Investing more in the bullpen is what proved to help extend the effectiveness of this young staff. It might be time to do it once again before there is no room to salvage any of the pitching.