Arbitration figures were filed between players and teams with a 10 a.m. MT deadline yesterday and the Colorado Rockies settled with most of their players. However, two cases will likely head to arbitration.
For Freeland, the two sides settled for $2.875 million, or $475,000 (17 percent) higher than MLBTR’s projected total of $2.4 million. Dahl settled for $2.475 million, which was $525,000 below MLBTR’s projections. Gray and the Rockies agreed at $5.6 million, which was the exact projection and Estevez agreed at $1.08 million, which is $120,000 less than the projected $1.2 million.
Overall, the Rockies ended up with $170,000 better for their side but excluding Freeland, they would have been $645,000 less than the projections.
For the two cases likely heading to arbitration (unless there’s an agreement before then), Wolters filed for $2.4 million and the Rockies filed at $1.9 million (MLBTR projected $2.0 million) but Story filed exactly at the MLBTR projection ($11.5 million) but the Rockies filed at $10.75 million, or $750,000 short, which is a 6.5 percent difference.
Obviously, the MLBTR projections are not the “be all, end all” but considering that Freeland was, to put it mildly, not good last year and injured (3-11 record with a 6.73 ERA in the majors and an 0-4 record with an 8.80 ERA in Triple-A paint a picture that is more than just “not good”), why would the Rockies allocate that money to Freeland and not to Story, somebody who was, by bWAR at least, the best player on the team and has been in the top dozen for NL MVP voting each of the last two years?
And it’s not just that Story filed at the projection and the Rockies lowballed him. It also could significantly hurt Story’s chances of leaving. Just the fact that they aren’t willing to come up 6.5 percent but he filed for market value and with the Rockies usually operating with a “file and trial” way, in that after the numbers are filed, they don’t negotiate and go to arbitration.
With arbitration, it could be something that all but throws the nail in the coffin for the Rockies and Story ever agreeing to an extension. For example, Trevor Bauer and the Cleveland Indians went to arbitration last season and Bauer attended the hearing, which is unlike some players. He later said that the Indians presentation amounted to “character assassination.” Bauer won the case but at the end of July, he was shipped in a deal to Cincinnati.
And, sadly, this story with Story has been the Rockies offseason in a nutshell: The Rockies don’t have money, or they at least don’t want to spend any.
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The Rockies are joined by the Cubs as the only two teams who have not signed a single player to a major league deal this offseason. For the Cubs, they are likely waiting until an arbitrator rules whether or not Kris Bryant‘s grievance claim will mean they have one year or two years left of service with him. They also are in a state of limbo with firing Joe Maddon and having extended themselves too far in past offseasons in the free agent market (Jason Heyward, Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood, etc.)
The Rockies are also in a similar crossroads but at least the Cubs were in playoff contention in the last few weeks of the season while the Rockies were not. They finished with a 71-91 record. They did suffer a lot of injuries (David Dahl, German Marquez, Jon Gray, and Kyle Freeland to name a few) but they still wouldn’t have been in playoff contention in September. Even in 2018, the numbers seem to suggest that they were lucky because by runs allowed and scored, they should have gone 85-78 (with Game 163).
This past season and this offseason are why Kyle Newman of The Denver Post wrote an article today saying that this offseason may be the most disheartening offseason in Rockies franchise history. The rumors about Nolan Arenado being traded are rampant (and neither side is dismissing them) and the Rockies have been nickel-and-diming their way through the offseason. As Newman mentioned, just imagine if Larry Walker just falls short in his election bid for the Hall of Fame? One projection from Friday has Walker falling just 0.2 percent below the 75% required (or roughly one vote).
Overall, it has not been an offseason to remember for Rockies fans. Let’s hope that the “story” of the offseason doesn’t go down the rabbit hole of arbitration that could burn the bridge between the two sides forever.