Colorado Rockies: Grading the Wade Davis signing and era
By Kevin Henry
On the three-year anniversary of the Colorado Rockies signing closer Wade Davis, we look back at the signing and the impact on the franchise.
It was December 29, 2017, when the Colorado Rockies confirmed that they had signed then-three-time All-Star closer Wade Davis to a three-year, $52 million deal that would make him among the richest relievers in baseball.
Coming off four consecutive seasons where his ERA didn’t finish above 2.30 and his annual FIP hovered between 1.19 and 3.38, Davis brought high expectations with him as part of a “super bullpen” (along with Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw) that was being constructed by Colorado general manager Jeff Bridich.
"“There’s a lot to like,” Bridich told reporters about Davis. “His track record speaks for itself. And his experience pitching in important games, in playoff games, the presence that he has at the back end, is important. He’s earned a lot of trust.”"
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Of course, looking back, we know how this story ends and that, ironically, Davis lost the trust of manager Bud Black during the 2019 season, being moved out of the closer role as he struggled to an overall 8.65 ERA, including an 11.10 ERA and 2.014 WHIP at Coors Field.
One can point to a strained oblique muscle in May that put Davis on the injured list as the true turning point in 2019. Before going on the injured list on May 22, Davis had a 2.45 ERA and seven saves. Davis came back and was pounded during the infamous Rockies-Padres four-game series around Father’s Day (you remember, a combined 92 runs and 131 hits in the Coorsiest of Coors Field series), giving up seven runs in 2.1 innings and blowing a pair of saves. It didn’t get better from there.
Despite the struggles in 2019, Davis started the 2020 campaign as the closer and notched a pair of saves in his first outings of the season. However, he was rocked for four runs on a pair of homers in a blown save against San Diego at Coors Field on July 31. He was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right shoulder strain and wouldn’t pitch again until mid-September. After a pair of poor outings against the Dodgers at home, Davis was released on September 21.
The last season and two-thirds ballooned the stat lines for Davis to a 6.49 ERA and 4.73 FIP in his 124 games with the Rockies. Those are the final numbers, but it’s important to look at the good side of what Davis brought to the franchise. While the final year-plus for Davis will likely dominate the memory of Colorado fans, the Rockies may not have made a run at the National League West title in 2018 without him as their closer.
Davis finished a National League-high 63 games and posted an NL-leading (and Rockies record) 43 saves in 2018. It was also the only season that Davis didn’t go on the injured list during his time in Denver, adding to the belief that, when Davis was fully healthy, his time in Denver was solid. When he wasn’t at 100 percent (which he admitted he wasn’t when he came back from the oblique injury in 2019), Davis struggled.
As the Rockies pushed the Dodgers to Game 163 for the 2018 NL West title, Davis allowed one run and five hits in 11 September innings. He also walked just one while striking out 16.
Was Davis worth the annual value of just over $17 million in his contract? For one season, absolutely. For the other two, not even close. With that in mind, we give his time in Denver a C.