Colorado Rockies: Predicting which of the free agents will return in 2022
By Kevin Henry
On Wednesday, the day after the World Series concluded, four members of the Colorado Rockies officially became free agents. With two pitchers and two position players comprising the group, the question becomes which of them (if any) will be wearing purple in 2022?
Those four players (in alphabetical order) are relief pitcher Jhoulys Chacín, starting pitcher Jon Gray, infielder/outfielder Chris Owings, and shortstop Trevor Story. Each of them have a possibility of returning to the Rockies in 2022, but how big or small is that possibility? Let’s make some predictions.
Which Colorado Rockies free agents will return to the team in 2022?
We will start with the free agent most likely to return in 2022, and that’s Owings. There’s no question that the Rockies like having Owings and his versatility on the team. There’s also little doubt that, when healthy, Owings has contributed at the plate (.298/.372/.536 slash line with an OPS+ of 129 in 84 at-bats over two seasons). However, it’s been keeping Owings on the field that has been the issue as he has seen action in just 38 games for the Rockies since the start of the 2020 season.
Owings was signed to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training in each of the past two offseasons, and the Rockies will very likely make this same deal before spring training 2022 begins. With Story’s status in question and Owings able to play shortstop, it would be a big surprise if he was not back with the Rockies next season.
Return to Rockies probability for Owings: Extremely high
If the Rockies love what Owings brings to the plate, the same can be said for the feelings on Jhoulys Chacín on the mound. Long reliever, short reliever, spot starter, it didn’t matter the role for Chacín in 2021, he did it, providing veteran leadership for a young bullpen and posting a 110 ERA+ in 64.1 innings over 46 games.
There are a lot of question marks about Colorado’s bullpen heading into 2022, and Chacín could certainly fill a long reliever role effectively. Look for him to be back next season.
Return to Rockies probability for Chacín: High
Let’s stick with the pitching side and wonder aloud if Jon Gray’s desire to return to the Rockies will be overcome by another team offering him enough money to entice him to switch jerseys. We know that Gray and the Rockies weren’t able to work out a deal before the end of the season. What lingering impact will that have?
It’s assumed that Colorado will offer Gray a qualifying offer ($18.4 million for one year). It’s also assumed that Gray will see what other offers are out there before accepting it or rejecting it.
Gray has settled into a role of mid-rotation starter and will likely be viewed as that by any team, including the Rockies. Let’s also not forget that the Rockies may perhaps value him more than any other teams, especially after a 2021 where his ERA at Coors Field (4.02 in 78.1 innings) was much smaller than his 5.22 ERA in 70.2 innings outside of Denver.
After making $6 million in 2021, would Gray be willing to come back on a one-year deal that would triple his salary? Unless he can find a higher average annual value, it seems very possible.
Return to Rockies probability for Gray: Better than 50-50
Finally, there’s Trevor Story. Between the uncertainty at the trade deadline, an elbow injury in May that seemed to never completely heal, and a slash line .251/.329/.471 with an OPS+ of 103 that was below his career numbers (.272/.340/.523 with an OPS+ of 112), 2021 wasn’t a banner year for Story. Still, even after a down year, there are plenty of teams that would love to have Story’s defense and overall athleticism on their squad.
Read through any of Story’s comments during the last homestand or even those he made to reporters during Colorado’s last series of the year in Arizona and you can see Story is moving on from the Colorado Rockies. He’s said his goodbyes. As sure as Owings will be back, Story will be gone in 2022.
Return to Rockies probability for Story: Next to zero