The Colorado Rockies bullpen picture is clearer as we enter December
December is upon us and tonight, the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) will expire at 11:59 PM E.T. The CBA is likely to lapse with no agreement in place and if it does, a lockout will almost certainly happen, which means there will be no transactions until a new CBA is in place. That could take months to resolve, signifying that it could be a long, cold winter for Colorado Rockies fans and MLB fans, in general, this offseason.
The Colorado Rockies have a few things that they need to address if they plan on competing for a playoffs spot in 2022 or even taking a step further. Among many things, the Rockies need to address their bullpen but, seemingly, much of the bullpen will return in 2022, if Tuesday was any indication.
Tuesday was the tender deadline (which was moved up due to the CBA expiring), which is for arbitration-eligible players. If a club non-tenders a player, the player then becomes a free agent. The Rockies tendered contracts to all of their arbitration-eligible players but two of the arb-eligible players will not be going to arbitration as the Rockies agreed to terms with them. Both of them are relievers: Daniel Bard and Tyler Kinley.
The Colorado Rockies agreed to terms with Daniel Bard and Tyler Kinley
The Colorado Rockies announced on Tuesday before the deadline that they agreed to terms with relief pitchers Daniel Bard and Tyler Kinley. Bard signed for $4.4 million and Kinley signed for $1.025 million. With those moves, the Rockies bullpen picture becomes much more clear.
Bard, 36, was the 2020 NL Comeback Player of the Year but he struggled so much in 2021 that he was yanked as closer and moved into a middle relief role.
He started the season out with an ERA of 9.00 through May 2 and then pitched very well in his next 36 appearances (through August 14) as he had an ERA of 2.87 in that span (3.20 FIP). The problem was that after that, he had an ERA of 8.05 (21 appearances). He was a victim of some bad luck, as his FIP was 5.80 but still, that is way too high.
Kinley, who turns 31 next month, had a streaky year too as he started the season out with a 3.75 ERA through May 2. From then to August 7, Kinley had ERA of 7.09 but in his final 25 appearances of the season, he was great as he had an ERA of 2.13 in that span.
For both of them, some fans will be unhappy to see them return because of their struggles but there are a few reasons why they are keeping them.
The Colorado Rockies know that each of them can pitch very well. Bard, in particular, has pitched well at Coors Field. In fact, in 2021, his ERA at Coors Field was 3.48. On the road, it was 8.14. The Rockies like when pitchers can pitch successfully at Coors Field because not everyone can do it (see the “super bullpen.”) The problem is that they weren’t consistent enough.
Secondly, they love that each of them shows veteran leadership. Bard was a mental skills coach with the D-Backs before he made his comeback with the Rockies so he has been a great leader and older brother to some of the younger Rockies. Despite Bard having his own issues this year, he held his head high and looked at the positives for his own personal situation in being removed as closer due to his struggles.
“If you had told me two years ago I would be doing that [facing right-handed hitters in middle innings], I’d take it, and I still will,” Bard told MLB.com’s Thomas Harding toward the end of the season. “That’s what I look back to, instead of saying, ‘I’m not closing right now.’”
Lastly, the Rockies may not have a ton of time to address the bullpen if there is a prolonged lockout. No trades, no free agent signings, nothing. They can do research on players but that’s it. If it’s a frenzied signing period where they have a week (or less) before spring training starts, they may not be able to address things as much as they’d like to.
If Bard and Kinley (and others in the Rockies bullpen) pitch as they have shown in smaller sample sizes, the Colorado Rockies will be glad that they kept them for 2022. But they have to be like all good relievers: show more consistency.