Rockies Mailbag: Who’s in worse shape, Broncos, CU Buffs or Rox?
Denver Post sports writer Patrick Saunders with the latest installment of his Rockies Mailbag.
Pose a Rockies — or MLB — related question for the Rockies Mailbag.
Hey Patrick, I’ve got a big-picture question for you from a disgruntled Colorado sports fan. Which (program) is in worse shape, the Broncos, the Rockies or the CU Buffs?
— Ron, Centennial
Wow, Ron, that’s sure a negative question. But a good one.
Full disclosure: I’m a Colorado native, I used to cover the Broncos, I have a master’s degree from CU and I have covered the Rockies for (gasp!) 17 seasons, so I’ve got some personal investment in your question.
In my mind, the Buffs are in, by far, the worst shape. The program is in a state of utter chaos and its 54-7 loss at Washington on Saturday was embarrassing. The 47-point margin of defeat was the largest for a Colorado since a 59-7 loss to Washington at Washington on Nov. 9, 2013. It was the Buffs’ third consecutive loss by 38-plus points, who have now lost six times by at least 31 points en route to their 1-10 record.
That leaves us with the Broncos vs. the Rockies for the team that’s in worse shape. It’s a tough call.
The Broncos’ last playoff appearance was in the 2015 season when they won the Super Bowl with Von Miller and Peyton Manning. They’re headed for their seventh consecutive losing season. High-priced quarterback Russell Wilson looks like a bust and the head coach Nathaniel Hackett might be one and done. If he lasts that long.
The Rockies’ last postseason appearance was in 2018 when they were swept by Milwaukee in the NLDS. The Rockies have endured four consecutive losing seasons and seem far away from turning things around.
The Broncos’ new owners have very deep pockets and the NFL’s economic landscape is far more equitable compared to Major League Baseball’s system.
Rockies owner Dick Monfort will only open his checkbook so often and will never compete with the likes of the Dodgers, Yankees, Mets, Red Sox or Phillies.
The difference, in my mind, is that the Broncos have a long tradition of winning and three Lombardi Trophies on their mantel. The public pressure on the Broncos to turn things around is a powerful driving force that won’t be ignored.
The Rockies, a nice summer pastime, continue to draw fans despite the poor product on the field. There seems to be no urgency for the franchise to make major changes.
Therefore, my conclusion is this: The Buffs rank as the worst, the Rockies rank as the second-worst and the Broncos are third-worst.
Is there any hope of the Rockies bidding on Cody Bellinger? He would definitely fill the centerfield position and add big-time power to the lineup. He would be a great compliment to Kris Bryant.
— Gary Shoup, Marion, Va.
Gary, sources tell me that the Rockies are indeed interested in Bellinger, but only for a one-year deal. That puts them in the running because all signs point to the outfielder looking for a one-year, bounce-back contract to set him up for a bigger deal down the road. That’s what agent Scott Boras told The Athletic.
“I’ve already been offered multi-years,” Boras said after the Dodgers declined to tender Bellinger a contract for 2023. “Most likely, because of his age, we don’t want a multi-year.”
Bellinger is an enigma right now and it’s tough to figure out what’s going to happen and how much he’s worth. Don’t forget that Bellinger was the 2017 National League rookie of the year and the 2019 NL MVP. Plus, he remains an excellent outfielder and a good baserunner.
But right shoulder problems have made him a shadow of his former self as a hitter. He slashed .165/.240/.542 in 2021 and .210/.265/.389 last season. Boras insists that Bellinger’s two-year slump is about a weak right shoulder, not a lack of skill or a bad swing. Once Bellinger is healthy, Boras has said, Bellinger will be a star again.
The Dodgers decided to non-tender Bellinger because he would have made upwards of $18 million through arbitration.
The questions the Rockies have to ask themselves:
- Is it worth spending a lot of money on Bellinger for a one-year deal?
- Is the team close enough to contending to make signing Bellinger worthwhile?
In my opinion, the Rockies won’t sign Bellinger. The Cubs, Giants and Blue Jays are the leading contenders at this point.
Patrick, who should we be targeting this offseason? Pitching for sure, but it feels like we just need more talent. Any chance we can actually land Brandon Nimmo? A two-year deal here could set him up for a very big payday for 2024. And what are your thoughts on Nolan Jones? Does he make any impact with the Rockies next season? Thanks.
— Ron, Parker
Ron, I would love to see Nimmo in the Rockies’ purple but quality center fielders are few and far between. But Nimmo turns 30 in March and I figure he’s going to want at least a five-year deal north of $100 million. I don’t think the Rockies can win a bidding war with other teams, such as the Giants who are targeting the Wyoming native.
As for Jones, I liked the trade but I’m not counting on Jones to be a huge difference-maker. He does, however, give the Rockies some much-needed depth. He’s flashed potential, but he’s never blossomed.
I encourage you to read David Laurila’s recent profile at FanGraphs. Laurila wrote, in part:
“What has largely held him back is a penchant to swing-and-miss, a trait that accompanied him to the big leagues this season. Along with a .244/.309/.372 slash line over 94 plate appearances, the rookie had a 33% strikeout rate and a worst-on-the-club 71.6% Z-contact rate. Given the Guardians’ preference for hitters who can consistently put the ball in play, Jones no longer fitting into their plans comes as no surprise.”
When I look at the all-time statistical leaders for the Rockies, I noticed the win totals (Jorge De La Rosa — 86), innings pitched (only three pitchers with more than 1,000 innings), ERA (Ubaldo Jimenez is the only pitcher under 4.00). These numbers seem incredibly low, which begs the question — can pitching be accomplished at a high level consistently year after year at altitude? Thank you.
— Robert Emmerling, Limon
I think you answered your own question. The bugaboo facing the Rockies has always been finding quality pitching. Through the years, I’ve talked with a number of the Rockies’ best pitchers — from Jason Jennings to Jeff Francis to Aaron Cook to Huston Street — and they have all said that pitching at altitude took a big toll on their bodies. Francis once told me when he went on road trips to the West Coast, his legs felt like they were brand new. Add in the mental pressure of pitching at Coors Field and there is no question in my mind that mile-high baseball shortens pitchers’ careers and diminishes their statistics.
All of that doesn’t mean that pitchers can’t thrive in Denver. Look at what closer Daniel Bard did this past season or what Kyle Freeland accomplished in 2018. But sustained success is elusive.
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