The Colorado Rockies lost 98 games in 2012 and, apart from a significant injury to Troy Tulowitzki, the biggest reason was their terrible starting pitching.
So what have the Rockies done to address the issue so far this Winter? Yesterday they traded a starter in Alex White (whom they landed in the Ubaldo Jimenez deal) to the Astros to obtain set-up man Wilton Lopez. Apparently they no longer viewed White as a starting pitcher and thus had little use for him.
It’s understandable, I suppose, White yielded an ERA of 5.51 in 23 outings (20 starts) for the Rockies last season. Though he’s a former first-round pick who has had success as a starter in the minor leagues and is still just 24 years old, Colorado has decided that he’s not a guy who can make the needed adjustments to succeed as a starter in the big leagues.
So naturally, the Rockies made a move on Thursday to re-sign left handed starter Jeff Francis. According to Jerry Crasnick, the deal is for one year and $1.5 million and could be worth twice as much through incentives.
Francis will be 32 next month and is the owner of a career record of 67-73 and a 4.86 ERA. Based only on those numbers, you’d figure $1.5 million is a fair price for a guy who might win a spot as a club’s fifth starter. Except that Francis isn’t expected to be Colorado’s fifth starter, he’s expected to anchor the staff.
Once the Rockies instituted their ridiculous 75-pitch limit last season, Francis was the only guy they had who was capable of working in a game long enough to qualify for a win. He’s a control artist whose fastball tops out in the mid-80s, but he’s also not been a remotely good pitcher since 2007 when he won 17 games for Colorado while striking out nearly seven batters per nine innings. Francis threw a bit harder in those days, averaging upwards of 88 mph that season.
The Rockies decided that a set-up man who couldn’t pass a physical in order to get traded to Philadelphia was a good swap for White based on White’s struggles in the big leagues. Then they decided that Francis, who posted a higher ERA (5.58), nearly identical strikeout rate, allowed a higher rate of hits per nine innings, and is 8 years older than White, was worth bringing back to stabilize their rotation.
If this team were on the cusp of the playoffs and needed that extra bullpen arm to put them over the top, I could almost understand these moves, but this is a team that will do well to avoid another 90+ loss campaign. There is no way they should be giving away a still promising, and still developing arm like White in order to give those innings to someone like Francis, who wasn’t even good enough to out-pitch the guy they dealt away and who has no chance of improving.