The Rockies Sign José Iglesias and Alex Columé, and It’s . . . Fine
The contracts are also very Rockies moves.
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On Saturday, the Rockies entered the hot stove chat, signing shortstop José Iglesias and reliever Alex Colomé. Jeff Bridich may be gone, but both moves were quintessential Rockies.
They took a chance on two veteran players coming off down years, which raises this question: Will these signings be 2019 Daniel Murphy or 2021 CJ Cron? Only time will tell, but in the meantime, consider what we know so far.
Let’s start with the Rockies’ attempt to replace Trevor Story.
A native of Cuba, in 2008, Iglesias defected from the Cuban junior national team while playing in Canada.In September 2008, he signed with the Red Sox as an international amateur free agent. Iglesias made his MLB debut in May 2011 with the Red Sox.
In July 2013, he was traded to the Tigers, a team he stayed with through 2018, earning All-Star honors in 2015. He signed an MiLB contract with the Reds in 2019 that led to a roster spot, and in 2020, he signed with the Orioles, where he posted the best offensive numbers of his career (.956 OPS).
He exercised his option to stay in Baltimore and was promptly traded to the Angels in December 2020. Iglesias played in 114 games for the Angels, hitting .259 with eight home runs and 41 RBIs for a slashline of .259/.295/.375 and an 82 wRC+. On September 3, 2021, he was released by the Angels; the Red Sox signed him as a second baseman on September 6.
If there one thing Red Sox players and blogs agree on, it’s Iglesias’ role in Boston’s run to the post season. In 64 plate appearances, Iglesias went .356/.406/.508 for a 148 wRC+.
Matt Collins puts it like this:
We’re talking about a tiny sample here, with Iglesias only coming to the plate 64 times, so I’m certainly not going to waste my breath speaking to the sustainability of his performance. That’s besides the point. What matters is what actually happened, and what actually happened is that Iglesias provided a spark and many a huge at bat when it seemed like everything was crumbling, and was improbably the stabilizer this team so desperately needed.
Because he signed after the trade deadline, Iglesias was ineligible for the Sox postseason roster. However, he continued with the Sox in a new capacity.
“Officially, I am the chauffeur of the laundry cart," Iglesias told AP Sports. "That was very fun in Tampa. They keep me very, very busy. And I hope I get busier over the course of the playoffs."
Good Clubhouse Guy stuff aside — and I’m someone who’s believes chemistry matters — Collins added this: “He is simply one of the best defensive infielders in the game.”
See for yourself:
Iglesias, now 32, is clearly on the downside of his career, but it’s easy to see what the Rockies like. According to Thomas Harding, the Rockies “tracked Iglesias all last season.”
On one hand, he’s not going to replace Trevor Story — it’s unrealistic to expect that he will. Here’s how they compared offensively in 2021:
The contrast is stark. Iglesias is not going to strike out a lot; he’s not going to walk very much; and he’s going to put balls in play with below-average power. (Translation: Raimel Tapia 2.0.)
He’s with the Rockies for his defense. While Iglesias has historically been above average defensively, FanGraphs shows him with a DRS of -22 in 2021, by far his worst season.
When asked about his career-high 16 errors, Iglesias said, “Not to find excuses, but energy has a lot to do with it . . . For me, I’m not concerned at all. Zero concern about my defense or my stats on defense. It’s something I definitely have to improve number-wise. But I know it’s all about energy for me.”
Perhaps playing in Colorado will provide a needed energy shift, and the Rockies are surely hoping Iglesias will prove that 2021 was an outlier.
The contract is for one year at $5 million.
Clearly, the Rockies’ shortstop of the future is Ezequiel Tovar. Iglesias is a placeholder and a veteran clubhouse presence. Otherwise, the Rockies probably would have gone with Alan Trejo or Kyle Holder — and given Iglesias’ age and injury history, we may see Trejo or Holder in Denver before the season ends.
ZiPS projects Iglesias as slashing .286/.320/.409 for a wRC+ of 97 and an fWAR of 1.9. Those aren’t Trevor Story numbers, but maybe they will be enough.
As signings go, this one is fine, but it’s also a testament to how badly the Rockies have botched their relationships with talents like Troy Tulowitzki, Nolan Arenado, and Trevor Story.
In addition to signing José Iglesias, the Rockies made another move:
A native of the Dominican Republic, Alex Colomé is 33. When he was 18 in 2007, the right-handed pitcher signed with the Rays as an amateur free agent. In 2013, he made his debut with the Rays, and in 2016, he became their full-time closer. That same year, he was named an All-Star.
Columé stayed with the Rays until May 2018 when he was traded to the Mariners; in November, he was traded to the White Sox, appearing in 21 games and compiling an 0.81 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 22.1 innings.
He spent 2021 with the Twins, where Columé earned a 4.15 ERA and a 1.400 WHiP in 65 innings. He struck out 58 and walked 23. However, those overall numbers were skewed by a ghastly April. From May 1 through the end of the season, Colome posted a 3.51 ERA and a 1.314 WHiP in 56.1 innings. Still, the Twins declined a mutual option, instead buying him out for $1.25 million. (Read John Foley’s analysis here.)
Columé was a lights-out closer earlier in his career. He’s earned 155 career saves, the fourth-most in MLB, with a career ERA+ of 133.
He relies on a four-seam fastball (94 mph) and a cutter (90 mph). However, as his velocity has declined, Columé has increasingly relied in ground balls rather than strikeouts. He has a 53.4% GBR over the last two seasons, which is surely a reason the Rockies were interested in signing him. How his cutter will play at elevation is a separate question.
To give you a sense of his pitches, here he is in 2020 with the White Sox:
Like Iglesias, the Rockies have been watching Columé for awhile. Thomas Harding explains, “After the ’17 season, Colomé was on the Rockies’ radar, but he ended up with the Mariners. Then, the Rockies signed Greg Holland, who led the National League in saves in 2018 as the club made the postseason for the first time since 2009.”
Here’s how Colomé compares with the Rockies’ 2021 closers — and notice innings pitched:
Who will close for the Rockies? Stay tuned.
An added bonus is player development. As Harding writes, “By putting experience in the late innings, the Rockies will have more development opportunities with a crew of hard-throwing right-handers that includes Jordan Sheffield, Justin Lawrence and Julian Fernández, all of whom debuted in the Majors last year and showed velocity that could make them late-inning arms.”
The details of the Columé signing are not yet known though his contract with the Twins was for one year at $6.25 million.
If Columé and Iglesias can have a comeback years, these are good moves for the Rockies — think of them as this year’s CJ Cron. If not, they’re Daniel Murphy all over again.
The Rockies also signed outfielder Scott Schebler, 31, to an MiLB contract. Scheblier has earned a career .237/.314/.437 slash line over seven seasons. He has pop, but injuries are a problem.
Here’s the swing, in case you’re interested:
This signing strikes me as an insurance policy in the event that the Rockies cannot sign one of the outfield bats they have said they are pursuing. But Schebler seems more like a prayer than a plan.
And there’s this:
You read it here first.
Bill Schmidt has said that the Rockies needed to sign a shortstop, a reliever, and a power-hitting outfielder. So far, they are two for three albeit through some Dollar Store signings. (The Rockies are all about trying to get a few extra innings out of players whose best days are behind them.)
Whether Kyle Schwarber or Kris Bryant will sign in Colorado remains unknown though I’m skeptical.
It’s worth noting that the Rockies’ timing is cosmically off. They have developed the best rotation in the club’s history but cannot establish an offense. For a team playing half its games at Coors Field, this is extraordinary.
These signings strike me as “doing something,” an attempt to prove to fans that the Rockies are, indeed, trying to contend. They have the added benefit of providing leadership for younger players. Meanwhile, fans wait for the next window of contention, perhaps in 2024 when the players in High-A arrive at Coors. As for 2022, it will serve as a reminder to fans that when the Rockies finally put together the rotation, they failed to keep together their offense.
Don’t call it a “rebuild” — except that it is.
Thanks for reading —