The Rockies signed for the first time as a free agent on Friday, retrieving José Ureña on a one-year contract with a club option for 2024.
Starting pitching is one of their biggest needs, and with only $3 million remaining in the Rockies’ hands, it’s a fairly low-risk, cost-effective option to add some depth. Ureña, who was picked up by the Brewers in May after being fired, made 17 starts for Colorado with a 5.14 ERA and 91 ERA+.
“I’m so grateful to this organization for what they did to me, it means a lot to me,” Ureña said after his last start of the season. “I like playing here.”
But a movement does not solve their problem. And they still lack depth and star power at a crucial point.
Ureña was inconsistent last year but gave them more than five innings in all but three starts. They’re also working on his two-seamer and changeup to play better at height.
Ureña will start spring training for a rotation spot with immediate effect. Germán Márquez and Kyle Freeland have the other two confirmed spots, with Antonio Senzatela occupying one after returning from his cruciate ligament injury. If everything goes according to plan, Senzatela could be back in the first month of the season.
That leaves Ureña, Ryan Feltner and Austin Gomber again being considered as starters after spending most of last season in the bullpen. Noah Davis, who debuted as a reliever in the last game of the season, is her only other arm close to being ready for the major leagues, but he’ll likely start the season in the minors.
They have pitching prospects further down their system – Joe Rock, Jaden Hill and Gabriel Hughes to name a few – but their schedules call for them to debut in 2024 or 2025.
The Rockies haven’t said if they plan to increase their payroll in 2023, or by how much if they do. But the way their contracts are set up, it’s inevitable that they’ll either have to trade some of their more expensive contracts or spend more than 2022. They owe Nolan Arenado $16 million, the largest of their remaining payments to the formal star, who they shipped to St. Louis. Kris Bryant, Germán Márquez and Kyle Freeland are also owed significantly more in 2023.
They saved money on Ureña, but that probably won’t be the case on other free agents. It’s too early to know what the starting price will be, but Clayton Kershaw, for example, took nearly $20 million to sign with the Dodgers.
Who is available?
At this point, pretty much everyone is still out there. The market is less than a week open, and veterans have until Thursday to make up their minds on qualifying offers. Things are usually picked up during the winter meetings in December.