Rockies contracts: From Kris Bryant’s lost season to the bargain of C.J. Cron

Proactive? Check. Successful? Not really.

And that helps explain why the Rockies entered their final road trip of the season in last place in the National League West and on pace to finish with a 69-93 record.

Since the end of last season, general manager Bill Schmidt has been a busy man, signing free agents or extending contracts to the tune of more than $422 million. But those dollars spent didn’t translate into victories on the diamond.

Schmidt said on Saturday that a number of Rockies failed to perform up to expectations, especially on defense and in clutch-hitting situations on the road.

Schmidt, under the advisement and consent of owner Dick Monfort, made a huge splash by signing free-agent outfielder Kris Bryant to a seven-year, $182 million contract, the largest free-agent deal in franchise history. The Rockies also made a significant investment in starters Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela, as well as third baseman Ryan McMahon.

Following is an analysis of how the moves panned out for those players who signed multi-year contracts:

— Bryant (seven years, $182 million): Because of a lower-back injury at the beginning of the season, and then the combination of plantar fasciitis and a bone bruise in his left foot after the All-Star break, the left fielder was limited to 42 games. The Rockies went 20-22 in those games. Bryant last played on July 31.

Bryant, 30, finished with a .306 batting average, five home runs (all on the road), 14 RBIs and an OPS of .851.

Schmidt said the Rockies planned for Bryant to be the team’s “aircraft carrier.” He still might be — once he’s healthy. But injuries made Bryant’s first season in Colorado a bust.

— LHP Kyle Freeland (six years, $64.5 million): Freeland is the only Rockies starter with an ERA under 5.00, but his 9-11 record, 4.65 ERA and 1.40 WHIP don’t meet Freeland’s own lofty expectations. Prior to his poor performance in the Rockies’ home finale on Sunday against San Diego, the lefty was on a roll, giving up three or fewer runs in five games while posting a 1.84 ERA. That’s the starter the Rockies project (hope) Freeland will be.

— Third baseman Ryan McMahon (six years, $70 million): The Rockies believe in McMahon and believe that once he has a true breakout season that he can be a high-impact player.

But they also believe that McMahon put too much pressure on his shoulders this season. Hence his .246/.329/.415 slash line and just 19 homers with nine games remaining. He hit 24 homers in 2019. Plus, his 17 errors are a career-high and the most in the National League.

The good news is that 11 of his 19 home runs have come since Aug. 1 and he seems to have regained some confidence at the plate.

RHP Antonio Senzatela (five years, $50.5 million): When he’s pitching well, Colorado thinks of “Senza” as a middle-of-the-rotation starter. Unfortunately, he’s out of commission until next season after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery.

The right-hander tore the ACL in his left knee on Aug. 18 and although the Rockies say he might return to the majors in six to eight months, that’s an optimistic projection. Senzatela finished the season going 3-7 with a 5.07 ERA in 19 starts. Opponents hit .349 against him and that’s a red flag.

“I think he’s a very solid major league starting pitcher,” manager Bud Black said when asked to evaluate Senzatela at this point in his career. “He has the ability to keep his team in games, every fifth day. He’s working on a few things. We’ve talked about the curveball and changeup coming into play more. I think that’s going to be a focus for him, on his return.”

— Closer Daniel Bard (two years, $19 million): The right-hander is 37 but he’s never pitched better than he’s pitching now and he’s the anchor of next year’s bullpen. If he can come close to repeating his performance over the next two seasons, his contract will be a bargain.

Multiple teams contacted the Rockies about a trade for Bard but Schmidt and Bard hammered out a deal just days before the trade deadline.

Entering Tuesday night’s game at San Francisco, Bard’s 32 saves ranked third in the National league and his 1.88 ERA was the second-lowest in a single season in franchise history behind Rex Brothers in 2013 (1.74 ERA). Bard’s 91.4 save percentage (32 saves, 35 opportunities) ranked as the third-highest in the majors.

Catcher Elias Diaz (three years, $14.5 million): Diaz was coming off a career year: 98 games started and 18 home runs. Those 18 homers were tied for the third-most among NL catchers and tied for the fourth-most by a catcher in a single season in franchise history with Chris Iannetta (2008). From June 1 through the end of the 2021 season, Diaz was a dangerous hitter, slashing .283/.346/.550 with 16 doubles, one triple, 17 home runs and 40 RBIs. That prompted the new contract.

But his 2022 season has been a disappointment: .234/.289/.383 with just nine homers and 50 total RBIs. His defense has not measured up to 2021 either.

1B C.J. Cron (two years, $14.5 million): Talk about a bargain. Colorado’s only All-Star leads the team in homers (29), RBIs (101) and OPS (.808). The 32-year-old also smacked 28 doubles and has been a solid glove at first base.

He’s under contract next season for just $7.5 million, which could make him a possible trade candidate if the Rockies continue to push their youth movement. Then again, the club might need to hold onto Cron as its most productive hitter.

But Cron, like many of his teammates, struggled on the road, where he’s hit just .226 with seven homers and only 26 RBIs.

On Deck
Rockies RHP Jose Urena (3-7, 5.34 ERA) at Giants TBA
7:45 p.m. Wednesday, Oracle Park
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: KOA 850 AM/94.1 FM

Urena is facing the Giants for the first time at Oracle Park. The right-hander pitched well against the Giants last Thursday at Coors Field, despite taking the loss. He allowed two runs on seven hits, walked one, and struck out six over 5 2/3 innings. He also faced the Giants on Aug. 19 at Coors, earning the win after pitching 6 2/3 quality innings, being charged with three runs on three hits. In seven career games (five starts) against San Francisco, Urena is 2-2 with a 4.40 ERA.

Trending: Since his recall from Triple-A Albuquerque on Aug. 30, left fielder Sean Bouchard had slashed .324/.490/.432,  entering Tuesday night’s game. His .490 on-base percentage over that span ranked second in the majors to the Yankees’ Aaron Judge at .555 (minimum 50 plate appearances).

At issue: Outfielder Connor Joe has gotten very little playing time in the second half of the season, appearing in just 26 games since the All-Star break and slashing .139/.209/.266.

Pitching probables:
Thursday: Rockies RHP Ryan Feltner (3-8, 5.91) at Giants LHP Carlos Rodon (13-8, 2.98), 7:45 p.m., ATTRM
Friday: Rockies RHP Chad Kuhl (6-10, 5.45) at Dodgers LHP Andrew Heaney (3-3, 3.06), 7:45 p.m., ATTRM

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