Colorado Rockies admit defeat in $106 million bullpen disaster

Coming off their first postseason appearance in eight years, the Colorado Rockies decided to spend big after the 2017 season.

The team’s 4.40 bullpen ERA had ranked 20th in the majors and solidifying that group would be key to the Rockies’ sustained success. With closer Greg Holland (an All-Star who had a 6.38 ERA in the second half) on his way out, Colorado went for a full makeover, committing three-year deals to relievers Wade Davis ($52 million), Bryan Shaw ($27 million) and Jake McGee (re-signed for $27 million).

“The aggressiveness in the bullpen, especially this offseason, fits with a grander plan about our pitching, just adding the level of talent, the level of impact, and trying to do so in waves – not just one guy here, one guy there,” GM Jeff Bridich said at the time.

Things didn’t work out as planned.

Rockies relief pitcher Wade Davis had an 8.65 ERA in 2019.

With a season still left on those deals, the Rockies cut their losses, releasing Shaw and McGee a week before the start of the 2020 campaign.

Shaw posted a 5.61 ERA in 130 games with the Rockies and McGee didn’t fare much better (5.54 ERA) in 106 appearances.

Davis, a three-time All-Star with the Royals and Cubs, may be the most disappointing of the bunch, though. Though Davis led the league with 43 saves and the Rockies reached the postseason in his first year with the team in 2018, he had a 4.73 ERA in the second half.

Then came 2019, a year that saw Davis post an 8.65 ERA in 50 games – the fifth-worst mark in the majors among pitchers with 40 innings. He’s penciled in as the team’s closer heading into 2020.

In total, the Rockies committed $106 million to the three relievers who combined for a 5.69 ERA in 327⅓ innings in 2018 and 2019.

Relievers may be the most volatile players when it comes to year-to-year performance and the spending was met with criticism at the time, but Bridich said Friday he wasn’t going to read too much into what went wrong as the club moves forward.

“There are a lot of examples, not just in the bullpen but in our recent history and deeper in your history where players have come in here on free-agent contracts and done very well,” Bridich said. “There’s histories of guys, on our team and on other teams, coming in on free agent contracts and having some good seasons, having some really good seasons, and struggle times during seasons as well.

“So I don’t think there are any huge lessons that we’re going to take and drastically move in one direction because we said goodbye to Jake and Bryan.”

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