Bolstering the bullpen is clearly part of the offseason blueprint for Rockies general manager Bill Schmidt.
On Friday, the Rockies extended right-hander Tyler Kinley’s contract for three seasons for a total of $7 million and scooped up veteran left-hander Brent Suter off waivers from Milwaukee. They also signed Suter to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration. According to FanSided’s Robert Murray, Suter will make $3 million.
Colorado also decided not to tender a contract to utility player Garrett Hampson, who was drafted out of Long Beach State in the third round of the 2016 draft and played parts of five seasons with the Rockies. All non-tendered players go directly to free agency and are free to sign with any team.
Earlier in the week, the Rockies agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal with right-hander reliever Dinelson Lamet to avoid arbitration and also acquired corner infielder/outfielder Nolan Jones from Cleveland.
Last season, Colorado’s bullpen ERA was 4.82 ERA, the highest in the majors and the 13th-highest in franchise history. Rockies relievers struck out 532 batters, the third-fewest in baseball, and issued 245 walks, the eighth-most. Clearly, Schmidt knows the Rockies’ bullpen has to be better for the team to improve on its 94-loss season.
Kinley, 31, who was up for arbitration, is in the fold through 2025, with a $5 million club option for 2026 and a $750,000 buyout. Kinley was dominant early in 2022 before he was shut down with forearm and elbow pain. He underwent a season-ending procedure to repair a flexor tear in July but was able to avoid Tommy John surgery.
The Rockies are hopeful Kinley will be ready to go by midseason. Last season, Kinley emerged as closer Daniel Bard’s primary set-up man. In 25 games (24 innings pitched) Kinley had a 0.75 ERA, 1.125 WHIP and 27 strikeouts vs. just six walks.
Suter, 33, had been with the Brewers organization since he was drafted in 2012. He made his big-league debut in 2016 and has worked as both a starter and reliever. He worked exclusively out of the bullpen this past season, posting a 3.78 ERA and 1,200 WHIP over 66 2/3 innings (54 appearances).
Lamet was once a blossoming starter with San Diego, but injuries and a rising ERA led the Padres to trade him to Milwaukee in the deal that sent closer Josh Hader to San Diego on Aug. 1. Lamet, picked up off the waiver wire, pitched relatively well for the Rockies, posting a 4.05 ERA in 19 appearances.
The Rockies remain interested in re-signing right-hander Carlos Estevez, but he’s a first-time free agent and is expected to test the market.
Hampson, 28, one of the fastest players in baseball and a popular figure in the Rockies’ clubhouse, saw his production windle in the second half of the 2022 season. He started 23 games in center field, 20 at shortstop, eight at second base and six at third base.
Hampson slashed .241/.320/.366 in 45 games prior to the All-Star break vs. .172/.245/.230 in 45 games following the break. He led the Rockies with 12 stolen bases and was thrown out just twice.
As the hot-stove season heats up, the Rockies will continue to search for a center fielder, preferably one who can lead off and hit from the left side.