The Rockies are not going to contend in 2016.
FanGraphs projects them to go 74-88 next year and be worth 26 WAR, making them among the five worst teams in the Major Leagues. It would take a lot for Colorado to contend next year, but in all reality, it won't happen.
But are the Rockies truly "rebuilding?"
One word that has been thrown around baseball far too much is the word "tanking." Analysts have pointed fingers at the Phillies, Braves, Reds, Brewers, and Rockies for purposely losing in order to get better draft picks.
Whether tanking truly exists in the Majors is a separate issue. I'm not sure, however, that the Rockies are even in a rebuilding stage. This is even considering that the team has not been to the playoffs since 2009 and has not been over .500 since 2010.
The Rockies traded star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the Blue Jays at the trade deadline, but have been reluctant to do anything significant since.
Pricey veterans such as Carlos Gonzalez and cheaper up-and-comers such as Charlie Blackmon are still on the roster. The team just signed Gerardo Parra to a three-year deal. Now, with Corey Dickerson in the fold too, they have four starting caliber outfielders.
Today, a rumor circulated that the Rockies were interested in dealing Dickerson to the Rays. Back-end relief pitcher Jake McGee was mentioned as a possible target for them. That makes me wonder why the Rockies would even want a good closer, even though it is considered a premium for a team likely out of contention.
The Phillies understood this. They dealt Ken Giles to the Astros this offseason for a good package that included former No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel.
It is hard for me to comprehend what the Rockies are trying to do. Their rotation is shaky and their lineup has holes. Yet, they want something that lots of teams that have good, contending teams want. So do they really view themselves as rebuilders?
The Colorado Rockies are not contenders. The Colorado Rockies are not rebuilders. Who are the Colorado Rockies?
The Royals and Ian Kennedy inked a contract yesterday, with the team giving Kennedy $70 million over five seasons to come and pitch in Kansas City.
The contract is the Royals' second-largest contract signing in franchise history, coming in behind the $72 million guarantee given to Alex Gordon earlier this offseason.
You read that correctly. Ian Kennedy now represents the second-richest player in Royals franchise history.
This is the same Ian Kennedy that had a 4.91 ERA in 2013. However, this is also the same Ian Kennedy that finished fourth in the National League Cy Young voting in 2011.
Which Kennedy will the Royals be getting in the deal?
I'd be willing to bet on the 2011 version of Kennedy for numerous reasons.
First off, Kennedy's xFIP--a statistic that determines what a pitcher's ERA should have been based on factors only they can control, such as strikeouts and walks--was 3.70 in 2015. That was the lowest mark since his 2011 season when it was 3.50.
What suggests that Kennedy's actual ERA will be able to be in the mid-3 range in 2016?
Kennedy gave up an unusually high number of home runs in 2015, with 17.2 percent of fly balls going for long balls. That mark is almost seven percent above his career average (10.2 percent). That number is almost guaranteed to drop, as home run rates normalize over time.
Secondly, the defense behind Kennedy greatly improves with his move to KC.
In fact, according to UZR, a stat that shows how many runs a team saved on defense compared to an league defender, Kennedy moves from the second-worst defense in the Major Leagues in the Padres to the best in Royals. San Diego cost their pitchers a total of 34.4 runs in 2015, while Kansas City saved their pitchers 50.9 runs. That's a 85.3 run swing.
Now, all those runs won't go to Kennedy's ERA. However, it does show that the Royals' defenders will be helping to make Kennedy a more effective pitcher, while the Padres were actually hurting that.
Finally, in an offseason where J.A. Happ got $12 million, this contract continues looks better and better for the team. Ian Kennedy is arguably as good or possibly better than Mike Leake, who got $16 million per season.
The 2011 Ian Kennedy might be making an appearance in Kansas City in 2016 and beyond.
The qualifying offer system doesn't work.
The process, which is explained here, makes sense in theory.
Team A's best pitcher is going to leave via free agency. Team A cannot keep their best pitcher for any reason, including no desire to, money, and non-contention. I think most would agree that Team A should still be compensated for when their player leaves through free agency; it isn't their fault.
So, when all set and done, Team A offers their player a qualifying offer and collects a draft pick when they sign elsewhere.
Good concept, right?
Teams are overusing the qualifying offer. Take the Padres, for example. Ian Kennedy was not their best pitcher. He wasn't their second-best pitcher either. Personally, I think he was their fourth-best pitcher.
Ian Kennedy got a qualifying offer.
Well, one might say, why doesn't Kennedy take the lucrative one-year deal?
Good question. There's a simple answer.
Kennedy wants long-term security. Sure, $15 or so million is hard to pass up, but players want guaranteed years. All baseball contracts are fully guaranteed. I'm 100% positive that Kennedy would rather have $13 or $14 million per season over four or five years than $15 million per season over one. He gets security. So, passing it up is plenty fair.
Now, Kennedy is hurting. Because if he signs with any other team besides the Padres, they have to give up a first round draft selection. This impacts his market and will almost definitely limit his value.
The system works for David Price, who made $217 million this offseason. It does not work, however, for Ian Kennedy and all other second-tier free agents.
How do we fix this issue?
There are plenty of ways to approach this topic, which will surely be of heavy debate when Major League Baseball's Collective Bargaining Agreement expires this December.
One way it could be changed is by increasing its value.
Having been averaged from the top 125 salaries in 2014, the qualifying offer this offseason was $15.8 million, so it is not a big risk for teams if a player like Kennedy does decide to accept, especially in baseball's bullish free agent market.
However, if the qualifying offer was based upon only the top 75 or even the top 50 salaries, the team would be taking a much larger risk if the player accepted, thus limiting the power they have over their second-tier free agents.
If we took the top 75 salaries in baseball in 2015 (via Spotrac.com) and averaged them, you would be left with a cool $17.57 million, which is almost a $2 million jump from the current QO price. If you averaged the top 50, you get $19.83 million, a huge jump.
I think Ian Kennedy would be more likely to take a qualifying offer if it was $17.5 million. I also think the Padres would realize that and could not offer him one in the first place. But David Price? He's still going to test the market.
I'm not sure how likely this is to happen or if it will happen at all. Regardless, it is still interesting to think about and ponder.
Happy New Year, everyone.