The first few moves involving 2015 Albuquerque Isotopes have begun this offseason. Infielders Charlie Culberson and Angelys Nina are gone, left-hander Carlos Hernandez is staying put and right-hander Brian Schlitter is now on board.
Hernandez went 1-1 with a 4.93 ERA in three starts before suffering a season-ending knee injury for Albuquerque. He will be in the mix for a rotation spot in 2016.
Schlitter has 78 games of experience in the Majors, all with the Chicago Cubs. He went 1-2 with a 7.36 ERA in 10 games last season, but showed better results (2-3, 1.61, 23 saves) at Iowa.
Culberson appeared in just five games with the Isotopes, spending most of 2015 on the Rockies’ 60-day disabled list due to a back injury. He signed a minor-league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Nina, who signed a minor-league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, was almost an everyday player, appearing mainly at second base but also seeing time at shortstop, third base and left field. He hit .300/.333/.402 with four home runs, 50 RBI and 18 stolen bases in his ninth pro season, all in the Colorado organization.
There are still 13 other free agents who spent time with the Isotopes in 2015. The most notable names include left-hander John Lannan and outfielders Roger Bernadina, Matt McBride and Tim Wheeler.
Rockies 40-man roster gets a shakeup: Albuquerque shortstop Trevor Story was one of four Colorado minor-league players who were added to the big-league roster to protect them from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. Right-handers Carlos Esteves and Anthony Senzatela and outfielder Raimel Tapia were also protected.
To make room on a full 40-man, the Rockies designated four players for assignment, three of whom spent time in Albuquerque. Left-hander Rex Brothers, right-hander Tommy Kahnle and first baseman Wilin Rosario were all removed from the roster, plus big-league closer John Axford.
Axford, Brothers and Rosario were all arbitration-eligible this offseason, with a combined $11.2 million worth of salaries projected for the trio. Kahnle was not arbitration-eligible and his cut was more due to performance.
The Rockies are likely to try to trade all four players and today they dealt Kahnle to the Chicago White Sox for right-hander Yency Almonte. The 21-year-old went 11-7 with a 3.41 ERA in 137.1 innings between High-A Winston-Salem and Low-A Kannapolis.
Arizona Fall League wraps up: The seven Rockies minor-league players in the AFL saw their season come to an end last week with the Salt River Rafters. Their performances ranged from good to bad, both among the hitters and pitchers.
Tapia hit .330/.341/.466 with one home run and eight RBI for Salt River. On the downside, however, he drew just two walks and struck out 17 times in 88 at-bats.
Still, Tapia was better than the other two hitters with the Rafters. Outfielder Jordan Patterson (.157/.317/.196) struck out 18 times in 51 at-bats, while catcher Chris Rabago (.207/.303/.241) played sparingly.
The sharpest of the pitchers was left-handed prospect Kyle Freeland, who continued to show he was healthy after spending much of 2015 on the disabled list at High-A Modesto. The southpaw went 4-1 with a 2.84 ERA in six starts in a league that is traditionally more skewed toward hitters.
Estevez, who could pitch in the Albuquerque bullpen in 2015, was fairly solid (1-2, 3.97, 6 saves) for Salt River. He fared better in the bullpen than right-hander Matt Carasiti, who posted a 4.82 ERA in 9.1 innings, and lefty Sam Moll, who had a 5.14 ERA in seven innings.
The winter leagues in the Caribbean are still going on. Rockies players are active in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Australia.