The baseball offseason has been underway for some time, but now the full picture is emerging for the fates of many of the 2015 Albuquerque Isotopes. The minor league free agent lists are rolling out, with many familiar names appearing.
Some players declared free agency a while ago, thanks to their respective service time and the fact they had spent some time on the Colorado Rockies’ 40-man roster this season. Left-hander Aaron Laffey, right-handers Simon Castro and Gonzalez Germen and outfielder-first baseman Matt McBride all took that path before the end of the World Series.
Since the end of the World Series, 14 additional players who spent time with the Isotopes this past season also became free agents. Right-handers Leuris Gomez, Nelson Gonzalez and Boone Whiting all hit the open market, along with lefties John Lannan and Rudy Owens, though Gonzalez quickly re-signed with the organization.
Among position players, infielders Brock Bond, Charlie Culberson, Angelys Nina, Jose Rivera and Joey Wong are now free agents. Outfielders Jeremy Barfield, Roger Bernadina and Tim Wheeler are also now free to sign with other teams.
Players who saw time with Albuquerque who remain on the Rockies’ 40-man are catchers Dustin Garneau and Tom Murphy, infielders Cristhian Adames, Ben Paulsen, Wilin Rosario and Rafael Ynoa and outfielder Kyle Parker. The pitchers are lefties Yohan Flande, Jason Gurka and Tyler Matzek and right-handers Eddie Butler, Miguel Castro, Jairo Diaz, Jon Gray, David Hale, Tommy Kahnle and Justin Miller.
Outside of those players on the 40-man, right-hander Ryan Arrowood, catcher Ryan Casteel and infielders Trevor Story and Tim Smalling remain under organizational control. The 2016 Isotopes roster could therefore look quite different than the inaugural edition of Rockies farmhands.
One of Garneau and Murphy figures to be back with Albuquerque, while the other will back up veteran Nick Hundley in Colorado. Paulsen figures to have a shot at being at least the left-handed half of a first base platoon for the Rockies.
Adames, Parker, Rosario and Ynoa will compete for bench spots in the Majors. Adames could even be in line to start at shortstop if veteran Jose Reyes is traded.
Butler and Gray figure to be in the mix for starting spots with the Rockies, while the other 40-man pitchers will compete for bullpen jobs. Even someone not currently on the roster, like Story, could end up being promoted depending on other moves.
Once Story and Murphy were promoted from Double-A New Britain at midseason, it left the Rock Cats minus any real impact positional prospects. That in turn could leave the Isotopes reliant on a lot of veteran free agents to replace the many starters they could lose to free agency.
The Rockies did have three pitchers who threw 160 or more innings at New Britain, so that could provide a boost for an Isotopes rotation that saw only two pitchers, Gray and Lannan, exceed 100 innings in 2015. Another pitcher who could move up is Austin House, an Albuquerque native and former New Mexico Lobo, who led the Rock Cats with 20 saves.
However things work out, it figures to be an interesting offseason for the Isotopes and their parent club. If Colorado goes into a full-on rebuild where multiple veterans are dealt away, quite a few familiar faces to Albuquerque fans could be suiting up in regular roles in Denver in 2016.