LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — A few days before he departed for baseball’s winter meetings, Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich laid out his top priority.
“We are looking to add talent and impact to our bullpen,” Bridich said. “We have to keep our minds open to as many ideas as we can.”
Bridich is putting that plan into action.
After coming to terms with right-hander Bryan Shaw on Tuesday night on a three-year deal, the Rockies reached an agreement Wednesday to bring hard-throwing left-hander Jake McGee back to Colorado, according to a major-league sources. Both deals are pending physicals, and the Rockies have not officially confirmed the contracts.
Shortly after the news on McGee broke, media reports spread at the winter meetings that the Rockies were close to bringing back closer Greg Holland on a multiyear deal. While Bridich acknowledged that the Rockies have a strong offer on the table for Holland, he pumped the brakes on those reports that said the deal for Holland was imminent.
“I would say (discussions are) ongoing, but I’m not really sure where that report came from earlier today,” Bridich said. “I would say there is definitely a pulse, but I would say there was probably an overstatement earlier this morning.”
McGee’s deal is for three years, with a team option for a fourth year. Shaw signed for three years at a total of $27 million, and McGee’s deal is believed to be in the same ballpark.
McGee went 0-2 with a 3.61 ERA last season, limiting opposing hitters to a .224 average. He made 62 appearances, his most since 2014. The hard-throwing McGee posted a 4.73 ERA in 30 games at Coors Field last season vs. a 2.64 ERA in 32 road games.
The Rockies acquired McGee, as well as young, right-handed starter German Marquez, from Tampa Bay before the 2016 season in a trade for slugger Corey Dickerson. That season, McGee went 2-3 with a 4.73 ERA and 15 saves in 57 games, but he was less effective than the Rockies had hoped. He was hindered by an injured left knee that limited his ability to push off the mound and reduced his fastball velocity. McGee worked hard to strengthen his legs during the offseason, and it paid off. His average fastball velocity rose from 94.1 to 95.3 mph, according to Fangraphs.
After an awful performance in 2016, Colorado’s rebuilt bullpen improved significantly last season, cutting the ERA from 5.10 to 4.40. The Rockies set a franchise record with 47 saves, the fourth-most in the majors. Holland contributed 41 of those saves.
But Holland, McGee and right-hander Pat Neshek all became free agents, leaving Colorado in need of a rebuild. Neshek signed a two-year, $16.25 million deal with Philadelphia on Wednesday.
For this current team, at least, it’s clear that a solid bullpen that can complement a young starting rotation is the path to success.
“In the now, and looking at our team, and looking at the market, and looking at the success our team had last year, all of those things have fed into our belief that this is a way to strengthen our team,” Bridich said.