Jorge De La Rosa was already a familiar face around Chase Field, albeit in the opposing dugout. After spending time as a Brewer and Royal, the 36-year-old veteran was a member of the Colorado Rockies rotation from 2008-16, becoming their franchise record-holder for wins, with 86. However, they decided not to extend his contract at the end of last season, and De La Rosa became a free-agent. It took until spring training for him to find a home, but at least he didn’t have to relocate much, signing a minor-league deal with the D-backs, the Rockies’ colleagues at Salt River Fields.
The contract contained incentives for De La Rosa both as a starter and as a reliever. According to Lovullo, “I think maybe he wanted to come in here and be a starter,” but it was as a left-handed bullpen arm that Jorge made the Opening Day roster, and occupied that role for the entirety of the 2017 season. There was a process of adjustment: catcher Chris Iannetta said in July, “I think during the spring it was a little bit of a challenge for him at first. You know, just getting used to a new routine… coming in and going after guys instead of pacing yourself. Within a few weeks, I think he really got the hang of it.”
He was used mostly as a regular reliever rather than as a LOOGY, with 36 of his 65 appearances being for one inning or more. The results were kinda mixed, with an overall 4.21 ERA in 51.1 innings which was a 114 ERA+, good enough for 0.7 bWAR. But the FIP came in at 4.58, with an mediocre 45:21 K:BB ratio. He had his moments, likely none more than against his old team on April 29, when he came in to a two on, nobody out jam and cleaned up the mess, in an appearance good for +26.8% of Win Probability. He was also solid in the post-season, playing in three of the four games and tossing 2.1 shutout innings.
Is he needed in 2018?
As with David Hernandez, it would depend on the cost. His base salary in 2017 was $2.25 million, and with the various incentives he probably ended up earning closer to $3 million. That seems a little high, given his overall performance. De La Rosa was great against left-handers, holding them to a .194 average and .545 OPS, but right-handed hitters swatted him for a .267/.362/.458 line, an .821 OPS. Since they represented 64% of the batters he faced, there is a case to be made that the team could be better served by minimizing that and slotting him more into a LOOGY role. [Fellow left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin, for example, saw 59% right-handers]
As well as Chafin, the team also used T.J. McFarland, with all three lefties throwing between 50 and 55 innings. They are both under team control, eligible for arbitration this winter. McFarland’s ERA was the worst, at 5.33, but that was inflated by an ill-advised start in Minnesota: his FIP of 4.10 was actually superior to De La Rosa’s. Also worth noting, is that our left-handed reliever prospect Jared Miller is waiting in the wings. He will likely be in the mix for a bullpen spot in spring training next year. I have to say that if De La Rosa wants another $3 million for next year, I would likely be inclined to pass.
Via MLB Trade Rumors, here are the other members of the free-agent class this winter who are left-handed relievers. Also show is their age in 2018, and any options on the player.
- Fernando Abad (32)
- Jerry Blevins (34) — $7MM club option with a $1MM buyout
- Craig Breslow (37)
- Jorge De La Rosa (37)
- Brian Duensing (35)
- Zach Duke (35)
- Josh Edgin (31)
- David Holmberg (26)
- Francisco Liriano (34)
- Boone Logan (33) — $7MM club option with a $1MM buyout
- Jake McGee (31)
- Mike Minor (30) — $10MM mutual option with a $1.5MM buyout
- Eric O’Flaherty (33)
- Oliver Perez (36)
- Glen Perkins (35)
- Kevin Siegrist (28)
- Tony Watson (32)