Rockies Acquire Cal Quantrill

The Rockies announced that right-hander Cal Quantrill has been acquired in a trade with the Guardians.  Cleveland will receive minor league catcher Kody Huff in return, and Colorado has designated right-hander Tommy Doyle to create room on the 40-man roster.

Some kind of move seemed imminent when the Guardians designated Quantrill for assignment earlier this week, whether or not that move was a trade or the Guards just releasing Quantrill as an early non-tender.  The righty is projected to earn $6.6MM in the second of three arbitration-eligible years, which was perhaps a bit steep for a Cleveland team that traditionally has modest payrolls, and considering the fact that Quantrill struggled in 2023.

However, it was an acceptable price for a Rox team in dire need of starting pitching.  Denver’s thin air has always put an extra burden on Rockies pitchers, but things went particularly sideways in 2023 when the club was hit with a long list of injuries to pitchers at the both the Major League and minor league levels.  Colorado’s rotation wasn’t thought to be a strong group even going into the season, yet with injuries depleting the ranks, the Rockies’ pitching staff (both starters and relievers) finished at or near the bottom of the league in most statistical categories.

Health was a problem for Quantrill as well last year, as some nagging shoulder inflammation sent him to the injured list twice and limited him to 99 2/3 innings.  This was a big drop from the 168 frames he averaged over the 2021-22 seasons, as well as a slide from his quality numbers in those previous two years.  Quantrill posted a 3.16 ERA for Cleveland in 2021-22, but that number ballooned to 5.24 in 2023.

A glance at the secondary numbers is necessary, as Quantrill’s 4.50 SIERA in 2021-22 indicates that he was in some sense fortunate to deliver such a solid bottom-line ERA.  Quantrill has always been a below-average strikeout pitcher who nevertheless had strong chase rates, yet his chase rate dropped off significantly to 26.5% last season, and his 13.1% strikeout rate in 2023 was almost the worst in baseball.  The righty also allowed much more hard contact in 2023 than in past years.

Coors Field isn’t exactly the best ballpark for a pitcher in need of a rebound year, so Quantrill will face a difficult challenge on his new club.  Simply staying healthy and eating some innings would be a decent outcome for both Quantrill and the Rockies, and Colorado’s ever-present need for pitching probably means that barring injury or a drastic downturn in performance, Quantrill stand a good chance of being tendered a contract for his final arbitration year.

Doyle made his MLB debut in the form of 2 1/3 innings over three appearances with Colorado in 2020, and then didn’t make it back to the Show until he posted a 6.85 ERA over 23 2/3 innings for the Rox this past season.  The 27-year-old Doyle dealt with some injury problems in between those two Major League stints, and he had a 3.41 ERA in 37 frames with Triple-A Colorado Springs this season, with a 26.6% strikeout rate and 48.9% grounder rate helping paper over some less-flattering secondary metrics.

It wasn’t enough for the Rockies to keep him on the 40-man roster, though Doyle could stick around in the organization if he clears waivers and opts to accept an outright assignment to Triple-A.  Doyle has been previously outrighted in his career, so he has the ability to reject future outright assignments in favor of free agency.

Cleveland’s ability to draft and develop young pitching has been the organization’s backbone for years, and this strength was on display again in 2023 when Tanner Bibee, Gavin Williams, and Logan Allen all looked good in their rookie seasons.  This isn’t to say that the Guardians are completely set in the rotation — the rookies could hit some setbacks now that the league has a book on them, and Triston McKenzie and Shane Bieber both had injury problems last year.  Bieber is a free agent next winter and has been widely seen as a trade candidate this offseason, but even with Bieber’s departure potentially looming, it’s a sign of how far Quantrill’s stock fell that the Guardians were willing to move on.

Rather than non-tender Quantrill for nothing, the Guards did get some return back in Huff, a Stanford product who was a seventh-round pick for the Rockies in the 2022 draft.  He spent the 2023 season at the Rockies’ A-ball affiliate in Fresno, hitting .262/.357/.374 over 340 plate appearances.  Baseball America’s scouting report on Huff describes him as a “baseball rat” type, and “his well-rounded game and advanced instincts give him a chance to be a backup catcher.”  Cleveland has long prioritized defense from the catching position, and that stance doesn’t appear to be changing especially now that an ex-catcher in Stephen Vogt is the Guardians’ new manager.

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Title: Rockies Acquire Cal Quantrill
Author: Mark Polishuk

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