On Friday, the Rockies and starting pitcher Germán Márquez agreed on terms to a two-year contract extension worth a guaranteed $20 million. This was a lost season for Márquez, as an elbow injury and eventual Tommy John surgery resulted in him only making four starts. Unsurprisingly for a pitcher suffering a major injury, the second year of his new deal is heavily incentivized, with two roster bonuses and three inning bonuses. Márquez is expected to miss the first half of the 2024 season, but if he throws 160 innings in 2025, he’ll net a cool $22 million for the season. The contract also includes a $1 million assignment bonus, paid by his new team if the Rockies should trade him.
An elbow injury that requires a scalpel is never a welcome sign for anyone, but for Márquez, originally a free agent this fall, it was a particularly hard blow. The hope had been that he would bounce back from a pedestrian 2022 season that saw his FIP balloon to nearly five and his strikeout rate fall about 10% from 2021. While my thoughts on how the Rockies have been run since, well, 1993 are well-known, he was one of their biggest coups in franchise history. It’s hard to prove the Rays wrong on a young pitcher, but that the Rockies did, picking up Márquez and Jake McGee from Tampa Bay for Corey Dickerson and Kevin Padlo in 2016. Despite being only 28, he already looms large in Rockies history.
Rockies Career Pitching WAR Leaders
Jiménez’s three-year peak as an elite pitcher makes him the king of the mountain, but Márquez is only a couple good months behind him. When you consider offense as well (Márquez was once a Silver Slugger), the latter is already the leader. And while I can’t expect anyone in Denver to appreciate this, it certainly matters to me that my most recent memory of Márquez isn’t Buck Showalter throwing him into a playoff game for no particular reason.
Lest you think Márquez’s lofty standing is me damning the Rockies with faint praise, he’s long been one of the best-projected young pitchers in ZiPS WAR:
ZiPS Rest of Career Pitching, WAR Germán Márquez
|Year (Preseason)||Rest-of-Career WAR||Rank|
Naturally, his position in the rankings dropped as he failed to maintain his 2018 strikeout rate, but some of the decline is natural due to having fewer tomorrows remaining. With the kind of bounceback that ZiPS expected, he would have been looking at a pretty good payday in free agency. Here’s what his long-term projections for 2024 and beyond looked like before the start of 2023. I’m using a neutral park for this one since Coors Field is… complicated.
ZiPS Projection – Germán Márquez (Preseason 2023)
Based on that projection, ZiPS recommended a seven-year, $126 million extension or $116 million over six years. That’s not Gerrit Cole money and reflects the increased risk stemming from his 2022, but nine figures can buy an impressive haul of goods and/or services. It certainly would have been a better use of money than, say, signing an aging third baseman from the Cubs to play left field for $182 million.
I went ahead and told ZiPS that Márquez has missed time due to Tommy John surgery (I normally do this after the season) and re-ran the numbers.
ZiPS Projection – Germán Márquez
ZiPS would have suggested two years at $18.2 million, but the difference between that and $20 million, in the context of MLB, is basically nothing. In any case, the fact that he is a pitcher who has survived Coors Field is almost certainly worth a bit more cash, even if ZiPS isn’t specifically valuing that here. In other words, the Rockies made a move that I cannot complain about.
Where does Márquez fit into the future of the Rockies? That’s a much trickier question. While the best result for him is that he makes a grand return next July and returns to his 2017–21 peak form, resulting in him getting that $100 million contract in a couple of years, I’m not sure the Rockies will take fullest advantage of this sunny scenario. If the organization is going to become competitive again, it has a lot of work to do, and Márquez rocking the NL inside out in 2025 likely makes him more valuable to the Rockies in terms of who they can acquire for him rather than his actual performance.
Trading veterans, especially veterans who had an important past in the story of the franchise, always appears to be psychologically difficult for Colorado’s ownership. But that’s a problem for the future Rockies. The team made a good move in extending Márquez to a low-risk, high-upside contract, and that’s good enough for me to pause my grumbling.