Rockies fans received a pair of disappointing health updates today, as both second baseman Brendan Rodgers and reliever Lucas Gilbreath could require season-ending surgery. Rodgers, who dislocated his shoulder, earlier this week, has sustained “more damage than expected” to the shoulder capsule, according to Thomas Harding of MLB.com. Harding notes that while no decision has been made yet, the possible surgery could threaten Rodgers’s 2023 season. As for Gilbreath, Harding reports that the lefty has undergone an MRI and describes Tommy John surgery as “likely”, though Gilbreath noted to Harding that he and the organization are still “looking into different options.”
Rodgers, 26, is coming off a breakout season of sorts where despite his .266/.325/.408 slash line leading to a below-average 92 wRC+, his work with the glove earned him a Gold Glove and contributed to a bWAR of 4.3. Rodgers was set to be the everyday second baseman in Colorado this season, and seemed likely to be one of the most valuable players on the club this season, as he was in 2021 when the aforementioned 4.3 bWAR figure led the team, with Ryan McMahon’s 3.1 figure coming in second among position players.
Gilbreath, meanwhile, was set to enter his age-27 season as one of the most reliable relievers in the Rockies bullpen. Gilbreath pitched very well over the past two seasons for a hurler who calls Coors Field his home ballpark, posting a 3.78 ERA (126 ERA+) and 3.92 FIP over the past two seasons, though those results come with a significant platoon split, as he dominated southpaws while struggling against righties. Should he undergo Tommy John surgery as expected, Gilbreath will surely miss not only all of the 2023 season, but the beginning of the 2024 season as well.
Should the club lose both players for the 2023 season, Colorado’s already slim hopes of contention (ZiPS gives the club playoff odds of just 0.1% entering the 2023 season, the lowest of all 30 clubs) will become even murkier. Assuming losing Gilbreath doesn’t spur the Rockies, who signed just two free agents to major league deals for a combined $8.5MM guarantee this offseason, to spend on a replacement lefty such as Zack Britton, Will Smith, or Brad Hand, the club will instead go into the season with Brent Suter as the bullpen’s primary left-handed option, and a depth option such as Gavin Hollowell or Phillips Valdez will take Gilbreath’s spot in the bullpen.
In looking to replace Rodgers, the first decision Rockies brass must make is whether or not to move Ryan McMahon, a top-tier defender at third base who also has experience at second, over to the keystone. If they do so, either Nolan Jones or Kris Bryant has ample experience at third base and could slot into the lineup at the hot corner with relative ease, though neither player brings anything close to McMahon’s defensive abilities at the position. Should the club feel McMahon’s defensive abilities at third are too valuable to lose, the options at second base are far less inspiring, with Alan Trejo representing the most likely option on the 40-man roster, while other possible options include non-roster invitees Harold Castro and Cole Tucker.
More to come…