The Rockies have reportedly been in contact with the Rays about the availability of Jeff Niemann. Colorado is seeking starting pitching depth. And Tampa Bay, even after the trade of James Shields and Wade Davis, has a depth chart that is at least eight names deep. Although nothing appears imminent, the two teams that completed a trade just a few weeks ago, could swap more talent before the end of spring.
A healthy Niemann is a productive middle-of-the-rotation starter. He throws an assortment of average pitches with no real standout. When at his best, he works on a downward plane, pounding the lower portion of the zone, leading to good number of grounders.
Unfortunately, Niemann has pitched just 31 times since 2011. He has battled back and shoulder issues in addition to a broken leg suffered in early 2012. The former first-round pick now finds himself behind Alex Cobb in the pecking order and battling with newcomer Roberto Hernandez for the fifth starter spot. Youngsters like Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Alex Colome are also likely to pass Niemann at some point and offer more upside for less money, as Niemann will make $3 million this season.
Considering what the Rockies are rumored to be after—an innings eater—the interest in a pitcher who has thrown 180 innings just once is a bit curious. But were Niemann to somehow put the injuries aside, he could provide more upside than the typical back-end starter.
The Rockies have a surplus of catcher types, including veteran Ramon Hernandez and not-really-a-catcher-but-trained-there-anyways Jordan Pacheco—who taught Matt Moore his curveball—so expect to hear speculation tying the Rays to one or more of those names in the coming days.