Rockies sign relievers Jason Motte, Chad Qualls

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Looking to add some veteran bullpen arms in another rebuilding season, the Rockies have signed free agent relievers Jason Motte and Chad Qualls to a pair of two-year contracts.

Qualls was reasonably effective for the Astros in 2015, throwing 49 innings with a 4.38 ERA and 46/9 K/BB ratio, but the 36-year-old right-hander struggled down the stretch and was left off the team’s playoff roster. His velocity has declined with age, but Qualls still pounds the strike zone and generates lots of ground balls. Houston made him a free agent by declining a $3.5 million option and Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post says his new two-year deal is worth $6 million.

Motte led the league with 42 saves for the Cardinals in 2012, but his career was derailed by injuries. He missed all of 2013 and most of 2014 before returning last season in a middle relief role for the Cubs, posting a 3.91 ERA and 34/11 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. Motte’s secondary numbers since returning in mid-2014 look nothing like his previous strong work, but his fastball still sits in the mid-90s. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Motte’s two-year deal is worth $10 million.

It’s unclear why the Rockies of all teams felt the need to make multi-year commitments to 37-year-old and 34-year-old relievers without much upside, but price-wise $4-$6 million per season seems to be more or less the going rate for any kind of serviceable veterans.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.