While he is held in high regard by the Colorado fans he certainly has been far from a perfect General Manager. Mr. Brandon Zima has yet to bring the Gold Sox to the playoffs or nonetheless, a winning season. Now in his third season in the CBL Zima has already made moves that have brought excitement to the young franchises fans and plenty that have left the faithful scratching their heads. Will it all ever payoff for Zima and the Gold Sox? Who knows. For now, let’s go over the best and worst moves that the team has made since Zima took office during the 2018 offseason.
#5th Best – Signed Clayton Kershaw to a one year 900k contract
It has been three winters in a row now that the Brandon Zima and the Colorado Gold Sox have been able to come to terms with pitcher Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw was the eighth overall selection in the 2014 CBL Inaugural Draft. He never could live up to the expectations that come with being a top ten pick. The Inaugural season Kershaw did not pitch like an ace. He posted a 4.66 ERA and only recorded five wins compared to seven losses.
Kershaw missed the entirety of the 2015 season with back troubles but came back strong the following year. He had an ERA of 3.62 and won 13 of his 24 starts. The following year, 2017, was by far Kershaw’s best as a starter. He started 30 games for Traverse City and went 18-5 with an ERA at 3.18, the lowest he ever recorded as a starter. Clayton was invited to his first All-Star Game in the summer of 2017 and finished second in the running for the Bob Feller Award. Clayton was not awful in 2018 but it was quite a disappointment on his 2017 campaign. He had an ERA of 4.28 on the season. He pitched 32 games that year with the Beach Bums but eventually saw himself taken out of the starting rotation after 21 starts.
After the 2018 season Traverse City let Kershaw go after being let down by the #8 overall pick to many times. That is when Brandon Zima, a brand new GM for the sophomore franchise, took a chance on the veteran starter and signed him to a one year $10 million dollar contract.
2019 was Kershaw’s first season in Colorado and it was by far the worst of his already disappointing career. He started 26 games for the Gold Sox and went 7-13 on the season. He had a career high ERA of 5.63 and a K/9 of only 7.95, the second worst he had ever recorded. However, Zima noticed that in his nine bullpen appearances Kershaw looked very good. Maybe Zima as extra impressed with nine appearances by the veteran or maybe he just saw how light the team was on relief pitching coming into the 2020 season but the Gold Sox ended up signing Clayton Kershaw again. This contract was also a one year deal but it was worth less than 10% of the last contract.
Kershaw, making only $900k in 2020 dominated out of the bullpen and got selected to his second All Star Game. He Pitched in 68 games that season with a record of 6-6. He had 27 saves and an ERAof 2.77.
So far this season, Kershaw has a 2-1 record, 7 saves, and an ERA of 2.33 in 19 and one third innings pitched.
#4 Worst – Signed Josh Donaldson
The same offseason that Brandon Zima originally signed Clayton Kershaw he signed another veteran player by the name of Josh Donaldson. Donaldson was signed to a 4 year contract worth over $30 million. Donaldson never bounced back like Kershaw did. The team was hoping that since the Gold Sox’ stadium is such a hitters park that they would at least get some power numbers out of him but they never came. He ended up getting injured, losing his spot in the starting lineup to Rio Ruiz, and was cut from the team in the 2020 season, not even making it two full years into the contract. The Gold Sox lost a lot of money on that deal that could have easily been avoided by Zima.
#4 Best – Traded Jerry Stollings to Caroline County (Now Minneapolis) for pitchers Curt Duffy, Alex Lange, and Elie Vivarini
Brandon Zima was very vocal about how upset he was with the 2020 draft class. The team went 47-115 in 2019 and owned the first pick in the amateur draft. They obtained who they believed to be the best player in the class, Jerry Stollings, but wished that there had been a more impactful player in the class.
In college, Stollings played at NC State University. He was a consistent hitter who batted over .300 3 times and had 64 homeruns in four years. He wasn’t a bad player while he was briefly with Colorado either. He hit .309 with a homerun and seven RBIs in 15 games with the Rock Valley Vikings, Colorado’s Rookie League affiliate.
At the last deadline, Zima was able to strike a deal with Erik Voldness of the then Caroline County Channel Cats. The Gold Sox obtained Curt Duffy, Alex Lange, and Elie Vivarini for Stollings alone.
Alex Lange made his debut in the 2018 campaing with Savannah. He pitched very well his rookie year with an ERA of 3.30 and a WHIP of 1.26. He didn’t get the opportunity to start games until the 2020 season where he started 5 with the Channel Cats going 2-3 with a 5.33 ERA and 4 with the Gold Sox where he went 1-2 with a 2.65 ERA. Despite his good numbers in Colorado, Towers was forced to put Lange in relief duty for 2021 after Zima acquired Jordan Zimmermann from the Dayton Sting.
Curt Duffy spent his freshman year of college at Virginia University as a member of the Ice Pilots. After being drafted in the second round by the Altoona Curve, and failing to be signed, Duffy changed schools and attended Cal Poly University for his last three years. The highest ERA Duffy ever posted in college was a 2.28. Duffy was drafted and signed as the 10th overall in the 2019 amateur draft by Caroline County. At 22 years old, Duffy pitched very well for his first year of professional baseball. He went 2-6 in 22 games with a 3.45 ERA for Lake County (CC’s A team). By 2020 Duffy had already made the AA team before he was traded. Once in the Gold Sox’s organization he recorded a 2.41 ERA in AA and even got promoted to AAA for 2 starts where he did pretty well in 12 innings having an ERA of only 2.25. This season so far has been a struggle for Duffy at the AAA level. He has an ERA of 9.50 in 4 starts.
Vivarini is only 17 but the team’s scout, John Barr, is very high on him. “He’s got all the tools he needs to be great one day. If the kid can stay focused on getting better he will be an elite starter one day for sure!” Barr says.
#3 Worst – Signed Jerry Stollings
Even though the Zima and the Gold Sox were happy with how the Stollings trade ended up for them there was still a better option. If I were in Zima’s shoes I would have just elected to not sign the first overall pick. If Stollings was not signed then the Gold Sox could have gotten to pick second overall in the loaded 2021 draft.
Reportedly the Gold Sox were very high on SS Russell Bell. The Gold Sox don’t have much for infield depth in the minors as they see most of their young talent their as career minor leaguers. Bell ended up going 4th overall in the 2021 draft and the Gold Sox didn’t pick till 6th. The team is reportedly very happy with their pick, starting pitcher Nicholas Wolfe, but very well could have ended up with Bell and Wolfe if Brandon Zima could have just shown some GD patience for once!
#3 Best – Traded Randall Delgado to Portland Panthers for Bryce Dydra, Steve Bean, Thairo Estrada, Rankin Woley, Duane House
Brandon Zima’s trade block when the season started didn’t have much that mattered to the other 17 teams but one player stuck out to one team. The Portland Panthers packaged a deal which includes two starters for the current Gold Sox, catcher Steve Bean and second baseman Thairo Estrada. The deal also sent over the young starter Bryce Dydra (more on where he went later) and two minor leaguers, Rankin Woley and Duane House.
Randall Delgado hadn’t shown much success in his career before the trade. He did pretty well in 2018 with a career low ERA of 4.17 but even then he had 31 bullpen appearances compared to 20 starts. The team was not convinced the Delgado could continue to be an asset to the squad so the looked to trade him.
Steve Bean has caught 247 games for the Gold Sox since arriving and has never had a WAR under 0 since coming over. In 23 games this season the 27 year old has a slash of .408/.488/.634 with 4 homeruns and 19 RBIs.
Thairo Estrada has also been a regular starter for the Gold Sox. He started at SS most games in 2019 and batted .269 for the team. The following year started very well but he struggled after the All Star break and saw his average fall to .224. This year Estrada’s woes continue as he is below .180 after the first month of the season.
Rankin Woley and Duane House are both in the starting lineup most days for the Kanab Minors. Rankin Woley lead the Gold Sox’s Hawaii Winter League affiliate in hitting last winter.
#2 Worst – Traded Gary Sanchez and Matt Wisler to curve for R.J Alvarez, Drew Parrish, Cre FinFrock, and Stu Mercado
While he may be a backup catcher now, Gary Sanchez was once regarded as one of the best bats at the position. He had been a consistent .250 hitter throughout his career before the trade and remains one afterwards. The teams is certainly content with Steve Bean as of now but who knows how they will feel about Bean in a month as Bean proven to be one of the more streaky players in their organization. Sanchez batted .255 for Altoona in 100 games in 2019. He followed that up with a .249 in 152 games the next year. It may not have gotten the team to the Premier Cup but it certainly would have been an improvement to the team.
Matt Wisler was an amazing reliever before he left Colorado and he is an amazing reliever now. The highest ERA he ever posted was last year in Vallejo at 3.63. His worst ERA ever was still much higher than most of the pitchers on the Gold Sox roster last year. This year Wisler has recorded a 3.38 ERA and 1 win in 10 and two thirds innings with the Vallejo Admirals.
For two players that could be real difference makers for the Gold Sox they better have gotten someone worth while! Well not so much…In the trade the Gold Sox received R.J Alvarez, who was so bad in Denver that the Gold Sox ended trading him back to Altoona before the season ended, Cre Finfrock, who was used to obtain Sean Reid-Foley from the Syracuse Orange, Drew Parrish, who went down for 10 months last April, and Stu Mercado.
This trade was particularly upsetting for Gold Sox fans as early reports indicated that the deal would be for Touki Toussaint.
#2 Best – Traded Allen Craig, Barrett Barnes, and Jeremy Berg to Curve for Justin Smith, Traded Justin Smith to MV for Shawn Jordan, Don Mack, Rob Whalen, and Pete Evans
Every Gold Sox fan would like to get the memory of Justin Smith out of their heads forever. He was awful. It seemed as if there was no situation that Smith couldn’t make worse. That being said, the team didn’t move much pieces to bring him in. All 3 players who were moved for Smith are not currently in the CBL.
The part of the deal that makes this transaction so good for the Sox is what happened just before the 2020 season. Zima was able to move Smith for Shawn Jordan, Don Mack, Pete Evans, and Rob Whalen. All four of the obtained played on the Gold Sox’s CBL roster that season.
Shawn Jordan and Don Mack were the teams top offensive contributors. Shawn Jordan batted .296 and came in second place for the annual Rookie of the Year award. Mack, also a rookie in 2020, played shotty defense but managed to bat .299 on the year. Jordan is less than a week away from coming back from a strained back and Mack is spending the season in AAA to work on his fielding before coming back up.
#1 Worst – Traded Bryce Dydra and Jackson Gillis to MV for Johnny Bush, Dan Ward, and Angel Suero
This is the one that Colorado fans are afraid will haunt them forever…Yes, Johnny Bush is a top outfield prospect, Dan Ward is not a bad catcher, and Angel Suero was very good for Colorado in 2020. But Gillis and Dydra are two of the top starting pitching prospects in the CBL. They both show much more promise than Bush does, whos currently batting .230 in AA, or Ward, .230 in A. In fact, the best player in the deal, Angel Suero, was just shipped back to Mahoning Valley for another outfield prospect Valter Adro. I wonder if any of Zima’s staff has told him that he has enough outfielders already. There’s absolutely no way his scouts were telling him to pull the finger on this. He acted foolishly and set the franchise back at least a whole season because of it. And if they were telling him to do it then it was his job to know better than that.
Just imagine Sox fans, a world where the rotation is Zimmermann, Clarridge, Gillis, Estrada, Dydra. In another reality where Zima never took over this would be real.
#1 Best – Traded Joe Wendle and Dwight Smith Jr. to Dayton for Jorge Estrada, Brad Bass, and Gregory Deichmann
After losing two of the best pitching prospects a team like the Sox could want Zima realized he needed to get a starting pitcher. Seems like backwards logic to me but then again, I’m not the GM. Zima traded away the Gold Sox’s two best hitters for Jorge Estrada. Most fans would tell you that they would be happy with that deal if it were Wendle and Smith for just Estrada but Zima was able to get everything he could out of that deal.
Wendle and Smith helped the Sting reach the playoffs but they ultimately lost in the HL Championship Series to the Syracuse Orange.
Jorge Estrada went down for the year during his first start in AAA for the Kanab Miners in 2020. He came back in the winter and got in shape. He pitched well enough in Spring Training to beat out Alex Lange for the 5th spot in the starting rotation. In 5 starts Estrada is 1-2 with a 5.74 ERA.
Brad Bass was the last man sent down from Spring Training as he just missed out on a roster spot. Since the season started he has been doing the closing for Kanab and been looking damn good doing it. In 5 games he has 2 saves and an ERA south of 2.