DENVER -- The Rockies potentially must make decisions on nine of their free agents, with three -- closer Greg Holland, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and longtime outfield star Carlos Gonzalez -- being the biggest.Beyond the stars, Colorado must also decide how much it wants to maintain its direction -- it shook
DENVER -- The Rockies potentially must make decisions on nine of their free agents, with three -- closer Greg Holland, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and longtime outfield star Carlos Gonzalez -- being the biggest.
Beyond the stars, Colorado must also decide how much it wants to maintain its direction -- it shook off six straight losing seasons to make a National League Wild Card Game appearance in 2017 -- or how much it wants to tweak or shock the roster in the quest for the next level. Free agents may start talking with other clubs the day after the World Series ends, but they cannot sign with a new team until five days after.
Here's a look at the Rockies' issues as the offseason begins.
Free agents: Infielder Alexi Amarista ($2.5 million club option or $150,000 buyout); righties Tyler Chatwood, Holland (expected to exercise player option) and Pat Neshek; outfielder Gonzalez; catchers Ryan Hanigan and Lucroy; lefty Jake McGee and first baseman Mark Reynolds.
Arbitration-eligible players: Righty Chad Bettis, outfielder Charlie Blackmon, second baseman DJ LeMahieu and lefties Zachary Rosscup and Chris Rusin.
Is Holland the key to bullpen confidence?
Early indications are that Holland, who tied for the NL lead with 41 saves, is the player the Rockies will fight hardest to keep.
Holland's work in the first half helped the Rockies establish themselves as contenders. There was a slump in August and he gave up two hurtful eighth-inning runs in the 11-8 Wild Card loss to the D-backs, but that doesn't wash away what he meant. Holland also spoke fondly of his season, and keeping him will engender late-innings confidence.
It's probable that McGee and Neshek will be in demand as setup men, but the Rockies might be able to cover for the lack of those two, who are also capable of closing. A rebound from Adam Ottavino, continued development of righties Carlos Estevez and Scott Oberg and some smart lower-price decisions could do the trick at the beginning, and Colorado can always make a trade splash during the year.
Emotions aside, what becomes of CarGo?
Gonzalez is a favorite of many fans, and general manager Jeff Bridich speaks fondly of him. But heading into his first free-agency foray, the Rockies (or other clubs) will have to determine if he is the player who struggled for the first four months (.228, 6 HRs, 28 RBIs) or the one who rebounded in the final two (.325, 8 HR, 31 RBIs). Correcting a flaw at holding the bat, adopting better pitch selection and correcting a sleep disorder all have been offered as reasons for the late turnaround.
In the cases of Gonzalez and Holland, the Rockies can decide to make a qualifying offer of $18.1 million for next season, which would entitle the team to a selection in the 2018 MLB Draft if the players refuse the offer and sign with another club. Holland, as part of the strategy to securing a multi-year deal, will turn down the offer. What isn't clear is whether the Rockies will make the offer to Gonzalez, and if he will accept and try for a multi-year offer after '18.
Will the Rockies make a splash for a bat?
A priority is to re-sign will be Lucroy, who helped a young pitching staff and provided consistently strong at-bats from the No. 8 position. But lefty power-hitting first baseman Eric Hosmer (25 homers each of the past two years with the Royals) or outfielder J.D. Martinez (45 combined homers with the Tigers and D-backs last year) are potential free agents whose power could help the lineup. Can the Rockies aggressively pursue Holland and still have payroll space for one of them?
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and** like his Facebook page**.