DENVER -- The Rockies and D-backs took forward steps last year by grabbing both National League Wild Card spots, but Rockies manager Bud Black said Tuesday there is still work to do to make sure the NL West is thought of as more than belonging to the Dodgers and Giants.The
DENVER -- The Rockies and D-backs took forward steps last year by grabbing both National League Wild Card spots, but Rockies manager Bud Black said Tuesday there is still work to do to make sure the NL West is thought of as more than belonging to the Dodgers and Giants.
The are Dodgers coming off a World Series trip, where they lost to the Astros in seven games. The Giants suffered through a last-place, 64-98 performance, but by trading with the Rays for third baseman Evan Longoria and with the Pirates for outfielder Andrew McCutchen, they are back to receiving offseason buzz.
But the Rockies do not want to be forgotten.
"We want to be perennially be thought about like that," Black said before an event with corporate sponsors during the Rockies Winter Caravan. "The Dodgers and the Giants have set a high standard over the last eight or nine years. The Giants have won three world titles, and the Dodgers have won the West five years in a row. Now, other teams, us included, have to break down that perception that they own our division. Last year went a long way toward starting that."
The reason the Rockies weren't highly regarded going into 2017 -- young starting pitching -- turned out to be a key reason they returned to the postseason. But now folks know to look out for the Rockies. They are staying with a staff led by righties Jon Gray and Chad Bettis and lefty Tyler Anderson, and the group will be further augmented by second-year pitchers German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman.
Black was especially happy with the addition of Wade Davis as closer under a three-year, $52 million contract, as well as lefty reliever Jake McGee and righty reliever Bryan Shaw under three-year, $27 million deals.
"This is a case where we looked at the market for certain relief pitchers, and Shaw and Davis expressed desire to pitch for the Rockies and Jake expressed desire to come back," Black said. "When that happens, there's motivation from the club standpoint and the player and his representation to get things done. It's a great testament to what we have going on here."
Like everyone else, Black is waiting to see whether the projected lineup will receive additions. With first baseman Mark Reynolds and right fielder Carlos Gonzalez testing free agency (general manager Jeff Bridich has acknowledged talking to Reynolds but beyond monitoring Gonzalez as part of the market has not made any specific statements on him), there is a chance the Rockies could add a bat at first base or one of the outfield corners.
"Jeff is gauging what's happening out on the market each and every day," Black said. "Our eyes are always open to seeing if there's a fit out there. There have been a lot of times we have made inquires, talked to agents and players about the possibility of a union, and times where they went elsewhere. We continue to do that. Jeff is going to engage in what he sees as possibilities."
There are in-house possibilities. Whatever the Rockies do, Ian Desmond can slot at first base or in the outfield to make the parts fit. Prospect Ryan McMahon at first base, and David Dahl and Raimel Tapia are young outfielders who have shown promise the last two summers. Could now be the time for any of them?
"They're all getting closer," Black said. "Dahl is a little bit of a wild card because he came up in '16 and had some huge at-bats but was hurt [rib] all of last year. McMahon had a good year and inched closer. Tapia has produced as a Minor League payer and needs an opportunity. We'll see. We've got to get through the next five weeks, and maybe on into Spring Training, with these three fellows. We feel good about them moving forward."
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**.