Will Rockies move Blackmon out of center?

December 12th, 2018

LAS VEGAS -- It's not clear if shifting center fielder Charlie Blackmon is an idea whose time has come, but it's been bandied about for the better part of a year.
Blackmon will turn 33 on July 1, about halfway through 2019 -- the second year of a six-year, $108 million contract. Blackmon led the National League in batting at .331 and total bases at 387 while hitting 37 home runs in 2017. The performance dropped in 2018, but .291 with 29 homers and 314 total bases still put him among the more dangerous leadoff hitters.
But would a move to a corner reduce wear and tear, and leave center field to be filled by a versatile roster?
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While it was a hot topic during press availabilities for manager Bud Black and general manager Jeff Bridich on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings, it isn't breaking news as far as those involved are concerned.
"The topic overall and in general was breached and discussed up front during the contract negotiations," Bridich said. "There was no timeframe put on it. But we felt like this was probably as his career progressed with us where it was going to head at some point. We wanted to have cooler minds and rational heads to discuss it as adults when the time was right."
Black said, "We've talked about that with our group and amongst ourselves, and with Charlie I think he knows that at some point there might be a move to the corner."
Blackmon, as he established himself in center, has often said center is "the essence of outfield play." But should a move, either temporarily or full time, become reality, Bridich doesn't get the feeling there would be pushback in a modern game where multi-position players are becoming the norm.
"Charlie's an intense competitor, he's confident in his abilities, but Charlie understands that he's a Colorado Rockie," Bridich said. "He's all in, and he's in for the rest of his career. He knows we all want what's best for this organization to win games, have fun and all the stuff that comes along with that."
The thought is based on preserving Blackmon and possibly improving the defense with fresher or speedier legs.
"We have a few options for sure," Black said. "David Dahl could play center. Charlie could play center. Don't forget made the All-Star team in 2016 with the Texas Rangers as a center fielder. Ian grew up as a center of the diamond player. He's very comfortable being in the middle of the diamond. That's a possibility as well."
Additionally, , one of the Majors' fastest players, is a natural center fielder, and infielder , also possessing above-average speed, has played center in the Minors and a little while debuting in the Majors last season.
The search for a run-producer: Former Indians and Phillies switch-hitting corner man , recently acquired by a Mariners team that's looking to move high salaries, remains high on the list of possible trade targets. Bridich said nothing was imminent, but he detailed what he wants as the team attempts to boost the offense.
"Generally, it's run production -- consistent run production, and I think as we saw in the latest parts of our season the ability to score in the toughest of situations and the most challenging situations in this game, in those playoff games that we have designs on participating in for years to come," Bridich said.
While rumors that the Rockies were considering trading with the Padres for were shot down, another candidate emerged, according to former MLB GM Jim Bowden of the Athletic -- the Indians' , who in the last seven seasons has hit 42 homers twice and eclipsed 30 homers five times.
Young bench? Old bench? Who knows? The Rockies spent much of last season with , , , Tapia and , all early in their careers, as the main bench bats. Cuevas and McMahon grew into productive players, but vets and (now free agents) solidified the reserve group. How will Bridich handle those roles this time?
"I don't really know right now; it's still early in the year," Bridich said. "I believe in those [younger] guys ... but I'm not sure in terms of what the team is going to look like."