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Desmond deal sparks Blackmon trade rumors

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The Rockies' reported deal with Ian Desmond -- the Rangers' center fielder last season -- raised a question: What are the Rockies planning to do with their center fielder, Charlie Blackmon?

Desmond, who agreed to a reported five-year, $70 million contract, is said to be switching to first base with the Rockies, but he represented the Rangers in last year's All-Star Game in center field, and he was an All-Star shortstop in 2012 during his seven seasons with the Nationals (2009-15). Desmond has been streaky throughout his career, but his .743 career OPS is solid for the positions he played.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The Rockies' reported deal with Ian Desmond -- the Rangers' center fielder last season -- raised a question: What are the Rockies planning to do with their center fielder, Charlie Blackmon?

Desmond, who agreed to a reported five-year, $70 million contract, is said to be switching to first base with the Rockies, but he represented the Rangers in last year's All-Star Game in center field, and he was an All-Star shortstop in 2012 during his seven seasons with the Nationals (2009-15). Desmond has been streaky throughout his career, but his .743 career OPS is solid for the positions he played.

Hot Stove Tracker

But those numbers are not what's typically expected from a first baseman, so it stands to reason that the Rockies would want to move Desmond to center. And with Blackmon coming off his best season, hitting .324 with a .381 on-base percentage and career-bests in home runs (29) and RBIs (82), teams have been approaching the Rockies.

"My feelings haven't changed about Charlie Blackmon one bit," said Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich, who answered a question about Blackmon on Wednesday but did not address Desmond, whose signing is pending a physical. "He's a very popular player for good reason. There have been questions about him. There have been increased questions about him since the rumors came out this afternoon.

"It's no surprise because of the type of player and person that he is. Certainly, we have not had any intention of trading this player for all those good reasons. As I've said before, we're just going to keep our ears open and eyes open. That's just part of the business."

Video: Rockies, Desmond reportedly agree to five-year deal

Desmond headed to Rockies

Reports Wednesday were that the Rockies offered Blackmon to the Blue Jays for pitcher Marcus Stroman. But multiple Major League sources cited that a deal was unlikely because Toronto is reluctant to part with pitching depth at a time when it is a prime American League contender.

Media speculation is that Blackmon could be a fit with the Cardinals, who have first baseman Matt Adams -- with 81 homers in 455 games since 2012 -- and relief pitching to offer in return. The Rockies also want to improve a bullpen that faltered for a team that was in postseason contention through August.

MLB Trade Rumors projects that Blackmon will earn $9 million in 2017 through arbitration. Clearing that potential salary could keep the Rockies in play for some of the bigger-ticket free agents, and speculation has it that they continue to pursue first baseman Mark Trumbo -- who could end up with a deal similar to Desmond's.

Video: MLB Now breaks down the Rockies' offseason, Desmond

Pitching carousel

The Rockies have long been connected to lefty reliever Mike Dunn, who struck out 21.6 percent of batters he faced in 2016 and has fanned batters at a rate of 25.6 percent for his career. Dunn has pitched for the Yankees and Marlins and was the eighth-inning setup man for former Miami manager Mike Redmond, who was recently hired as Rockies bench coach under new manager Bud Black.

"We've looked at just about every free-agent reliever, and with him being in the National League, we've seen him a number of times and there's some level of familiarity there," Bridich said. "And he's still available. He's somebody, to a certain degree, we're paying attention to."

The Rockies also have checked into Brad Ziegler, who has three of the top 10 ground-ball rates since the stat began to be fully tracked in 2002. While Ziegler broke in with the Athletics from 2008-11 and finished last season with the Red Sox, he has spent much of his career in the NL West with the D-backs.

Ziegler may have increased his free-agent attractiveness by striking out 25 percent of the batters he faced with the Red Sox -- well above his 16 percent career average. Last season, Ziegler increased the use of his curveball to 21.9 percent. He had used it 13.6 percent previously.

Ziegler is 3-1 with a 4.15 ERA and two saves in 20 career games at Coors Field.

"He's certainly a good pitcher, and with how many times we've seen him and faced him, we feel like we know him real well," Bridich said of the sidearmer. "The way he operates, the unconventional can really work for him, and it doesn't matter where he pitches. I understand why his name keeps popping up."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colorado Rockies, Charlie Blackmon