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Rockies open minded in search for pitching

GM Bridich would consider dealing prospects if right trade presents itself

DENVER -- Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said the team's approach of exploring all avenues for improvement, with pitching topping the list, even includes a strategy the team has rarely employed -- parting with prospects in trades.

"When I say we're open to whatever, I mean it," Bridich said to reporters on a conference call Wednesday, after returning from the General Managers Meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. "I don't think we'll ever be in a 'sell the farm' mode. I don't think that's a wise decision for us. But you have to be open minded to things that can improve your ballclub."

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Bridich said some teams asked about left fielder Carlos Gonzalez, who finished third in the National League in home runs this season with 40 after battling injuries in recent years, but that talks involving Gonzalez were more "questions and answers." At the end of the season, however, Bridich said he considers Gonzalez a core player.

Still, the Rockies' focus is on pitching, and Bridich said he will explore all avenues.

The Rockies have stability in veteran Jorge De La Rosa but went through growing pains with several young pitchers en route to a 68-94 finish last season. The Rockies are looking for ways to add talented pitchers in their prime, even though they saw development from righty Chad Bettis and hope for a full season of competitive pitching in 2016 from No. 2 prospect Jon Gray, who was taken third overall in the '13 Draft and made nine starts as part of a big league cameo in '15.

Bridich said the Rockies haven't determined whether they plan to compete for high-profile free agents or seek trades, but that the club will explore both methods. The direction the Rockies choose could depend on timing.

"It's probably easier to get aggressive on the trade front, especially early on," Bridich said. "Free agents like to see what the full market is, most of them. But we'll run parallel courses to the best of our ability."

The Rockies struggled last season against left-handed starters, hitting .259 with a .302 on-base percentage and a .390 slugging percentage, as opposed to a .268/.320/.448 line against righty starters.

Gonzalez, Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon provide much of the club's power from the left side. From the right, third baseman Nolan Arenado tied with the Nationals' Bryce Harper for the NL lead in homers with 42 this season, and second baseman DJ LeMahieu and catcher Nick Hundley had career years. Bridich said that adding an impact right-handed bat could be in play, but it's not a priority.

"Lineup balance is important," Bridich said. "I don't think it's the be-all and end-all for club construction. I'd probably rather have an uber-talented left-handed hitter than a second- or third-tier right-handed hitter because he's right-handed."

Bridich said it was "tough to comment" on shortstop Jose Reyes, who was recently arrested on domestic violence charges that appear to fall under the new Joint Domestic Violence Policy agreed to by MLB and the MLB Players Association. Under the policy, clubs can't take action against a player's contract -- Reyes is owed $48 million through 2017 -- because that authority rests solely with Commissioner Rob Manfred and the union has arbitration rights. Bridich said the Rockies could be allowed to take part in the process at some point if Manfred requests the club's involvement.

Bridich said he believes that the Rockies have depth. Infielder Trevor Story, a first-rounder from the 2011 Draft who finished last season at Triple-A Albuquerque, and Cristhian Adames, who finished the year in the Majors, could play shortstop, as could utility players Daniel Descalso and Rafael Ynoa. Additionally, the team's extreme shifts could help because of the range of Arenado and LeMahieu.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page. Paul Hagen contributed.
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