DENVER -- The intrigue on the Rockies' list of arbitration-eligible players begins with whether third baseman Nolan Arenado can be locked to a multi-year deal, but it goes well beyond that as Friday's 6 p.m. MT non-tender deadline approaches.The club has seven arbitration-eligible players including Arenado, who is in his
DENVER -- The intrigue on the Rockies' list of arbitration-eligible players begins with whether third baseman Nolan Arenado can be locked to a multi-year deal, but it goes well beyond that as Friday's 6 p.m. MT non-tender deadline approaches.
The club has seven arbitration-eligible players including Arenado, who is in his fourth and final year. Pitcher Chad Bettis is in his second of three years, and shortstop Trevor Story, pitchers Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson and Scott Oberg, and catcher Tony Wolters are in the first of their three years. The Rockies also have a full 40-man roster but are looking to make acquisitions to improve their offense.
Chris Rusin avoided arbitration Thursday by signing a 1-year deal worth $1,687,500.
Arenado's saga -- whether the Rockies will sign him to a mega-deal, reach a one-year deal and risk him leaving as a free agent or trade him if they can't reach an agreement this winter -- will continue to dominate the offseason headlines. Arenado earned $17.75 million in 2018 and finished third in the National League Most Valuable Player Award voting.
But there are plenty of other questions while watching Arenado play out.
While the club has given no indication of its plan, here are the situations to consider:
• After Story blossomed in 2018 with an All-Star Game invite, a .291 batting average and 37 homers that put him one below Arenado's National League-leading total, does the club entertain a deal of more than one year? Going into 2017, for example, the Rockies signed Arenado for $29.5 million and left a year of arbitration -- the one they're dealing with now.
• Starting pitching depth has been a key to the Rockies making postseason appearances the last two years, and general manager Jeff Bridich has said he doesn't anticipate a time when the Rockies have too much in that area. But do the Rockies take a risk here?
MLB Trade Rumors identifies Bettis as a non-tender candidate, but that would be a difficult one for a team that doesn't walk away from starters.
Last year, Bettis (5-2, 5.01 ERA) pitched as well as any starter before recurring right middle finger blister problems forced him to the bullpen. But he posted a 2.38 ERA in seven regular-season relief appearances, and he was trusted out of the bullpen in the NL Wild Card Game and the NL Division Series loss to the Brewers.
• With primary right-handed setup man Adam Ottavino on the free-agent market and no early indication that the Rockies -- who spent big on their bullpen last winter -- will join a bidding war, Oberg figures to receive an increased role. Last year, he went 8-1 with a 2.45 ERA and had a 1.51 ERA and .199 batting average against during his final 46 appearances.
Rusin mostly struggled in 2018 (2-3, 6.09 in 49 games) and did time on the disabled list with an oblique injury and plantar fasciitis. But the club is counting on him bouncing back to something like his 2017 form (5-1, 2.65 in 60 appearances) and is thin on lefty bullpen depth. Rusin's ability to pitch various roles is an asset, and he was trusted at the end of the regular year and in the postseason.
• In two seasons under manager Bud Black, Colorado has sought to protect and increase its numbers behind the plate, but also is perpetually looking for an upgrade. Wolters struggled to a .170 batting average in 74 games while backing Chris Iannetta, but his penchant for athletic defense and work with pitchers (the 3.02 ERA of German Marquez in 23 starts stands out) are factors in his favor. Do the Rockies tender him and protect their numbers, or do they non-tender to have a more flexible roster while looking to upgrade?
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.