Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich arrived at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Sunday with money to spend to improve the 2018 Rockies. But he is already showing that he's just as inclined to buy smart.
Bridich said last week that the 2018 Opening Day payroll should be somewhere around the finishing payroll of '17: $147.6 million. Last year's payroll included $22 million for shortstop Jose Reyes, who played for the Mets after being released by the Rockies in '16, and $20 million for the final year of right fielder Carlos Gonzalez's contract.
The big expenditure could be in the bullpen, where the Rockies are in the hunt for free agents, including Greg Holland -- who earned 41 saves for them last year -- as well as Wade Davis and Brandon Kintzler, among others. Colorado is looking for multiple relief arms, with Jake McGee and Pat Neshek also free agents. Late-innings acquisition started as teams were arriving in Florida on Sunday: Luke Gregerson joined the Cardinals on a reported two-year, $11 million deal, and Brandon Morrow reached a reported two-year contract with the Cubs, pending a physical.
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The Rockies can afford a splurge, since their current starting rotation has just one member (righty Chad Bettis) who has been around long enough to be in his arbitration years.
Also, with pitcher-outfielder Shohei Ohtani having signed with the Angels and Giancarlo Stanton reportedly set to be traded from the Marlins to the Yankees, it's possible there will be clarity in the market for a run-producer who could play first base or an outfield corner, or both.
But already, Bridich has shown value-shopping ability.
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The Rockies had been trying to re-sign Jonathan Lucroy, who came in a non-waiver Trade Deadline deal with the Rangers last year and helped the Rockies to the postseason. Some projections suggested Lucroy could land a deal in the three-year, $30-plus million range. But on Friday, the Rockies turned to Chris Iannetta for two years at $8.5 million.
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Of course, Iannetta broke in with the Rockies and played capably from 2006-11 before he was traded to the Angels. Various Major League scouts commended Colorado's move, saying Iannetta, who will be 35 on April 8, has been increasingly effective as a pitch-caller and receiver. Iannetta helped the D-backs to the 2017 postseason, and is also seen as a leader for a young staff and a catcher cognizant of keeping pitchers at a good tempo -- a trait known to be important to manager Bud Black.
So expect the Rockies to consider trade options for their holes.
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An interesting possibility is Rays closer Alex Colome, although the Cubs and Cardinals have shown up in recent reports. Colome led the Majors with 47 saves last year and is under club control until 2021. It isn't known if Colorado has discussed such a deal with Tampa Bay, which appears prepared to deal multiple starting and relief arms.
Bridich has not committed to one strategy for the closer or the multiple bullpen holes.
In past years the Rockies have had closers with multiple years of team control, and last year they avoided multi-year deals for veterans because Holland agreed to re-establish his value on a one-year deal after missing 2016 because of right elbow surgery. But the talks with Holland, Davis and Kintzler suggest Colorado isn't afraid of a longer contract for a closer.
Black is scheduled to meet with the media on Monday at 9:30 a.m. MT. The Winter Meetings run through Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, so check rockies.com for up-to-the-minute coverage all week long.