Rockies said to be listening on Tulo, CarGo
DENVER -- The Rockies are in listening mode for trade offers regarding shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, their big-ticket players coming off season-ending surgeries, multiple Major League sources said Thursday.
Sources said the Rockies are simply exploring all options for their 2015 roster, and would move quickly, but they will entertain trade discussions only if teams made an offer as if both players were coming off a healthy, standout-type season. Tulowitzki had surgery on his left hip labrum and Gonzalez underwent a left knee repair in late August.
FOX Sports reported that other clubs detected a greater interest in listening on the part of the Rockies, under new general manager Jeff Bridich, who has stated that adding quality and depth to the rotation is at the top of the team's needs. Much of the attention of reports over the past couple of days has centered on the possibility of moving Tulowitzki.
If something is to happen, wisdom in the industry would indicate that it makes sense that it would occur at or before next week's MLB General Managers Meetings in Phoenix.
Tulowitzki, 30, is owed $118 million through 2020. Gonzalez, 29, is owed $53 million through 2017. A deal this early in the offseason for Major Leaguers and prospects -- without requiring the Rockies to eat much of either player's salary -- could mean time and money to improve the rotation, the bullpen and the catching through free agency or other deals.
In a sense, the Rockies are in the same position that they were in last year. They listened when the Cardinals expressed interest in Tulowitzki. It turned out the reports were juicier than the actual talks.
The Rockies did not comment Thursday on any of the reports that surfaced. Tulowitzki's agent, Paul Cohen, said he had not received any indication that the Rockies were actually planning to make a move, but he understood the situation.
"We understand that there is going to be interest in 'Tulo,' who has been one of the best shortstops in baseball," Cohen said. "It's difficult, because he has a fondness and an attachment to the Rockies organization, and their ownership and management. If the ownership and the front office determines that there is something for us to talk about, he would respond in kind to the front office and ownership based on the long history between them."
Teams wanting to deal with the Rockies will have to weigh what they're willing to send to the Rockies for players who have had dicey health histories.
From 2012-14, Tulowitzki played in 47, 126 and 91 games, respectively. That was after averaging 134 games per season from his rookie season of 2007 through '11. He is rehabbing, hoping the hip labrum procedure helps halt a history of leg-muscle injuries. Cohen said Tulowitzki has been concentrating diligently on his rehab.
Gonzalez has not appeared in more than 145 games in any season. Gonzalez's 2014 season, which saw him have a benign tumor removed from his left index finger before the knee problem, came on the heels of a 110-game 2013 during which he was hampered by a ligament problem in his right middle finger.
The Rockies, who haven't had a winning season since 2010, believe they have a lineup worthy of a contender but their pitching lags behind. The Rockies are exploring trades to upgrade the staff, but haven't expressed a willingness to completely dismantle the core of the lineup.
An avenue for filling needs could open soon.
The Rockies have extended a $15.3 million qualifying offer to first baseman-outfielder Michael Cuddyer, who has until Monday to accept. If he takes it, or negotiates a deal with the Rockies, the club could play him at first base and look to deal 2014 National League batting champion Justin Morneau to a team looking for first-base help.
Morneau has a club-friendly $6.75 million contract for next season, and could be an attractive option for a team watching its payroll. However, the Rockies must weigh whether dealing Morneau brings a big enough haul. They have to decide if Tulowitzki or Gonzalez gives them a better chance at building a pitching staff that can compete in the NL West with the World Series-champion Giants and the division-champion Dodgers.
Of course, the Rockies also could go bolder and move one or both of the expensive players as well as Morneau in one or more deals.
The Morneau scenario not only could help with pitching, but it would give the Rockies a chance at strong outfield defense.
Gonzalez, who would play right field, has won three Rawlings Gold Glove Awards, and they believe in the ability of Charlie Blackmon to cover center if he can settle into the position. Blackmon played all three outfield spots -- 69 games in center, 34 in right and 22 in left -- in 2014. Left fielder Corey Dickerson, who provided a jolt offensively (.312, 24 HRs, 76 RBIs in 131 games), is considered a work-in-progress defensively. Cuddyer has played primarily in the outfield the last three years, but doesn't have the range of Gonzalez.
If Cuddyer leaves as a free agent, the Rockies will receive a compensation pick in the 2015 MLB First-Year Player Draft, but they still have to improve the club this winter.
In addition to Tulowitzki, Gonzalez and Morneau, the Rockies could deal catcher Wilin Rosario, who might be a better fit as a designated hitter and part-time catcher in the American League, or even move occasional outfield starter Drew Stubbs, a ground-covering center fielder who hit .289 with 15 homers and 41 extra-base hits. Rosario is in his first offseason of arbitration eligibility, and Stubbs is in his final season of arbitration.