At Meetings, Rox to explore all 'pen options

Colorado targeting FA upgrades, but could also look internally for help

December 4th, 2016

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The key to a Rockies' turnaround is clear -- fix the worst bullpen in the Majors in 2016. And general manager Jeff Bridich, who will try to check that off his list at the Winter Meetings, notes it can happen several different ways. One thing is certain: Rockies.com will be there to cover it.

MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2016 Winter Meetings from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C. Fans can catch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, including the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 8 a.m. MT.

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Bridich has already noted that the club has talked with two free agents -- established righty closer and late-innings lefty -- and is considering improving the 'pen through trades or free agency.

Melancon reportedly agreed to a deal with the Giants, so he appears to be off the table, but the competition wasn't the only reason signing him would have been difficult.

The Rockies have to decide how heavily they'll pursue Melancon, or anyone else whose price tag is higher because of a ninth-inning history. The fact they've talked indicates they're considering it. But beefing up the bullpen in other ways is on the table.

"Internally here, we have a great appreciation for the abilities of in that role," Bridich said during a recent phone call with reporters. "Jake McGee was doing it pretty well last year until he got hurt, and then his season kind of changed. Then with [rookie Carlos] Estevez, he stepped in there for a little bit. He certainly has the type of arsenal, the type of stuff that you'd like to see out of a ninth-inning guy.

"So closers are kind of brought in and also kind of created in a lot of different ways. You look around the game there are only a handful of guys who have been closers for a long period of time or who have gone from team to team as closers. But look around. There are a lot of homegrown guys, too, on playoff teams. Look, obviously it's an important element of a bullpen or a pitching staff, but there isn't just one way to accomplish that goal or cover that need."

Rockies in win-now mode entering Meetings

Melancon; , who spearheaded the Cubs' run; and , a key to the Dodgers' National League West title, are the decorated closers on the market. But as last season showed, pursuing an established closer during the offseason is but one of the methods to success in the end.

Of the 2016 playoff participants, Jansen, the Indians' , the Blue Jays' , the Mets' , the Giants' and the Orioles' Zach Britton all were developed by their clubs (Casilla was signed as a free agent early in his career). The others -- Chapman (Yankees), Melancon ( Pirates) and the Rangers' ( Marlins, in 2015) -- were obtained during in-season deals, and the Red Sox traded for (Padres) in the offseason prior to the '16 season. Another Deadline deal supplied the Indians with valuable left-hander .

So it becomes a question of the best way to use resources in December. Proven contenders such as the Nationals and Giants, it could be argued, can afford such a high-dollar pursuit, with relative certainty that the other bullpen pieces are in place and there aren't other gaping holes.

Rox see improving 'pen, first base as top priorities

The success several small-to-mid-market teams -- the 2014 World Series participant and 2015 champion Royals fall into this category -- have had developing closers from within, and the seeming availability of such pitchers at the non-waiver Trade Deadline with two months to go suggest that the Rockies could use their offseason resources in other areas.

The Rockies' hole at first base, then, could dictate how much the club spends on the bullpen. Colorado is rumored to be pursuing , but it could choose to bid for -- who was designated for assignment by the Brewers recently -- or use its strong Minor League system to swing a trade.

Bridich is well aware of the push and pull.