Rockies open to 'fair' deals at Winter Meetings
DENVER -- The early hot stove pitching moves have captured the interest of Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich. But unlike in the past, when the Rockies have been a wallflower when it comes to moves involving front-of-the-rotation talent, Bridich intends to participate. He just needs to see exactly how.
The early free-agent signings cover a huge range. The signings of Jordan Zimmermann with the Tigers for five years and $110 million and J.A. Happ with the Blue Jays for three years and $36 million, along with the reported agreement between the Red Sox and David Price for seven years and $217 million, produced more dollars than some expected. The Braves have made two lower-priced, one-year signings -- Bud Norris for $2.5 million with another $2.75 million in available incentives and Jim Johnson for one year at $2.5 million.
The signings so far could be framing exactly what the Rockies will do to shore up their rotation and how they'll do it. Bridich said the club sees possible trade acquisitions but also is keeping an eye on the free-agent market. The whole situation should become clearer when the Winter Meetings begin in Nashville on Monday.
"I would describe the pitching market as developing," Bridich said. "We'll be getting past the tender deadline [Wednesday], which will give some more clarity, and we're gearing up for the Winter Meetings. It's best to say it's still early and developing."
MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2015 Winter Meetings from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, with the Network launching 35 hours of live Winter Meetings coverage Sunday at 6 p.m. MT. Fans can also catch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, as well as the announcement of the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration Era Committee inductees Monday at 9 a.m. MT and the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 8 a.m. MT.
The Rockies want to keep a competitive team on the field now and also have a priority of keeping young talent whose contracts they control, as well as keeping up what is seen as a strong Minor League system. But other teams are attracted to a star player such as outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and young players such as star center fielder Charlie Blackmon and second baseman DJ LeMahieu, in their first of three arbitration-eligible years, or star third baseman Nolan Arenado and left fielder Corey Dickerson, both with four years of club control.
While front-end starting pitching screams as a need, the Rockies can't be desperate enough to destroy the present and future for one arm.
"That's why you never take these things lightly, even when you're committed to a methodology of at least openness to considering most anything," Bridich said. "You've got to be protective and careful with the talent that you already have on your roster. That's part of my job, as to what's too much and what's fair and not fair."
Starting pitching isn't the only need. Bridich said the team could look at first-base possibilities, although he added that lefty-hitting Ben Paulsen has "put a good foot forward." Bridich said the Rockies also are being active in looking for bullpen help, after having spent the last year-plus adding young power arms. Look for the club to address left-handed relief, where Boone Logan has battled injury and inconsistency in the first two years of the richest contract ever given to a Rockies reliever (three years, $16.5 million) and Christian Friedrich is coming off a year of growing pains in his first full season in the bullpen.
The Rockies also will take a close look at the market of players non-tendered Wednesday. Front-of-the-rotation pitchers are unlikely to end up in that market, but rotation depth, bullpen help and some position players could become possibilities.
Bridich declined to discuss specific trade possibilities or free agents. But here's what industry sources are saying:
• The club's initial focus has been on trades. The trades of a pair of relievers, right-hander Tommy Kahnle to the White Sox and left-hander Rex Brothers to the Cubs for young Minor Leaguers, were seen as the beginning of the Rockies gauging interest in making further deals. It doesn't necessarily mean the further deals would be with those two clubs, however. The Rockies talked to multiple teams about Kahnle and Brothers, which gave them the opportunity to canvas possibilities for acquiring starting pitching, bullpen and offensive needs.
• Right-hander Ian Kennedy, who has pitched in the National League West with the D-backs (2010-13) and Padres (2013-15) is the top free-agent target. Kennedy has a 3.16 ERA in 10 career starts at Coors Field, with righty Doug Fister, looking to rebound after a less-than-stellar year with the Nationals, also a high possibility. Right-hander Mike Leake, who finished last season with the Giants, also is attractive to the club because of a low walk rate.
• The Rockies may be prepared to spend big, but they appear to be already priced out of the bidding for righty Johnny Cueto, who turned down $120 million over six years from the D-backs, according to reports. However, don't be surprised if the Rockies don't at least wade in and see if they can sway righty Jeff Samardzija, who is 1-0 with a 1.88 ERA in four games at Coors Field. But it's a small sample size, since just one of those games was a start and he has 14 1/3 total innings at Coors. Unlike other pitchers who could quickly lose their luster in the hitter-friendly atmosphere at Coors Field, Samardzija is seen as a pitcher whose stuff could play anywhere.
• Talks with the Mariners about power-hitting first baseman Mark Trumbo didn't produce a deal, and Seattle agreed to trade Trumbo to the Orioles on Tuesday. But the Rockies' attempt at a deal backed the notion that the club is looking for an offensive boost.