LAS VEGAS -- The Rockies' most-rumored trade targets -- Carlos Santana and Edwin Encarnacion -- were traded for each other Thursday near the end of the Winter Meetings. However, the Rockies already had begun a pivot toward free agency in their search for offense and to solidify the right side
LAS VEGAS -- The Rockies' most-rumored trade targets -- Carlos Santana and Edwin Encarnacion -- were traded for each other Thursday near the end of the Winter Meetings. However, the Rockies already had begun a pivot toward free agency in their search for offense and to solidify the right side of the infield.
Left-handed-hitting Daniel Murphy and Logan Morrison, and switch-hitting Neil Walker are on their radar on the free-agent market. The Rockies haven't totally turned away from the trade front -- especially with Blue Jays switch-hitting first baseman Justin Smoak, owed $8 million in 2019, reported to be available.
While Murphy and Smoak bring the most thump of the possible quartet, they all have something in common.
Whether it's a free agent or Smoak in a trade, all would be short-term options that don't alter the plan to give increased playing time to left-handed-hitting Ryan McMahon. He turns 24 Friday and can really celebrate if he realizes his potential after hitting .232/.307/.376 in 91 games as a rookie, playing mostly first base.
McMahon has received high marks at second base and was drafted as a third baseman (although the Rockies don't need one of those, thanks to star Nolan Arenado).
Thursday's flurry of trade activity before teams hopped in their rides from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino ended up not involving the Rockies.
Santana, who played last season with the Phillies and was dealt to the Mariners last week, was sent to the Indians for Encarnacion as part of a three-team trade that also involved the Rays. Immediate speculation had the Rockies trying to obtain Encarnacion from the Mariners, but that ended up a thread to nowhere.
The possible targets offer experience and positional versatility. Murphy, who turns 34 in April and has been primarily a second baseman, is coming off a solid offensive year -- .299/.336/.454 for the Nationals and Cubs, although his power numbers dipped (slugging .543 in 2017 and from 23 homers to 12).
Walker, 33, struggled to a .219 average and .664 OPS with the Yankees but might benefit from a return to the National League -- where he had a more-representative .801 OPS with the Mets and Brewers in 2017. Like Murphy, Walker has played some first base but has spent most of his career at second.
Morrison, 31, was a back-burner possibility last year before he signed with the Twins, then struggled to a .186 average (but with 15 home runs) in 95 games last season.
The Rockies have also been linked to a couple of multi-position free agents -- Marwin Gonzalez, who turns 30 in March, and Josh Harrison, 31. Both have been infield and outfield contributors to successful teams in recent years -- Gonzalez with the Astros, Harrison with the Pirates.
Also emerging from the Winter Meetings, the Rockies stayed true to their strategy of hanging on to their top prospects.
According to multiple baseball sources with knowledge of the Rockies' trade conversations, right-hander Jon Gray -- who struggled in 2018 after a big '17 -- was a popular request, as he was at the non-waiver Trade Deadline last season. When trade proposals involved players with large salaries, teams were receptive to discussing Ian Desmond, who is guaranteed $40 million (including a $2 million buyout on a $15 million option for 2022).
Desmond, who has played first base and left field, could show up at all three outfield positions if he isn't traded, as the Rockies consider moving center fielder Charlie Blackmon to a corner, either permanently or as part of the program. Left-handed-hitting David Dahl has pushed his way into the outfield picture, and lefty-hitting Raimel Tapia is among candidates to earn increased playing time.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.