Rockies looking to add -- not subtract -- key players
Amid unfounded trade speculation, Colorado searching for slugger, starter
Amid all the stories speculating on the possible trade talks involving shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, there's one fact that seems to be ignored.
The Rockies aren't trading Tulowitzki.
In baseball there's no sure thing. Tulowitzki being with the Rockies when they open Spring Training at Salt River Fields next February, however, is as close to a sure thing as you get.
"He's not going anywhere," said Rockies senior vice president of Major League operations Bill Geivett.
Neither is outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, and it is a stretch to even think center fielder Dexter Fowler will be dealt, unless the Rockies feel they are overwhelmed by the return.
While Colorado finished in last place in the National League West each of the past two seasons, the Rockies don't feel they are a team that faces a major rebuilding project.
"We feel we are close," said Geivett. "We spent 33 days in first place and (42) more in second place last year. Things have to happen, but it's not that far.'
And the rise of Boston from the ahses to a World Series championship last month only adds to the hopes of the have-nots. The Red Sox were, after all, the 11th team to go from last place in a division one season to first place the next in the past 24 years.
The Rockies do have their needs this offseason.
They need to fill at least one void in the rotation, possibly two, and they need a run-producing bat to fit in the middle of the lineup, preferably a left-handed hitter in light of the fact Gonzalez is the only purely left-handed bat in the projected everyday lineup. They need to add bullpen depth, particularly from the left side, with Rex Brothers moving into the closer role. And they could use an offensive threat off the bench.
The cupboard, however, is not bare.
Defensively, catcher Wilin Rosario is still a work in progress, but Rosario's bat fits nicely with NL batting champion Michael Cuddyer, Fowler, Tulowitzki, Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado and D.J. LeMahieu, the surprising answer to the second-base void a year ago.
Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin and Tyler Chatwood showed their value in the rotation in 2013, and Juan Nicasio gave the Rockies reason for hope, but what Colorado can't ignore is the black hole of the fifth spot in the rotation. The Rockies were 62-50 when De La Rosa, Chacin, Chatwood and Nicasio started, but only 12-38 in games started by seven others.
The Rockies have two pitching prospects who have opened eyes: 2013 No. 1 Draft pick Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler, a supplemental first-round pick the year before. However, the organization is adamant neither pitcher will open 2014 in the big leagues. But they could arrive by May 1.
The Rockies have also have seen former first-round pick Kyle Parker, a former quarterback at Clemson, take a major step forward in the Arizona Fall League, not unlike the development of Arenado two years ago. Parker, though, doesn't project as being ready by Opening Day.
The No. 1 priority is finding a veteran bat, someone to step into the void created by Todd Helton's retirement.
Colorado toyed with the idea of pursuing free-agent catcher Carlos Ruiz, which would have led to extended playing time at first base for Rosario. But the Rockies aren't going to get into a bidding war for a catcher who turns 35 in January and has had double-figure homer totals only once in his big league career.
Geivett and Rene Lachemann, a former catcher and current Rockies coach who will be in uniform for his 51st professional season in 2014, flew to the Dominican Republic on Tuesday night. They will spend time with Rosario, who again is working with former big league catcher Alberto Castillo, the manager of his winter league team.
With the focus back on adding a middle-of-the-lineup bat, the Rockies have shown interest in Mike Napoli, but he is a right-handed hitter and was tendered an offer by the Red Sox, so he would cost the Rockies a Draft pick. James Loney and Justin Morneau, both left-handed hitters, would fit Colorado's need better, and neither would cost a draft pick.
Others have interest in those same players.
"Free-agent dealings are not an easy route," said Geivett. "At the end of the day, you are at the point where everybody else drops out because the price has gotten too high."