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Rockies agree to terms with reliever Shaw

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- The Rockies' push to improve the back end of their bullpen reportedly has landed them durable right-hander Bryan Shaw, the only pitcher in the Majors to make at least 70 appearances the past five seasons.

Shaw, 30, went 5-6 with a 3.52 ERA and three saves in 79 appearances for the Indians in 2017. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported that the deal was done. ESPN's Buster Olney is reporting the deal is for three years at something in the range of $9 million per year.

DENVER -- The Rockies' push to improve the back end of their bullpen reportedly has landed them durable right-hander Bryan Shaw, the only pitcher in the Majors to make at least 70 appearances the past five seasons.

Shaw, 30, went 5-6 with a 3.52 ERA and three saves in 79 appearances for the Indians in 2017. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported that the deal was done. ESPN's Buster Olney is reporting the deal is for three years at something in the range of $9 million per year.

General manager Jeff Bridich went into the offseason looking to bolster the back of the bullpen, and Shaw is part of that effort. After serving as the Indians' primary setup man, he slots in as an experienced replacement for Pat Neshek. After being acquired from the Phillies at the non-waiver Trade Deadline and helping the Rockies to the postseason, Neshek reportedly has agreed to a two-year contract to return to the Phillies.

Rockies focused on catching, pitching on Day 2 of Winter Meetings

Shaw led the American League in appearances in three of the past four seasons, pitching in 80 games in 2014, 75 in 2016 as the Indians won the AL pennant and 79 in 2017. Shaw also has postseason experience, having posted a 2.45 ERA with 22 strikeouts and six walks in 22 career playoff innings. That includes 14 postseason appearances in the past two years.

In 2017, Shaw became the first Major League pitcher to have at least 70 appearances in five straight years since Joe Smith from 2011-15. Shaw and Jeurys Familia are the only pitchers in baseball with at least 70 games and 75 innings in a season three times in the past 10 years. Over the past five, Shaw has posted a 3.11 ERA with a 3.45 FIP and the most games (378), innings (tied at 358 2/3) and pitches thrown (5,892) among Major League relievers.

Hot Stove Tracker

Indians manager Terry Francona lauded Shaw for his dependability at the end of the regular season.

"The way I view [him] is it's almost like the offensive lineman who shows up every game, and the only time people really talk about him is when he misses a block," Francona said. "He took so much pride in being available, and he carried so much of the load for us for five years. It is remarkable. And you guys saw the other day, he was throwing 97. I think because of his personality, people laugh it off at times. But my goodness sakes, he is so reliable."

In addition to durability, Shaw brings a strike-throwing ability that the Rockies value late in games. His 3.32 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2017 was a career high. Also, his homers per nine innings has never been above 1.1 in a season.

Not only was Neshek a free agent, but the Rockies' closer in 2017, Greg Holland, and lefty setup man, Jake McGee, also are free agents. The Rockies have acknowledged talking to both, as well as exploring other closer options, such as former Cubs closer Wade Davis, on the open market, as well as looking at trade options such as the Rays' Alex Colome and the Orioles' Zach Britton, among others.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page. Jordan Bastian and Manny Randhawa contributed.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colorado Rockies, Bryan Shaw

Rockies focused on catching, pitching on Day 2

Team's pursuit of CarGo, potential contract extensions on hold for now
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- It's not that the Rockies have said goodbye to right fielder Carlos Gonzalez, a star for nine seasons in Colorado. They've just been too busy otherwise to say much of anything, general manager Jeff Bridich noted Tuesday at the MLB Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

For example, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported Tuesday night that the Rockies filled a key hole by reaching an agreement with right-handed reliever Bryan Shaw, who made at least 70 appearances in each of the past five seasons with the Indians.

DENVER -- It's not that the Rockies have said goodbye to right fielder Carlos Gonzalez, a star for nine seasons in Colorado. They've just been too busy otherwise to say much of anything, general manager Jeff Bridich noted Tuesday at the MLB Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

For example, MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported Tuesday night that the Rockies filled a key hole by reaching an agreement with right-handed reliever Bryan Shaw, who made at least 70 appearances in each of the past five seasons with the Indians.

Of the key free agents from the 2017 Rockies still available, Bridich has been most aggressive in pursuing closer Greg Holland -- while also looking at free agent Wade Davis and trade options who can close games, such as the Rays' Alex Colome and the Orioles' Zach Britton -- and lefty setup man Jake McGee.

The Rockies spoke to righty setup man Pat Neshek, but he reportedly has agreed to a two-year contract with the Phillies. Shaw, however, stands to replace Neshek in the bullpen.

Before the Winter Meetings, the Rockies addressed their catching vacancy by signing veteran Chris Iannetta for two years and $8.5 million.

Video: Black on Rockies acquiring Chris Iannetta

The way Bridich tends to operate -- take care of what must be done in order of importance -- means retaining Gonzalez is a task for another time.

"Our focus and where most of our energy and time is on catching and pitching," Bridich said. "It's not that we can't multi-task. It's just that you can have so many irons in the fire in this process that you end up just getting burned. One of the ways we want to go about business is if we are going to create priorities, make sure we stay true to that, unless there is some sort of game-changing scenario."

Hot Stove Tracker

Bridich said few non-pitching free agents have signed, with Iannetta a notable exception, so he doesn't feel he is falling behind by not devising a strategy about Gonzalez quicker. The Rockies, Astros, Orioles and Athletics are among those clubs interested in CarGo.

Gonzalez struggled for much of the 2017 season and finished with a .262 batting average, 14 home runs and 57 RBIs. But he hit .325 with eight homers and 31 RBIs after Aug. 1 and helped the Rockies earn a National League Wild Card spot. Bridich said the season ended with positive feelings from both player and team.

The Rockies are looking at acquiring a run-producing corner player, either first base or outfield or some combination. They have acknowledged early talks with free-agent first baseman Carlos Santana and their regular first baseman in '17, Mark Reynolds. But Santana has a long list of suitors, and the Rockies haven't figured out the exact plan with Reynolds. He came to camp on a Minor League contract as a utility guy last year, then took over first base when Ian Desmond suffered a left hand injury in Spring Training.

Video: Justice analyzes interest between Rockies and Santana

The setup roles are almost as high a priority as the closer since such a pitcher can slide into the ninth inning, if necessary. McGee served as closer for part of the 2016 season after Carlos Estevez was injured -- McGee's effectiveness was reduced by his own knee injury -- and earned three saves last year while pitching solidly (58 strikeouts to 16 walks in 57 1/3 innings).

"We're conscious of that," Bridich said. "Sometimes different guys have to come in and be ready to do those sorts of things. As it relates to Jake, he's been somebody that we've continued some dialogue with."

Worth noting

• The last two NL batting champs, second baseman DJ LeMahieu (2016) and Charlie Blackmon (2017), are in their final year of arbitration, and star third baseman Nolan Arenado has his final arbitration year after the 2018 season. The idea of signing any or all to long-term deals is on a case-by-case basis, Bridich said.

"The only true connection with some of those things is there are certain guys that become free agents at the same time," Bridich said. "We've definitely thought about things a lot. We try to retain our guys, generally, if they enjoy being in Colorado and if they believe continuing to be a Colorado Rockie is a good thing for them in their career, and see if there is reason to talk further. Most likely, we'll do that at some point with all those guys."

• First baseman Eric Hosmer and outfielder J.D. Martinez figure to receive the largest contracts on the open market. Bridich said the Rockies will not be participating in the bidding for those players.

• Multiple reports mentioned the Rockies as being among the teams inquiring about Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but Bridich said, "We haven't had any recent talks about Ozuna whatsoever."

• The Rockies and the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats have reached a two-year extension on their player development contract, through 2020.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colorado Rockies, Carlos Gonzalez

Bridich investigating late-inning options for Rox

Britton, Colome among closers potentially available via trade
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich acknowledged the club has had conversations with the Rays about closer Alex Colome -- as was the hot rumor on Monday's first day of the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. But Bridich said the Rockies are also continuing to talk to free-agent Greg Holland, their closer in 2017.

Bridich also acknowledged an MLB.com report earlier Monday that the Rockies have expressed interest in free-agent first baseman Carlos Santana, who hit 23 home runs last year and 34 in 2016 for the Indians. Santana is represented by the same agency as catcher Chris Iannetta, who signed with the Rockies for two years and $8.5 million on Friday.

Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich acknowledged the club has had conversations with the Rays about closer Alex Colome -- as was the hot rumor on Monday's first day of the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. But Bridich said the Rockies are also continuing to talk to free-agent Greg Holland, their closer in 2017.

Bridich also acknowledged an MLB.com report earlier Monday that the Rockies have expressed interest in free-agent first baseman Carlos Santana, who hit 23 home runs last year and 34 in 2016 for the Indians. Santana is represented by the same agency as catcher Chris Iannetta, who signed with the Rockies for two years and $8.5 million on Friday.

By signing Iannetta for a much lower price than it may have taken to retain Jonathan Lucroy, who caught for Colorado down the stretch in 2017, Bridich now has more money to potentially add late-inning relief help.

Video: Harding discusses Rockies' options at closer for '18

Not only must the Rockies find a closer, but they also have holes to fill in their setup roles. Right-hander Pat Neshek, acquired from the Phillies for the 2017 stretch run that landed the Rockies in the postseason for the first time since 2009, is expected to re-sign with Philadelphia, according to MLB.com. Left-handed setup man Jake McGee also is a free agent.

• Hot Stove Tracker

USA Today reported Monday morning that the Rockies and Cardinals were among the teams "aggressively pursuing" Colome, 28, who led the Majors in saves in 2017 with 47 and is under club control for the next three seasons.

Bridich didn't go into detail about the talks with the Rays, but they started at last month's General Managers Meetings as the Rockies began to survey the market. 

In addition to the talks about Colome, Bridich acknowledged interest in Orioles closer Zach Britton, who the Rockies scouted heavily at the 2017 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Britton dealt with an elbow issue last season but finished strong with a 2.89 ERA after leading the American League in saves in '16 with 47.

The Orioles are believed to be shopping Britton, in his final year of arbitration, and other players with rising salaries. Bridich said the Rockies have been looking at "all different possibilities," so Britton, like Colome or like a free agent like Holland, would fit that process.

"I can't speak for Baltimore, but we've been looking into [him] and researching for weeks and months now, and with where Britton is at in his career and some of the things Baltimore has said publicly about what their plans are, we've looked into him," Bridich said. "He's one of a number of closers, both free agents and trade potential, that we've been investigating."

But none of this means the door is closed on bringing back Holland, who missed 2016 because of Tommy John surgery. The right-hander signed a one-year deal with the Rockies and tied with the Dodgers' Kenley Jansen for the National League lead in saves with 41. Bridich answered affirmatively when asked if it was fair to say the club still is pursuing Holland.

Video: Holland earns NL Comeback Player of Year Award

Early reports Monday linked the Rockies to corner outfielder Jay Bruce and first baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison. But Santana -- a switch-hitter who has impressive power and patience, having averaged 102 walks per season over the past four campaigns with a career on-base percentage of .365 -- appeared to be of more true interest to the club.

But the Indians, Red Sox and numerous other teams are also pursuing Santana, which means Rockies face stiff competition. If Colorado can land Santana, Ian Desmond -- signed last year for five years and $70 million -- would most likely move primarily to the outfield. Desmond took up first base in 2017 but suffered a broken left hand in Spring Training and missed the start of the regular season. With Mark Reynolds playing well at first base, Desmond spent much of his time in left field after returning.

Gerardo Parra, in the last year of his three-year contract, could move from left to right field to replace Carlos Gonzalez, who is a free agent.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colorado Rockies

Black hopes for offensive consistency in 2017

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

Manager Bud Black is looking for the Rockies to build on the 2017 season, when they made their first postseason trip in nine years.

"It was good for the group because the original Rockies who hadn't been through it, the guys who we acquired had been through it," Black said Monday during his media session at the MLB Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. "So I think it was a nice situation to come together as a team.

Manager Bud Black is looking for the Rockies to build on the 2017 season, when they made their first postseason trip in nine years.

"It was good for the group because the original Rockies who hadn't been through it, the guys who we acquired had been through it," Black said Monday during his media session at the MLB Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. "So I think it was a nice situation to come together as a team.

"Now we've got to continue that."

• Bridich investigating late-inning options for Rox's 'pen

The Rockies met expectations defensively, where third baseman Nolan Arenado won his fifth Rawlings Gold Glove Award, second baseman DJ LeMahieu took his second and shortstop Trevor Story performed well enough that the club thought he should have been a finalist. They exceeded any predictions with starting pitching, especially going through a stretch of the season with four rookies in the rotation.

Video: Bud Black on direction of Rockies' rotation

What's interesting is how to assess the offensive performance. Run production and traditional offensive stats pointed to a good year, but high strikeouts and unproductive outs led to some droughts. While the Winter Meetings are about filling roster holes, the overall goal of offensive consistency can only be met through in-season performance.

• Hot Stove Tracker

The top of the lineup was productive, with National League batting champion Charlie Blackmon and Arenado hitting 37 home runs apiece, and LeMahieu following up his 2016 National League batting championship with a solid year. There were strong periods from Mark Reynolds, now a free agent, and outfielder Gerardo Parra, but steady production throughout the lineup disappeared at times.

Ian Desmond, last year's big free-agent expenditure, was held to 95 games. A healthy year could mean more production than a .274 average, seven homers and 40 RBIs. Parra was hitting .318 before a quad injury on June 6 cost him 28 games. Story struck out an NL-leading 191 times but hit 24 homers and 35 other extra-base hits.

Those are areas that could improve, and the Rockies are looking to add another impact bat -- possibly switch-hitting first baseman Carlos Santana, who provided power and discipline with the Indians in recent years.

• Source: Rox eye free-agent slugger Santana

"I thought where we could have done a little bit better was a little bit on some of the walk-to-strikeout ratios," Black said. "I thought that was something I think we need to improve on going into next year. But overall, it was a good year."

The signing of catcher Chris Iannetta should further help the pitching staff, and Iannetta provides occasional power.

Video: Black on Rockies acquiring Chris Iannetta

Iannetta takes over for Jonathan Lucroy, who caught during the stretch run, and gives a young Rockies rotation a solid leader, according to Black.

"I think it's a great fit for Chris and for us. And I totally agree with his own thoughts there, that where he is now as a player and where he was as an original Rockie," Black said of Iannetta, who played for the Rockies 2006-11 and was part of two postseason teams. "On the defensive side, I'm sure any player will tell you that experience is such a great teacher.

"Here initially and then going to Anaheim, I know those years there with [manager] Mike [Scioscia] and that coaching staff, he grew. Then these last two years in Seattle and Arizona. I think you take away a lot of experiences from being around different coaching staffs and catching instructors and pitchers and managers. It's only natural that you're going to get better."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colorado Rockies

Source: Rox eye free-agent slugger Santana

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- The Rockies are taking a hard look at switch-hitting free-agent first baseman Carlos Santana as a run-producing corner bat, a source has told MLB.com. The club has not confirmed the pursuit of Santana.

Santana, who turns 32 on April 8, batted .259 with a .363 on-base percentage, a .455 slugging percentage, 23 home runs and 79 RBIs last season, after a career-high 34-homer/.865 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) season in 2016.

DENVER -- The Rockies are taking a hard look at switch-hitting free-agent first baseman Carlos Santana as a run-producing corner bat, a source has told MLB.com. The club has not confirmed the pursuit of Santana.

Santana, who turns 32 on April 8, batted .259 with a .363 on-base percentage, a .455 slugging percentage, 23 home runs and 79 RBIs last season, after a career-high 34-homer/.865 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) season in 2016.

Word spread during Monday's first full day of the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., that the Rockies had real interest in Santana.

According to MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman, the Indians' top offer on a contract extension was three years and $36 million before Santana hit the open market. The Cleveland Plain Dealer has reported that the Rangers, Padres, Phillies, Red Sox and Mariners are among the teams showing interest.

Other reports have the Rockies interested in Jay Bruce, who had a combined 36 homers and 101 RBIs for the Mets and Indians last season, and Logan Morrison, who hit 38 homers for the Rays in 2017. However, the Rockies are believed to have a stronger interest in Santana than either Bruce or Morrison.

It stands to reason that any power hitter would love to play at Coors Field. In that vein, here is a look at Santana's spray chart and how it would look at Coors:

A former catcher, Santana transitioned to designated hitter and first base. Multiple observers say he has blossomed into an above-average defender at first -- an important factor for the Rockies. Third baseman Nolan Arenado makes daring plays, and needs a dependable first baseman -- the way Mark Reynolds was the past two seasons -- to handle the difficult throws.

Also, second baseman DJ LeMahieu, like Arenado a decorated defender at the end of 2017, and shortstop Trevor Story, whom the Rockies feel should have been a Rawlings Gold Glove Award finalist, also make difficult plays and daring throws.

Santana's presence could free Ian Desmond from some first-base responsibility. Desmond took up the position last year, after signing for five years and $70 million, but has greater experience in the outfield, where the Rockies are looking to fill the void opened by Carlos Gonzalez's free agency.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colorado Rockies, Carlos Santana

Winter Meetings interview with Bud Black

MLB.com

Q. Big picture question. Coming off the season that you had your first year, you made the playoffs. How crucial is this off-season in your mind? You have some major decisions to make, how crucial is this off-season to keep the momentum going?

BUD BLACK: Every off-season has it challenges. We're no different than any other team. Our group, meaning our players and our front office realize what's ahead of us and the expectations and I know that our players are gearing up for that, and I know that Jeff and his guys and Dick even are ready to strike for certain players, trades that might occur to help.

I don't know whether "crucial" is the term, but every off-season is important for shaping your club and shaping the environment that you want to create going into Spring Training.

Q. Coming off the playoffs, what are you feeling about your club? Where is it going to take you?

BUD BLACK: It was a good first step for us last year having the season that we did. It was great for Nolan, Charlie, DJ, Cargo, our young pitching staff, the Rockies who have been only Rockies, to go through last season, that should be a great confidence builder for these players.

And the guys that came in, Holland and Desmond, McGee came the year before. These guys have been around playoff baseball. So I think collectively it was good for -- it was good for the group because the original Rockies who hadn't been through it, the guys who we acquired hadn't been through it. So I think it was a nice situation to come together as a team.

Now we've got to continue that, you know, that aspect of team moving forward. Even with the guys that we acquire this season, this off-season. Or try to acquire.

Q. Going into last year, you had general expectations of how your team would perform in certain facets. What did your team do better than expected and not as well as expected?

BUD BLACK: I think the offensive aspect of our group from the year before, from '16, I think that was -- that played out how we expected it. We led a lot of offensive categories. If we didn't lead a lot of offensive categories, we were in the top three, four, five. We had a good offensive year. Charlie had a great year. Nolan had a great year. D.J. hit over .300.

We had guys that had great spurts of weeks during the course of the season. Probably where we exceeded expectations were in our total team pitching, especially the younger group of starting pitchers that we ran out there for a lot of games in the early part of the season when Bettis was down, when Anderson was down, when Gray was down, Freeland, Senzatela, Marquez, Hoffman started a lot of games for us and performed.

I think our bullpen in general pitched really well, especially the first four months of the season. So we probably exceeded, I think, the national expectation. And I don't know whether we exceeded our own because I thought going in, once I saw these guys in Spring Training, that we could pitch well and we should pitch well. That was my thought.

I thought we played good defense. You look at what we did defensively as a team, our team defense, our infield defense, two Gold Glovers. You looked at all the defensive metrics, I thought we did very well there.

I thought where we could have done a little bit better was a little bit on some of the walk-to-strikeout ratios. I thought that was something I think we need to improve on going into next year. But overall, it was a good year.

Q. I talked to Chris Iannetta this morning --

BUD BLACK: I talked to him yesterday.

Q. I told me that.

BUD BLACK: Today's Monday. I talked to him Saturday. How did he sound?

Q. Chris told me that, compared to when he was first with the Rockies, he thinks in terms of handling pitchers, pitch framing, all of those things, he's heads above where he was when he was a young player with the Rockies. I'm sure you have looked at him and seen what you're getting. What are your impressions of Chris coming back to Colorado now at almost age 35?

BUD BLACK: I think it's a great fit for Chris and for us. And I totally agree with his own thoughts there, that where he is now as a player and where he was as an original Rockie. On the defensive side, I'm sure any player will tell you that experience is such a great teacher.

Here initially and then going to Anaheim, I know those years there with Mike and that coaching staff, he grew. Then these last two years in Seattle and Arizona. I think you take away a lot of experiences from being around different coaching staffs and catching instructors and pitchers and managers. It's only natural that you're going to get better.

So I think his experience, his knowledge, his knowledge base, his growth in knowledge is in a really good place for us. And I see him with this staff on the starting side. Our bullpen, I think is -- you're going to see some -- I think you'll see our bullpen evolve here over the off-season. But he'll do a great. He'll do a great deal of -- with our young pitchers. There's no doubt about it.

Q. He told me he's up to the task if you guys want him to, to catch 100-plus games. Could you see him catching that many?

BUD BLACK: Yeah, I could see that. I don't know the exact number, but over the last couple of years, it's been 90. It's been 95. It's been 100. It's been over -- between 300 and 400 at bats. So he's capable. I thought last year, watching him play as much as we did, he looked great physically.

I think players nowadays understand what it means to take care of themselves, to get ready for a season, especially the catcher. He's a bright guy. So I think, all told, he's very capable of that.

Q. Some questions about his ability to work into the season. Where is that? And how do you address that?

BUD BLACK: I was not aware of that, but from what I saw, I thought he caught really well. I wasn't aware of that.

Q. In the playoffs, it came down to Matthews or Iannetta, and they went to Mathis coming off a broken hand. I don't know what that tells you.

BUD BLACK: I don't know. Maybe I'll do a little homework, but I did not see that at all.

Q. So you had three playoff teams in your division last year.

BUD BLACK: Good division.

Q. With expectations going forward, what do you see there?

BUD BLACK: Well, I've always felt over the course of my tenure in this division, it's always been a very, very tough division, especially on the pitching side when you look at what Kershaw's done, what Bumgarner's done, Greinke, down the line. If you look at the pitching in our division, it's really solid. The closers go back a decade of the closers in our division.

So I think the players who have grown up in this division -- Posey, Kershaw, Arredondo, Goldschmidt, I mean, keep going. This is a division of good players. I think we all know the challenges ahead of us, and it's -- I don't want to say it's fun, but it's real because there's good players, really good players.

Q. You said your expectation that you guys would come away from, if not the Winter Meetings, certainly off-season, with some outside help for your bullpen. Is that your expectation?

BUD BLACK: Yes.

Q. There's a lot of rumors out there now.

BUD BLACK: Yeah. I think that -- you know, I can see that happening. I really can, yes. Well, I know this: We're going to try to improve our club. We're going to try. We had three guys who were free agents who were very instrumental in our success last year. And I know that Jeff's talked to all of them about coming back.

Q. What do you envision for Iannetta in 2018? Do you look at him primarily as a midfielder?

BUD BLACK: That depends on --

Q. On how the team --

BUD BLACK: On how the team is, yeah. That's the beauty of Ian. We talked about that last year, the versatility of what he brings to us. He played four positions last year. He played first, started the game at shortstop, played left, played center. And in the game he played center and the game he played short, he played well. He made some good plays, made some good plays.

So his versatility is big. Again, that gives us great flexibility to -- you know, if something arises on a player front, a trade, a free agent, whether it's a corner outfield bat, whether it's a first baseman that projects a lot of playing time, Ian is very open to doing whatever he needs to do to give us the best possible lineup.

Q. How do you factor David Dahl and Ryan McMahon when you're trying to talk about this?

BUD BLACK: With those two guys, they still -- there's an upside to those fellas. David's got to prove that he's healthy. That's first and foremost. He's got to come to Spring Training and play. He missed really an entire season. So he's got to get back on the horse and play.

McMahon had a very good season. AA, AAA numbers are legit. Came up in September, got a taste of what it's like to be in the big leagues, but there's probably still some developmental things that he has to take care of.

If nothing happens as far as us acquiring any players, then those guys sort of jump to the front of the line of maybe getting an opportunity.

Q. Jeff seems to work in terms of urgency as opposed to trying to do nine things at once. Does their presence put that as a lesser need with regard to the bullpen?

BUD BLACK: I don't think there's -- I don't think that's the right word. I think that, in a GM's chair from observing general managers over the years, I mean, things can pop up like that that can really change the course of your thinking. I mean, you have discussions with the general managers, other clubs all the time. So you sort of get a baseline and a foundation of what sort of lies ahead, but that can change at any moment.

But knowing that, whether it's Dahl, McMahon, Tapia, further down the line a couple of guys, it sort of gives you a little bit of feeling of there's a fallback if things don't happen. And there's a little bit of you don't know what to expect from certain prospects. I think there are prospects and there are players that I think you feel really good about. Given the opportunity, this guy's going to do it.

With Dahl, there was a sample there that gives us indication that he's going to be a pretty good player. But I think he does have some -- I think he has to re-establish himself for sure.

And Ryan is still a little bit young to really know what we have. But we're going to -- we'll get them out there in Spring Training, and if it happens where he makes our team and gets at bats, we'll see. I wish I had a crystal ball, but those two guys are good players, along with Tapia and others.

Last year in Spring Training, we knew there were some young pitchers that were going to get an opportunity. And they got an opportunity, and they performed.

Q. What's your sense of McMahon's skill level right now as a first baseman?

BUD BLACK: McMahon?

Q. As a first baseman. We didn't get to see him at the big league level much.

BUD BLACK: He's athletic. Each day that he's out there, either in game or practicing, he's going to get better because he has the movements and the body control, coordination to be a good defender. His hands are good. He throws well. I think instinctively, from what I've seen, it's solid. For him, it's just repetition to feel comfortable. I mean, we bounced him around. He played some first. He's played second base.

But that's sort of a tribute to him as a player, thinking that he can handle this because at some point in the future, we want his projected bat in the lineup. But I think wherever he plays on the diamond, he's going to do well. I think he's going to be a solid defender.

Q. Bud, three years ago when offense was way down, a lot of people were predicting that speed was going to become a big part of the game again. It turns out that power became big. What role is speed going to have going forward, and how does it impact your team?

BUD BLACK: Well, I think that -- again, I'd have to go into the depths of amateur baseball to see if there's guys who can run are playing our game. I'd like to think that speed will always have a place in our game -- Billy Hamilton, Dee Gordon, these guys are game changers how they play, and I think it helps our game.

So I hope that there are kids who have speed who are younger who are playing our game, can develop into major league players. But I do know that in general athletes are getting bigger, stronger through numerous ways, strength and conditioning, nutrition. So power is happening at a greater rate, I think, than speed because I think you can build power. You might not necessarily build speed.

It's just common sense to me that power is coming into the game because you can build it as a young player, as an amateur. You can't build speed. So for speed to stay in our game or increase in our game, we need fast guys to be playing as kids. So let's do that. Let's get them off the soccer field, get them off the Lacrosse field. Let's get them on a baseball diamond.

So if you guys see young fast guys out there, get them a baseball glove for Christmas.

Q. What was your first exposure to Iannetta?

BUD BLACK: Early on, an early Rockie, 2007, right? I think his rookie year. He was there with Yorvit Torrealba. Hey, Torrealba, good player. I had him in Tampa.

I thought Chris was -- you could tell, I think, there was a future there with him as a player. He looked the part. And I think, to Patrick's question earlier, I think he's -- at 35, I think he's probably in a place now in his career where it's all sort of come together, you know, the mental side, the wisdom of playing for a number of different managers, experience. He's in a good spot.

And I think he played really well last year. I thought he caught well. I thought he moved well. They did some things with Mathis and Herman and him that I thought they were well managed.

Q. Why do you think longevity has become such a rare thing in your line of work.

BUD BLACK: You know, I think that there's heightened expectations. That's probably one factor that goes into decision making on people in my line of work. There's a few fellas that don't fall into that. My good friend up in Anaheim.

Q. Yeah, he's been around a long time.

BUD BLACK: I think that's the nature of what's happened really over the last 20 years in professional sports. I think it's a part of it, and it always changes. There's a course of things that thinks that changing something will make it better, and sometimes it does. Sometimes it does. The trick is knowing when to make that change.

Q. We saw three playoff teams change hands. When you see stuff like that, does your head spin as a fellow manager?

BUD BLACK: Well, it spins a little bit because I was close to two of them, with Dusty and Johnny. I know Joe. I don't know him well. Because I know who they are as men, as leaders, as baseball guys. But you also realize it's part of what we do, and it's the same in football, basketball, hockey. Soccer. So it's part of it.

But we know what this is about. It's expectations.

Q. Big picture question. Coming off the season that you had your first year, you made the playoffs. How crucial is this off-season in your mind? You have some major decisions to make, how crucial is this off-season to keep the momentum going?

BUD BLACK: Every off-season has it challenges. We're no different than any other team. Our group, meaning our players and our front office realize what's ahead of us and the expectations and I know that our players are gearing up for that, and I know that Jeff and his guys and Dick even are ready to strike for certain players, trades that might occur to help.

I don't know whether "crucial" is the term, but every off-season is important for shaping your club and shaping the environment that you want to create going into Spring Training.

Q. Coming off the playoffs, what are you feeling about your club? Where is it going to take you?

BUD BLACK: It was a good first step for us last year having the season that we did. It was great for Nolan, Charlie, DJ, Cargo, our young pitching staff, the Rockies who have been only Rockies, to go through last season, that should be a great confidence builder for these players.

And the guys that came in, Holland and Desmond, McGee came the year before. These guys have been around playoff baseball. So I think collectively it was good for -- it was good for the group because the original Rockies who hadn't been through it, the guys who we acquired hadn't been through it. So I think it was a nice situation to come together as a team.

Now we've got to continue that, you know, that aspect of team moving forward. Even with the guys that we acquire this season, this off-season. Or try to acquire.

Q. Going into last year, you had general expectations of how your team would perform in certain facets. What did your team do better than expected and not as well as expected?

BUD BLACK: I think the offensive aspect of our group from the year before, from '16, I think that was -- that played out how we expected it. We led a lot of offensive categories. If we didn't lead a lot of offensive categories, we were in the top three, four, five. We had a good offensive year. Charlie had a great year. Nolan had a great year. D.J. hit over .300.

We had guys that had great spurts of weeks during the course of the season. Probably where we exceeded expectations were in our total team pitching, especially the younger group of starting pitchers that we ran out there for a lot of games in the early part of the season when Bettis was down, when Anderson was down, when Gray was down, Freeland, Senzatela, Marquez, Hoffman started a lot of games for us and performed.

I think our bullpen in general pitched really well, especially the first four months of the season. So we probably exceeded, I think, the national expectation. And I don't know whether we exceeded our own because I thought going in, once I saw these guys in Spring Training, that we could pitch well and we should pitch well. That was my thought.

I thought we played good defense. You look at what we did defensively as a team, our team defense, our infield defense, two Gold Glovers. You looked at all the defensive metrics, I thought we did very well there.

I thought where we could have done a little bit better was a little bit on some of the walk-to-strikeout ratios. I thought that was something I think we need to improve on going into next year. But overall, it was a good year.

Q. I talked to Chris Iannetta this morning --

BUD BLACK: I talked to him yesterday.

Q. I told me that.

BUD BLACK: Today's Monday. I talked to him Saturday. How did he sound?

Q. Chris told me that, compared to when he was first with the Rockies, he thinks in terms of handling pitchers, pitch framing, all of those things, he's heads above where he was when he was a young player with the Rockies. I'm sure you have looked at him and seen what you're getting. What are your impressions of Chris coming back to Colorado now at almost age 35?

BUD BLACK: I think it's a great fit for Chris and for us. And I totally agree with his own thoughts there, that where he is now as a player and where he was as an original Rockie. On the defensive side, I'm sure any player will tell you that experience is such a great teacher.

Here initially and then going to Anaheim, I know those years there with Mike and that coaching staff, he grew. Then these last two years in Seattle and Arizona. I think you take away a lot of experiences from being around different coaching staffs and catching instructors and pitchers and managers. It's only natural that you're going to get better.

So I think his experience, his knowledge, his knowledge base, his growth in knowledge is in a really good place for us. And I see him with this staff on the starting side. Our bullpen, I think is -- you're going to see some -- I think you'll see our bullpen evolve here over the off-season. But he'll do a great. He'll do a great deal of -- with our young pitchers. There's no doubt about it.

Q. He told me he's up to the task if you guys want him to, to catch 100-plus games. Could you see him catching that many?

BUD BLACK: Yeah, I could see that. I don't know the exact number, but over the last couple of years, it's been 90. It's been 95. It's been 100. It's been over -- between 300 and 400 at bats. So he's capable. I thought last year, watching him play as much as we did, he looked great physically.

I think players nowadays understand what it means to take care of themselves, to get ready for a season, especially the catcher. He's a bright guy. So I think, all told, he's very capable of that.

Q. Some questions about his ability to work into the season. Where is that? And how do you address that?

BUD BLACK: I was not aware of that, but from what I saw, I thought he caught really well. I wasn't aware of that.

Q. In the playoffs, it came down to Matthews or Iannetta, and they went to Mathis coming off a broken hand. I don't know what that tells you.

BUD BLACK: I don't know. Maybe I'll do a little homework, but I did not see that at all.

Q. So you had three playoff teams in your division last year.

BUD BLACK: Good division.

Q. With expectations going forward, what do you see there?

BUD BLACK: Well, I've always felt over the course of my tenure in this division, it's always been a very, very tough division, especially on the pitching side when you look at what Kershaw's done, what Bumgarner's done, Greinke, down the line. If you look at the pitching in our division, it's really solid. The closers go back a decade of the closers in our division.

So I think the players who have grown up in this division -- Posey, Kershaw, Arredondo, Goldschmidt, I mean, keep going. This is a division of good players. I think we all know the challenges ahead of us, and it's -- I don't want to say it's fun, but it's real because there's good players, really good players.

Q. You said your expectation that you guys would come away from, if not the Winter Meetings, certainly off-season, with some outside help for your bullpen. Is that your expectation?

BUD BLACK: Yes.

Q. There's a lot of rumors out there now.

BUD BLACK: Yeah. I think that -- you know, I can see that happening. I really can, yes. Well, I know this: We're going to try to improve our club. We're going to try. We had three guys who were free agents who were very instrumental in our success last year. And I know that Jeff's talked to all of them about coming back.

Q. What do you envision for Iannetta in 2018? Do you look at him primarily as a midfielder?

BUD BLACK: That depends on --

Q. On how the team --

BUD BLACK: On how the team is, yeah. That's the beauty of Ian. We talked about that last year, the versatility of what he brings to us. He played four positions last year. He played first, started the game at shortstop, played left, played center. And in the game he played center and the game he played short, he played well. He made some good plays, made some good plays.

So his versatility is big. Again, that gives us great flexibility to -- you know, if something arises on a player front, a trade, a free agent, whether it's a corner outfield bat, whether it's a first baseman that projects a lot of playing time, Ian is very open to doing whatever he needs to do to give us the best possible lineup.

Q. How do you factor David Dahl and Ryan McMahon when you're trying to talk about this?

BUD BLACK: With those two guys, they still -- there's an upside to those fellas. David's got to prove that he's healthy. That's first and foremost. He's got to come to Spring Training and play. He missed really an entire season. So he's got to get back on the horse and play.

McMahon had a very good season. AA, AAA numbers are legit. Came up in September, got a taste of what it's like to be in the big leagues, but there's probably still some developmental things that he has to take care of.

If nothing happens as far as us acquiring any players, then those guys sort of jump to the front of the line of maybe getting an opportunity.

Q. Jeff seems to work in terms of urgency as opposed to trying to do nine things at once. Does their presence put that as a lesser need with regard to the bullpen?

BUD BLACK: I don't think there's -- I don't think that's the right word. I think that, in a GM's chair from observing general managers over the years, I mean, things can pop up like that that can really change the course of your thinking. I mean, you have discussions with the general managers, other clubs all the time. So you sort of get a baseline and a foundation of what sort of lies ahead, but that can change at any moment.

But knowing that, whether it's Dahl, McMahon, Tapia, further down the line a couple of guys, it sort of gives you a little bit of feeling of there's a fallback if things don't happen. And there's a little bit of you don't know what to expect from certain prospects. I think there are prospects and there are players that I think you feel really good about. Given the opportunity, this guy's going to do it.

With Dahl, there was a sample there that gives us indication that he's going to be a pretty good player. But I think he does have some -- I think he has to re-establish himself for sure.

And Ryan is still a little bit young to really know what we have. But we're going to -- we'll get them out there in Spring Training, and if it happens where he makes our team and gets at bats, we'll see. I wish I had a crystal ball, but those two guys are good players, along with Tapia and others.

Last year in Spring Training, we knew there were some young pitchers that were going to get an opportunity. And they got an opportunity, and they performed.

Q. What's your sense of McMahon's skill level right now as a first baseman?

BUD BLACK: McMahon?

Q. As a first baseman. We didn't get to see him at the big league level much.

BUD BLACK: He's athletic. Each day that he's out there, either in game or practicing, he's going to get better because he has the movements and the body control, coordination to be a good defender. His hands are good. He throws well. I think instinctively, from what I've seen, it's solid. For him, it's just repetition to feel comfortable. I mean, we bounced him around. He played some first. He's played second base.

But that's sort of a tribute to him as a player, thinking that he can handle this because at some point in the future, we want his projected bat in the lineup. But I think wherever he plays on the diamond, he's going to do well. I think he's going to be a solid defender.

Q. Bud, three years ago when offense was way down, a lot of people were predicting that speed was going to become a big part of the game again. It turns out that power became big. What role is speed going to have going forward, and how does it impact your team?

BUD BLACK: Well, I think that -- again, I'd have to go into the depths of amateur baseball to see if there's guys who can run are playing our game. I'd like to think that speed will always have a place in our game -- Billy Hamilton, Dee Gordon, these guys are game changers how they play, and I think it helps our game.

So I hope that there are kids who have speed who are younger who are playing our game, can develop into major league players. But I do know that in general athletes are getting bigger, stronger through numerous ways, strength and conditioning, nutrition. So power is happening at a greater rate, I think, than speed because I think you can build power. You might not necessarily build speed.

It's just common sense to me that power is coming into the game because you can build it as a young player, as an amateur. You can't build speed. So for speed to stay in our game or increase in our game, we need fast guys to be playing as kids. So let's do that. Let's get them off the soccer field, get them off the Lacrosse field. Let's get them on a baseball diamond.

So if you guys see young fast guys out there, get them a baseball glove for Christmas.

Q. What was your first exposure to Iannetta?

BUD BLACK: Early on, an early Rockie, 2007, right? I think his rookie year. He was there with Yorvit Torrealba. Hey, Torrealba, good player. I had him in Tampa.

I thought Chris was -- you could tell, I think, there was a future there with him as a player. He looked the part. And I think, to Patrick's question earlier, I think he's -- at 35, I think he's probably in a place now in his career where it's all sort of come together, you know, the mental side, the wisdom of playing for a number of different managers, experience. He's in a good spot.

And I think he played really well last year. I thought he caught well. I thought he moved well. They did some things with Mathis and Herman and him that I thought they were well managed.

Q. Why do you think longevity has become such a rare thing in your line of work.

BUD BLACK: You know, I think that there's heightened expectations. That's probably one factor that goes into decision making on people in my line of work. There's a few fellas that don't fall into that. My good friend up in Anaheim.

Q. Yeah, he's been around a long time.

BUD BLACK: I think that's the nature of what's happened really over the last 20 years in professional sports. I think it's a part of it, and it always changes. There's a course of things that thinks that changing something will make it better, and sometimes it does. Sometimes it does. The trick is knowing when to make that change.

Q. We saw three playoff teams change hands. When you see stuff like that, does your head spin as a fellow manager?

BUD BLACK: Well, it spins a little bit because I was close to two of them, with Dusty and Johnny. I know Joe. I don't know him well. Because I know who they are as men, as leaders, as baseball guys. But you also realize it's part of what we do, and it's the same in football, basketball, hockey. Soccer. So it's part of it.

But we know what this is about. It's expectations.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colorado Rockies

Shop smart: Bridich seeks bang for buck at WM

Rockies enter annual gathering with payroll room, desire to upgrade bullpen
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich arrived at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Sunday with money to spend to improve the 2018 Rockies. But he is already showing that he's just as inclined to buy smart.

Bridich said last week that the 2018 Opening Day payroll should be somewhere around the finishing payroll of '17: $147.6 million. Last year's payroll included $22 million for shortstop Jose Reyes, who played for the Mets after being released by the Rockies in '16, and $20 million for the final year of right fielder Carlos Gonzalez's contract.

Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich arrived at the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., on Sunday with money to spend to improve the 2018 Rockies. But he is already showing that he's just as inclined to buy smart.

Bridich said last week that the 2018 Opening Day payroll should be somewhere around the finishing payroll of '17: $147.6 million. Last year's payroll included $22 million for shortstop Jose Reyes, who played for the Mets after being released by the Rockies in '16, and $20 million for the final year of right fielder Carlos Gonzalez's contract.

The big expenditure could be in the bullpen, where the Rockies are in the hunt for free agents, including Greg Holland -- who earned 41 saves for them last year -- as well as Wade Davis and Brandon Kintzler, among others. Colorado is looking for multiple relief arms, with Jake McGee and Pat Neshek also free agents. Late-innings acquisition started as teams were arriving in Florida on Sunday: Luke Gregerson joined the Cardinals on a reported two-year, $11 million deal, and Brandon Morrow reached a reported two-year contract with the Cubs, pending a physical.

• Rockies went for big splash at 2001 Meetings

The Rockies can afford a splurge, since their current starting rotation has just one member (righty Chad Bettis) who has been around long enough to be in his arbitration years.

Video: Rockies looking to build off strong 2017 season

Also, with pitcher-outfielder Shohei Ohtani having signed with the Angels and Giancarlo Stanton reportedly set to be traded from the Marlins to the Yankees, it's possible there will be clarity in the market for a run-producer who could play first base or an outfield corner, or both.

But already, Bridich has shown value-shopping ability.

Rox aim for calm, calculated Winter Meetings

The Rockies had been trying to re-sign Jonathan Lucroy, who came in a non-waiver Trade Deadline deal with the Rangers last year and helped the Rockies to the postseason. Some projections suggested Lucroy could land a deal in the three-year, $30-plus million range. But on Friday, the Rockies turned to Chris Iannetta for two years at $8.5 million.

• Rockies reunite with Iannetta on 2-year deal

Of course, Iannetta broke in with the Rockies and played capably from 2006-11 before he was traded to the Angels. Various Major League scouts commended Colorado's move, saying Iannetta, who will be 35 on April 8, has been increasingly effective as a pitch-caller and receiver. Iannetta helped the D-backs to the 2017 postseason, and is also seen as a leader for a young staff and a catcher cognizant of keeping pitchers at a good tempo -- a trait known to be important to manager Bud Black.

Video: Harding discusses Iannetta signing with the Rockies

So expect the Rockies to consider trade options for their holes.

Hot Stove Tracker

An interesting possibility is Rays closer Alex Colome, although the Cubs and Cardinals have shown up in recent reports. Colome led the Majors with 47 saves last year and is under club control until 2021. It isn't known if Colorado has discussed such a deal with Tampa Bay, which appears prepared to deal multiple starting and relief arms.

Bridich has not committed to one strategy for the closer or the multiple bullpen holes.

In past years the Rockies have had closers with multiple years of team control, and last year they avoided multi-year deals for veterans because Holland agreed to re-establish his value on a one-year deal after missing 2016 because of right elbow surgery. But the talks with Holland, Davis and Kintzler suggest Colorado isn't afraid of a longer contract for a closer.

Black is scheduled to meet with the media on Monday at 9:30 a.m. MT. The Winter Meetings run through Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, so check rockies.com for up-to-the-minute coverage all week long.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colorado Rockies

Rockies put experiences up for special auction

Proceeds from club's pair of prizes will benefit Katharine Feeney Fund
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Rockies fans have the opportunity to bid on two unique experiences -- one during Spring Training at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz., the other a VIP treatment during the regular season at Coors Field -- to benefit the Katharine Feeney Memorial Scholarship Fund.

The charity auction program is in its sixth year of raising money for causes important to the game. This time it benefits a fund in memory of Feeney, the late pioneering baseball executive whose career spanned 40 years. The auction, in which all 30 teams are participating, is live at MLB.com/wintermeetingsauction.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Rockies fans have the opportunity to bid on two unique experiences -- one during Spring Training at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz., the other a VIP treatment during the regular season at Coors Field -- to benefit the Katharine Feeney Memorial Scholarship Fund.

The charity auction program is in its sixth year of raising money for causes important to the game. This time it benefits a fund in memory of Feeney, the late pioneering baseball executive whose career spanned 40 years. The auction, in which all 30 teams are participating, is live at MLB.com/wintermeetingsauction.

Winter Meetings charity auction details

Here are the prizes in the Rockies' auction:

• A winning bidder and three guests will tour the Rockies' Spring Training home of Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, meet Rockies manager Bud Black, watch batting practice from the field and receive prime seats to a game at a mutually agreed-upon date. Travel and lodging to Arizona are not included in the package.

• A winning bidder and three guests will have the opportunity to tour Coors Field, watch batting practice from the field and meet Rockies broadcasters before enjoying the game from great seats.

The Katharine Feeney Memorial Scholarship Fund will be awarded annually to "a female student at the University of San Francisco who most exemplifies her character and intelligence as well as someone who possesses the ability to succeed and the willingness to mentor others. The recipient would be an individual pursuing a career in sports management who demonstrates a financial need to attain an advanced degree."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colorado Rockies

Rockies reunite with Iannetta on 2-year deal

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- The Rockies reunited with free-agent catcher Chris Iannetta on a two-year deal on Friday.

Iannetta, who turns 35 on April 8, spent last season with the D-backs and hit .254 with 17 home runs and 43 RBIs in 89 games. Iannetta played for the Rockies 2006-11 (.235, 63 homers, 236 RBIs) before being traded to the Angels for pitcher Tyler Chatwood prior to the 2012 season.

DENVER -- The Rockies reunited with free-agent catcher Chris Iannetta on a two-year deal on Friday.

Iannetta, who turns 35 on April 8, spent last season with the D-backs and hit .254 with 17 home runs and 43 RBIs in 89 games. Iannetta played for the Rockies 2006-11 (.235, 63 homers, 236 RBIs) before being traded to the Angels for pitcher Tyler Chatwood prior to the 2012 season.

Last season, Iannetta saw the most playing time in a tandem with a couple of veterans, Jeff Mathis and multi-position player Chris Herrmann, as the D-backs finished second in the National League West and defeated the Rockies in the NL Wild Card Game before falling to the Dodgers in the NL Division Series.

Video: Harding discusses Rockies' plans for Winter Meetings

Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said this week that catching would be one of the club's priorities, and the team made the Iannetta move before the Winter Meetings commence on Monday.

Hot Stove Tracker

In 2017, second-year switch-hitter Tony Wolters served as the primary catcher -- with help from veteran Ryan Hanigan, prospect Tom Murphy and Dustin Garneau (now with the Athletics) -- before the Rockies traded for Jonathan Lucroy at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Lucroy was seen as a stabilizing force for the young pitching staff, as well as a boon to the lineup because of his strike-zone discipline.

Lucroy is a free agent and the Rockies acknowledged talking to him before signing Iannetta, who was part of postseason appearances in 2007 and '09.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colorado Rockies, Chris Iannetta

Rox big splash didn't pay off in '01 Meetings

O'Dowd made play for big-name pitching with Hampton signing
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- Dan O'Dowd arrived at the 2001 Winter Meetings knowing the Rockies would be the talk of Dallas, Texas.

But deep down, O'Dowd, then entering his second season as Rockies general manager, feared how the mega-bucks signing of Mike Hampton would play out when he took the mound.

DENVER -- Dan O'Dowd arrived at the 2001 Winter Meetings knowing the Rockies would be the talk of Dallas, Texas.

But deep down, O'Dowd, then entering his second season as Rockies general manager, feared how the mega-bucks signing of Mike Hampton would play out when he took the mound.

Hampton lasted just two seasons in purple pinstripes before going to the Braves in a three-team trade. It was clear that trying to "win" the offseason with big-money pitching -- with the effects of Coors Field on starting pitching an X-factor that's still being examined -- was a losing strategy.

Hot Stove Tracker

And don't expect a repeat of the Hampton deal when the 2017 Winter Meetings open on Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Under current GM Jeff Bridich, the Rockies made their first postseason appearance in eight seasons in 2016, in a year when six of their starters -- all either originally drafted or signed by the club, or targeted in trades before they reached the Majors -- entered the season with fewer than two years' service time.

Even with the excitement surrounding Hampton's signing, O'Dowd, now a commentator with MLB Network, had misgivings.

"I didn't feel great about it," O'Dowd said. "I just didn't have a good enough grasp of the challenges that we would ultimately understand."

However, surprising success the previous season and a desire to parlay that into something bigger led to the decision.

During the 2000 Winter Meetings in Anaheim, O'Dowd acquired third baseman Jeff Cirillo, who would represent the team in that season's All-Star Game, and unloaded salaries of third baseman Vinny Castilla and pitcher Jamey Wright in a flurry of moves -- which were preceded and anteceeded by other transactions -- that had folks calling him "Dealin' Dan."

O'Dowd never liked the nickname, but the Rockies shuffled through 49 players -- 25 pitchers, or enough to field a Major League roster -- and went 82-80 under manager Buddy Bell. The performance seemed an upturn after a bottoming out in 1999 that led to the departures of GM Bob Gebhard and manager Jim Leyland, who had replaced Don Baylor a year earlier. But O'Dowd believed the Rockies "didn't have the infrastructure to support [the 2000 improvement] from a development standpoint."

O'Dowd admitted that his deals that brought in veterans to make the team immediately competitive would have been better had they included prospects who could have been part of the team in the long term.

But the 2000 season had ownership, led by the late Jerry McMorris, wanting to strike big. The Rockies signed left-hander Denny Neagle for five years and $51 million. Eight days later, O'Dowd found himself in a meeting with McMorris, fellow owners Dick and Charlie Monnfort, Bell, Hampton and Hampton's agent, Mark Rodgers.

"Jerry really wanted to keep the team competitive, and he wanted to do the deal," O'Dowd said. "The Cardinals and us were the two primary players. We knew we were going to have to offer one more year and more money to get him to come to Colorado."

Hampton had gone a 22-4 with the Astros in 1999, and made a World Series appearance with the Mets in 2000 -- it took money. Hampton, of course, was widely lampooned for a comment about Denver's "school systems" when the contract was announced. But he was schooled enough in baseball at mile-high altitude to understand what it took to risk his success long term with the Rockies.

O'Dowd had worked under GM John Hart with the Indians. Hart built a winner in the 1990s with homegrown talent and money-saving, arbitration-avoiding multi-year deals to control the payroll. O'Dowd arrived in Denver with the same plan. But his bosses were understandably concerned that the early success of the franchise was dwindling, and thought the signings would reverse the spin.

Hampton had traits that made success a possibility. Hampton had used a power sinker to build an extreme ground-ball rate -- something the Rockies felt was necessary at Coors Field. But the previous four years his walk rate had climbed. And walks are always a problem in a place where hard-hit balls carry over the fence and weakly-hit balls can land in the expansive outfield.

As O'Dowd notes, "People forget he was an All-Star the first year." Hampton went 9-5 with a 3.36 ERA before the break to become the first pitcher in club history to appear in the Midsummer Classic. But gradually, the long games put a toll on Hampton and enough bad experience seemed to lead to changes in mechanics. In two seasons with the Rockies, he was 21-28 with a 5.75 ERA.

The rest of Hampton's career was slowed by injuries, but he did bounce back from Colorado. In 2004, he won 10 of his last 11 decisions with the Braves to help them make the postseason.

O'Dowd eventually put parts of his plan into action, and the Rockies rebounded with a World Series appearance in 2007 and a playoff berth in '09, based on a homegrown roster and starting pitching that, compared to the industry, was modestly compensated.

In hindsight, arguing against the big expenditure might have been the right move. But O'Dowd was in his first job as GM.

"If you don't agree, you've got to push back because you're going to be the one that wears it," O'Dowd said. "And I did for a lot of years."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colorado Rockies

Minus Chatwood, Rox go with young rotation

Righty signs with Cubs; GM Bridich plans to bolster 'pen, catching
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- The Rockies are likely to stick with a young rotation, even though they officially waved goodbye to their most experienced 2017 starting pitcher when righty Tyler Chatwood signed with the Cubs on Thursday.

A starting five that saw righty Jon Gray, 26, provide top-of-the-rotation production over his final 13 starts (2.64 ERA), and at times had four rookies was a key to the club earning its first postseason berth since 2009.

DENVER -- The Rockies are likely to stick with a young rotation, even though they officially waved goodbye to their most experienced 2017 starting pitcher when righty Tyler Chatwood signed with the Cubs on Thursday.

A starting five that saw righty Jon Gray, 26, provide top-of-the-rotation production over his final 13 starts (2.64 ERA), and at times had four rookies was a key to the club earning its first postseason berth since 2009.

Hot Stove Tracker

Chatwood struggled with walks at times and went 8-15 with a 4.69 ERA in 33 games (25 starts), although his rate of hard contact suggested he pitched better than his record.

Interestingly, despite injuries to Gray (right foot stress fracture), 27-year-old lefty Tyler Anderson (arthroscopic knee surgery), 28-year-old righty Chad Bettis (lengthy recovery from testicular cancer) and Chatwood (right calf strain), the Rockies used just eight starters in 2017, tied for second-fewest in the Majors. So, even without Chatwood, the Rockies enter '18 with the basis of a solid rotation.

With the Winter Meetings starting Sunday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., general manager Jeff Bridich has pinpointed the bullpen and catching as focuses, with the possibility of adding a run producer at first base or the corner outfield, or some combination. So replacing the experience of Chatwood, who had spent six seasons with the Rockies, is not high on Bridich's list.

Video: Rockies looking to build off strong 2017 season

"It's always a possibility as we try to keep our minds open, but not a central focus right now," Bridich said this week when discussing general offseason plans.

Of the current starters, Gray, Anderson and 24-year-old lefty Kyle Freeland were Rockies first-round Draft picks; Bettis was a club second-rounder; righty Antonio Senzatela, 22, was an amateur signing out of Venezuela; and righties German Marquez, 22,-- a Topps All-Star Rookie honoree -- and Jeff Hoffman, 24, a Blue Jays top pick, were acquired in trades before they made the Majors.

The Rockies generally have had better luck with such pitchers than those acquired as free agents or pitchers who have built careers elsewhere. Yet, even though he has not made acquiring a veteran this offseason a top priority, Bridich said there are no hard-and-fast rules.

"It comes down at the end of the day to the people involved," Bridich said. "Let's take one example: German Marquez. Was he an original Rockie? Could have been way back in the day [the Rays signed him out of Venezuela when the Rockies couldn't fit him in the budget after signing Senzatela, then traded for him before the 2016 season]. But he didn't grow up in our organization.

"He didn't spend much time with us in the Minor Leagues and was pretty soon in the big leagues, a starting pitcher who had a good freshman year last year."

Video: Morosi discusses the Rockies' offseason outlook

However, 25 seasons of baseball at mile-high altitude and 23 at Coors Field provide evidence that a pitcher has to deal with park effects or adjusting between home and road. Homegrown pitchers and those acquired young enough to spend time in the Rockies' system provide a chance for the team to learn about their psyches.

"We try to make judgments on the people, as best we can, equal to the judgments on the talent," Bridich said. "It's tough because you don't truly ever know people until you live with them."

Bridich said he doesn't plan to rob the rotation's depth to pay the bullpen.

"An important part of who we are at the moment is that we are focused on the development of our young starters," Bridich said. "That's not just five guys. We were very fortunate last year that we used just eight."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colorado Rockies

Rox aim for calm, calculated Winter Meetings

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- In some ways, the Rockies will enter next week's Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., in the same spot as last year -- believing they can contend. The difference this time is they have a postseason appearance in the rear-view mirror.

With multiple relief-pitching holes and a catching spot to fill, and with the possibility of being creative to increase the production at first base, in the outfield or both, Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich promises the same calm, detailed approach that has allowed to Rockies to steadily join the contenders over the past three years. So while there will be moves, there will not be a panicked change in philosophy.

DENVER -- In some ways, the Rockies will enter next week's Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., in the same spot as last year -- believing they can contend. The difference this time is they have a postseason appearance in the rear-view mirror.

With multiple relief-pitching holes and a catching spot to fill, and with the possibility of being creative to increase the production at first base, in the outfield or both, Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich promises the same calm, detailed approach that has allowed to Rockies to steadily join the contenders over the past three years. So while there will be moves, there will not be a panicked change in philosophy.

Hot Stove Tracker

"I felt the same amount of urgency that we do now," Bridich said. "Sometimes your targets or your needs are different, but the sense of urgency is the same -- to correctly and accurately evaluate our own people, the people we have on the roster already. There's urgency in making sure that we are not skipping steps in the offseason process, that we are paying attention to the details of past seasons and past offseasons that helped us get to where we got to in 2017.

"Hopefully, one of the major differences is that there is a postseason experience -- not just the concept or an idea of it, but actually a recent, in-house experience that continues that belief from '17 into '18."

Here is a look at the Rockies' priorities as they head into the Winter Meetings.

Bullpen
Closer Greg Holland and the two key setup men down the stretch, righty Pat Neshek and lefty Jake McGee, are free agents. Given that the Rockies were 76-5 when leading after seven innings and 79-3 when leading after eight in 2017, this is no small issue. The Rockies are in contact with Holland, and Neshek said at the end of the season that he was open to a return. It's less clear with McGee, but his ability to set up or be a closer could raise his price tag beyond what the Rockies can pay given their multiple bullpen needs.

Video: COL@ATL: McGee picks up his third save of year

Bridich acknowledged having made contact with representatives for Holland, Wade Davis and Brandon Kintzler. But Bridich tends to look at many free-agent possibilities, so Tony Watson, Brandon Morrow, Addison Reed and Hector Rondon could be among those the Rockies evaluate.

Possible trade candidates include the Orioles' Zach Britton, the Cubs' Justin Wilson and the Rays' Alex Colome.

Catcher
Jonathan Lucroy makes a lot of sense, given his production and patience at the plate after arriving in a Trade Deadline deal with the Rangers last season. Lucroy's experience can also lessen the learning curve for the Rockies' young starting pitchers. But other teams are expected to check on the free agent. Alex Avila is a possible free-agent target, or the Rockies could try to swing a trade. It could be tough in the National League West, but according to reports the Dodgers' Yasmani Grandal could also be available.

Video: Free agent market for Lucroy, possible Rockies return

First base or outfield
During last year's Winter Meetings, the Rockies made the most expensive free-agent position-player signing in their history, Ian Desmond at five years and $70 million. Desmond played mostly outfield and first base. Injuries limited his production in 2017, but the Rockies are looking for more from him. And they may be able to add a helper.

Carlos Gonzalez and last year's primary first baseman, Mark Reynolds, are free agents, so expect the Rockies to explore free agency (they've been linked to Jay Bruce) and trades to see how everything fits.

Video: Duquette discusses Bruce's season, free agency

In a sense, a move isn't crucial. Left-handed-hitting infielder Ryan McMahon, the Rockies' Minor League hitting prospect of the year according to MLB.com and their third-ranked prospect, could make his mark at first base. David Dahl, Raimel Tapia and Mike Tauchman are outfielders who could be ready to make their marks.

Who can they trade if necessary
Interestingly, All-Star center fielder Charlie Blackmon and NL Gold Glove Award-winning second baseman DJ LeMahieu are in their last year of arbitration, and outfielder Gerardo Parra is at the end of his three-year deal. But as the Rockies showed with Gonzalez, they are willing to risk seeing a player leave if they feel they're better with him than without.

Video: 2017 MLB Awards: Best Major Leaguer - Blackmon

Bridich doesn't rule out dealing Major Leaguers, as he showed before the 2016 season when he sent outfielder Corey Dickerson to the Rays for McGee and 2017 Topps Rookie All-Star starting pitcher German Marquez. Generally, Bridich has dealt lower-level prospects rather than those at the Major League level.

Rule 5 Draft

With 37 on the 40-man roster, the Rockies would have to make roster-clearing moves to participate. It's possible, especially with the recent emphasis on accumulating power arms, that they could lose relief pitching.

Big contracts they might unload

By going year-to-year with most arbitration-eligible players, and by being modest on the free-agent market, the Rockies don't have cumbersome contracts.

Payroll summary

Bridich said the Rockies, who added payroll in bringing in Neshek and Lucroy last season, expect to start 2018 where they finished 2017 -- $147.6 million, which included $22 million for shortstop Jose Reyes, who was playing for the Mets. The Rockies also have paid Reyes a $4 million buyout on an option for 2018.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colorado Rockies