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Shaw in, McGee back as part of Rox 'pen plan

Rockies introduce new reliever, reintroduce lefty while continuing to seek closer
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- Newly signed righty Bryan Shaw, re-signed lefty Jake McGee and Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich spent a warm winter's afternoon at Coors Field dreaming of an almost-loaded bullpen.

The Rockies introduced Shaw and McGee on Friday after their contracts -- similar at three years and $27 million, each with a fourth-year option -- went official. All the Rockies now want for Christmas -- or at least by the time the 2018 season starts -- is a proven closer. They're talking with Greg Holland, who earned 41 saves for them last year, although they are keeping options open on others who could fill that wish.

DENVER -- Newly signed righty Bryan Shaw, re-signed lefty Jake McGee and Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich spent a warm winter's afternoon at Coors Field dreaming of an almost-loaded bullpen.

The Rockies introduced Shaw and McGee on Friday after their contracts -- similar at three years and $27 million, each with a fourth-year option -- went official. All the Rockies now want for Christmas -- or at least by the time the 2018 season starts -- is a proven closer. They're talking with Greg Holland, who earned 41 saves for them last year, although they are keeping options open on others who could fill that wish.

The Rockies are coming off their first postseason appearance since 2009. They knew building on the '17 campaign -- which ended with a loss to the D-backs in the National League Wild Card Game -- depended upon addressing bullpen openings, with McGee, Holland and Pat Neshek testing free agency.

Video: Heyman on Holland and Rockies likely reuniting

Neshek has a two-year agreement with the Phillies, but McGee is signed and Holland is in the mix for a return. Shaw, who helped the Indians to deep playoff runs the last two years and has had at least 70 appearances each of the last five years, moves into the slot Neshek manned after he was acquired from the Phillies at last season's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Bridich said it's not all about the bullpen, but the 'pen is a big deal. It's why, after signing catcher Chris Iannetta for two years at $8.5 million, he put the bullpen pursuit above other offseason needs. The Rockies may play in a park in which runs are plentiful, but they believe the combination of pitching and defense is as big a component in their success as it is for anyone.

• Hot Stove Tracker

The Indians, for whom Shaw made 79 appearances in 2017 (4-6, 3.52 ERA, three saves, 73 strikeouts to 22 walks in 76 2/3 innings), led the Majors by converting 78.7 percent of their save chances, according to Stats, Inc. The Rockies were second at 77 percent -- just ahead of their NL West rival, the division-champion Dodgers at 76.1.

"Is the bullpen a part of that overall broader philosophy? Absolutely," Bridich said. "A big part of that is the addition or the inclusion of men, of adults, who look at this team and look at who we are, where we play and the division that we play in and look at it as a challenge that they are up for, a challenge that excites them. We have an opportunity to have a really good team."

Video: McGee talks about Rockies pitching after re-signing

McGee figured to be popular among teams looking for a hard-throwing left-hander. A left knee issue reduced his velocity and effectiveness in 2016, his first year with the Rockies. But this past season, McGee used a revised training program based on leg strength. After throwing his fastball just 51.4 percent of the time at an average velocity of 94 mph in 2016, he threw it 90.04 percent of the time (850 of his 944 pitches) at an average of 94.9 mph. He went 0-2 with three saves and a 3.61 ERA in 62 appearances, with 58 strikeouts to 16 walks.

"From the first year I was here to how well we played last year, the whole clubhouse together, the whole culture is pretty cool to be around," McGee said. "It's a winning culture now. For us to make the Wild Card and this year build off it, have a stronger team going forward, it's going to be awesome."

The Rockies researched the production, durability and competitiveness of Shaw. Additionally, Shaw, 30, considered off-the-field factors. He lives in Arizona, and he talked with several players, particularly Indians teammate and former Colorado reliever Boone Logan, about the Rockies' culture.

Video: Shaw discusses being a workhorse for Rockies

"I know a few guys on the team that I've played with in the past, and they really enjoy this organization, and players that have left this organization have nothing but amazing and great things to say about the clubhouse, the city, the front office -- everything that happens out here," Shaw said.

Worth noting

• The Rockies explored pursuing former Indians first baseman Carlos Santana, but it became a longshot because of what they planned to spend on the bullpen. Santana agreed Friday with the Phillies for a reported three years and $60 million. The Rox have acknowledged talking to Mark Reynolds, their first baseman the last two years (.274, .354 on-base percentage, .471 slugging percentage in 266 games).

If the Rockies stop there, they could go with Reynolds and left-handed-hitting Ryan McMahon, who hit .355 with 20 home runs and 88 RBIs in 119 combined Double-A and Triple-A games in 2017, and he appeared in 17 Major League games. Ian Desmond also could be part of the first-base mix.

• Despite reports of the Rockies and Holland being close to a deal during the Winter Meetings, the sides are simply talking through the club's offer. The Rox also are in contact with free-agent closer Wade Davis, and they have done research on possible trades with the Orioles for Zach Britton, the Rays for Alex Colome and the Royals for Kelvin Herrera. There could be other not-yet-known ideas.

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, Jake McGee, Bryan Shaw

Rox address major need at Winter Meetings

Club adds Shaw, McGee to bullpen, closes in on Holland
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- The Rockies' top two offseason priorities have been addressed, at least in part. They signed catcher Chris Iannetta last week, and general manager Jeff Bridich will return Thursday from the MLB Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., with agreements with righty setup man Bryan Shaw and lefty setup man Jake McGee.

While negotiations to retain 2017 closer Greg Holland were not as far along as originally reported, the Rockies and Holland's agent, Scott Boras, are talking. Bridich said Thursday morning that there was "nothing new" from where the sides were Friday.

DENVER -- The Rockies' top two offseason priorities have been addressed, at least in part. They signed catcher Chris Iannetta last week, and general manager Jeff Bridich will return Thursday from the MLB Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., with agreements with righty setup man Bryan Shaw and lefty setup man Jake McGee.

While negotiations to retain 2017 closer Greg Holland were not as far along as originally reported, the Rockies and Holland's agent, Scott Boras, are talking. Bridich said Thursday morning that there was "nothing new" from where the sides were Friday.

The Iannetta signing and the bullpen moves, completed and pending, offer support for a young rotation. Iannetta's leadership and pitch calling are strengths, and the Rockies need a strong back end of the bullpen to hold leads. The bullpen keyed a postseason run last season.

Hot Stove Tracker

Video: Heyman on Holland and Rockies likely reuniting

What's next?
Holland, with 41 saves last season, is a key. The Rockies also have had talks with free agent Wade Davis, who handled the ninth inning for the Cubs last season and was Holland's teammate with the Royals a few years back. Completing a trade for a closer (or anyone else, for that matter) has proven tough, partly because the Rockies simply don't want to give up starting-pitching depth that Bridich has built during his time as GM.

If the Rockies go with Holland or Davis, it means an expensive multiyear contract that could influence how they address their other need -- a run-producing corner bat.

The Rockies have talked to free agent Carlos Santana, who showed power, on-base ability and Gold Glove defense at first base for the Indians. However, the bullpen expenditures could mean less money to go after Santana. The Rockies also are looking at re-signing Mark Reynolds, who played the position the last two years with solid defense and power. The Rockies haven't negotiated with free-agent right fielder Carlos Gonzalez about a reunion, but that could be an option.

If the Rockies don't go big in free agency, or can't work a trade for an established player, it could mean more opportunities for young players. Ryan McMahon had a standout season at Double-A and Triple-A last season, and after being drafted as a third baseman has turned into a credible first baseman. Also, speedy Raimel Tapia had his moments in the Majors last season, and David Dahl had a standout debut in 2016 but lost '17 to a troublesome rib injury.

Video: Callis, Mayo break down the 2017 Rule 5 Draft

Rule 5
The Rockies lost hard-throwing right-handed pitcher Julian Fernandez to the Giants with the second pick in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. In the Triple-A phase, the Rockies selected lefty Mitch Horacek from the Orioles. Horacek, who pitched at Dartmouth, is a product of Thunder Ridge High School in Highlands Ranch, Colo. He will compete for a bullpen job.

GM's bottom line
"There were a lot of things that, whether they were things that got completed or about to be completed or inroads made, I would say, yeah, for us it was a good week. There's still more to do and there's still more that we're contemplating, but I think we're happy with how we spent our time and where we spent our time." -- Bridich

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 pluck hometown lefty in Triple-A Rule 5

Highlands Ranch, Colo., native Horacek selected from Orioles
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- After being selected by the Rockies in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday, lefty Mitch Horacek just might have a chance to come home.

Horacek, 26, picked from the Orioles, played at Thunder Ridge High School in Highlands Ranch, Colo., before pitching collegiately at Dartmouth. Rockies senior player development director Zach Wilson said Horacek will compete as a reliever.

DENVER -- After being selected by the Rockies in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday, lefty Mitch Horacek just might have a chance to come home.

Horacek, 26, picked from the Orioles, played at Thunder Ridge High School in Highlands Ranch, Colo., before pitching collegiately at Dartmouth. Rockies senior player development director Zach Wilson said Horacek will compete as a reliever.

:: Rule 5 Draft coverage ::

In the Major League phase, the Rockies lost hard-throwing right-hander Julian Fernandez to the Giants with the second overall pick. The Giants paid $100,000 for the pick; a Rule 5 pick must remain on the Major League 25-man roster for the entirety of the next season, and the selected player must remain active (not on the disabled list) for a minimum of 90 days, or be offered back to his original team for $50,000.

The Rockies selected Horacek in the 46th round of the 2010 Draft, but he opted to go to college, and he was an Orioles ninth-round pick in '13. He went 5-3 with a 3.88 ERA in 32 games -- all in relief -- at Class A Advanced Frederick last season, and is 28-46 with a 4.23 ERA in five Minor League seasons. Last year was his first as a full-time reliever.

"Certainly he's got a chance to go to Triple-A," Wilson said during the MLB Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. "I would say he's coming to Spring Training to compete. Wherever he ends up, he ends up. He'll sit 92 [mph]. He's got a slurve that plays as a slider most of the time, but it can be a wipeout pitch at times."

Fernandez went 1-2 with a 3.26 ERA with three saves in 51 games for the Rockies' Class A Asheville club. He finished with 57 strikeouts and 18 walks in 58 innings pitched.

The Rockies value power pitchers, but they couldn't find room on their 40-man Major League roster for the 22-year-old Fernandez.

"I don't know if we expected it; I would say it doesn't surprise me, considering that he has one of the better fastballs you're going to see," Wilson said. "Everybody knows this guy's velocity. It's a big arm and he's got tremendous potential, certainly. And certainly, we liked him. So we wish him well right now. Who knows what's going to happen?"

Giants general manager Bobby Evans called Fernandez's 100-mph heater a "plus-plus" fastball.

"His breaking stuff is not as consistent, but has upside," Evans said.

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 don't plan on dealing young starters

Colorado focused on improving bullpen on Day 3, but not at expense of talented arms
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich has been open to making trades this week at the Winter Meetings, but he hasn't budged when teams have asked for a strong group of young starting pitchers.

The Rockies have also explored trades for relief help but thus far have gone the free-agent route, having reached agreements with righty Bryan Shaw for three years and lefty Jake McGee for three years and a team option for a fourth, and they're reportedly closing in on a deal to re-sign closer Greg Holland.

DENVER -- Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich has been open to making trades this week at the Winter Meetings, but he hasn't budged when teams have asked for a strong group of young starting pitchers.

The Rockies have also explored trades for relief help but thus far have gone the free-agent route, having reached agreements with righty Bryan Shaw for three years and lefty Jake McGee for three years and a team option for a fourth, and they're reportedly closing in on a deal to re-sign closer Greg Holland.

Hot Stove Tracker

As for trades, it seems teams are asking for what the Rockies don't want to give up.

"We really don't have any need or desire to trade any of our young starting pitchers," Bridich said during the MLB Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. "But I will say that when we talk to other teams or when teams bring ideas to us, those guys are usually pretty darn popular."

That coincides with what people from other clubs have been saying. Having made the postseason in 2017 with young starters and possessing starters throughout their list of top prospects, the Rockies figure those pitchers do them more good in purple pinstripes than as trade bait.

After righty Chad Bettis, who made a return from testicular cancer late in the 2017 season, no other starter has beyond two years' Major League service time. Former top picks Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson both had solid stretches in 2017, and four rookies -- German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman -- had significant starter innings.

There are four starting pitchers in the top 10 in MLB Pipeline's ranking of the top Rockies prospects: Riley Pint (No. 2), Peter Lambert (No. 5), Ryan Castellani (No. 6) and 40-man Major League roster member Yency Almonte (No. 10). And there are more behind them. Unless Bridich changes his mind, they'll all remain Rockies this offseason.

Video: Top Prospects: Riley Pint, RHP, Rockies

Worth noting

• Talks with Holland, who is represented by agent Scott Boras, could produce a deal, but Bridich was surprised by morning media reports that the sides were closing in on a contract agreement. Bridich said Wednesday afternoon that the sides were talking, but not close.

• Lefty Chris Rusin, who went 5-1 with a 2.65 ERA in 60 games for the Rockies and finished second in the Majors among relievers with 85 innings, went into last year considered a competitor for a starting rotation role. He might have begun the year in that role had he not suffered an oblique injury during Spring Training. Bridich said Rusin will now be treated as a reliever from the beginning, although he could pick up a spot start in an emergency.

Video: COL@ARI: Rusin gets Marte to ground out to earn save

• Bridich said it's possible the late-innings expenditures could be linked to the degree to which the Rockies will pursue a corner bat, either at first base or in the outfield.

"It's just a natural part of team building and trying to plan, and it's a fluid situation," Bridich said.

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, Holland in discussions on potential deal

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- The Rockies and Greg Holland -- who earned 41 saves as the club reached the postseason in 2017 -- could be moving toward a new agreement.

The Rockies reportedly reached a three-year agreement with former Indians righty Bryan Shaw on Tuesday night, and a three-year deal with a fourth-year option for lefty Jake McGee, who was Colorado's primary setup man in 2017.

DENVER -- The Rockies and Greg Holland -- who earned 41 saves as the club reached the postseason in 2017 -- could be moving toward a new agreement.

The Rockies reportedly reached a three-year agreement with former Indians righty Bryan Shaw on Tuesday night, and a three-year deal with a fourth-year option for lefty Jake McGee, who was Colorado's primary setup man in 2017.

MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman reported Wednesday that the sides were "closing in on a deal," but a Major League source told MLB.com that the parties were still "talking" during the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. If an agreement can be reached, the Rockies will have solidified the ninth inning and both setup roles between Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon.

Holland signed a one-year contract before the 2017 season after missing '16 because of Tommy John surgery. Holland had been a key to the Royals making the World Series the previous two years, although his surgery came before the '15 postseason.

Hot Stove Tracker

In 2017, Holland earned All-Star status and tied with the Dodgers' Kenley Jansen for the National League lead in saves.

The Rockies have also been linked to free agent Wade Davis, who closed for the Cubs last season, and they have been exploring various trade options.

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, Greg Holland

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

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

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.

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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.

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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