LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Rockies are at the Winter Meetings trying to step up their efforts to improve heading into 2014.
The club hedged its search for starting pitching before arriving, as FoxSports.com reported that the Rockies and Athletics talked on Friday about a trade that would have sent left-hander Brett Anderson to Colorado. It is known that the Rockies were researching Anderson, who has battled injuries much of his career but is expected to be healthy. The FoxSports.com report said the teams are unlikely to revisit the discussions at the Winter Meetings, which run Monday through Thursday, but the fact they had talks with the Athletics is an indication that the Rockies are in shopping mode.
The Rockies are kicking the tires on free agents, with the club having researched veteran left-hander Paul Maholm, whose ability to get ground balls and potential for durability are appealing assets. The Rockies head into 2014 feeling good about the top three rotation spots -- right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, left-hander Jorge De La Rosa and right-hander Tyler Chatwood -- and are counting on righty Juan Nicasio to find his stride.
The Rockies also want to improve the offense, and, according to the Denver Post, have expressed interest in veteran hitters Raul Ibanez and Michael Young. Colorado nearly acquired Young from the Rangers several seasons back.
Even with the signing of right-hander LaTroy Hawkins as closer, the Rockies also are looking at improving the bullpen, although it is not known how high they will bid for a late-game veteran right-hander, with Jesse Crain and Jose Veras among the options. Much could depend on whether they spend big for a starter. If they've acquired Anderson, they theoretically could have had money left to address the bullpen, since Anderson is due $8 million this coming season.
In addition to signing Hawkins to a one-year deal with a $2.5 million guarantee, the Rockies will soon officially announce the signing of first baseman Justin Morneau for a reported two years and $12.5 million, with his 2013 salary likely to be $6.3 million.
As part of loosening the payroll, the Rockies dealt center fielder Dexter Fowler -- due $7.35 million next year, with arbitration eligibility for 2015 -- to the Astros for right-handed pitcher Jordan Lyles and right-handed-hitting outfielder Brandon Barnes. The trade means two-time All-Star Carlos Gonzalez moves from left field to center field, and unless the Rockies acquire a leadoff hitter, Fowler's old slot in the order is up for grabs, with prime left-field candidates Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson being the top candidates. Gonzalez is a creative option, but that would take a power bat from the middle of the lineup.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb.