Arenado rumors dominate Winter Meetings
SAN DIEGO -- How does Rockies star third baseman Nolan Arenado feel about all this? That's the real question.
The Rockies' trip to the Winter Meetings ended up centering on a hot issue -- to what degree are they listening to proposals for Arenado, or are they even willing to trade him after one year of an eight-year, $260 million contract?
But Arenado possesses the control that comes with a full no-trade provision, which means he could prevent or play a role in facilitating a trade. Arenado also can opt out of the contract after 2021, although he would be walking away from $35 million per year for five more years.
After two straight postseason appearances, the Rockies' 2019 was marred by poor play and injuries, and Arenado was vocal about the team's need to make moves to improve. This winter, the Rockies' philosophy has been that they shouldn't be judged by a bad year, and they believe they just need tweaks to return to contention.
So one can see where there could be a disconnect: Player believes team must make moves to be better; front office believes better play from current players will make the team better.
Can they find happiness?
Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said Thursday, as the Winter Meetings concluded, that at least the team and Arenado have talked.
"We sat with him, like we have every year," Bridich said. "We talked about the team, we talked about the season, we talked about the organization. We didn't specifically talk about this [trade rumors, which arose this week]. We'll see; if it gets to that point, then it gets to that point."
Bridich did not divulge details of the conversation, but he said the team remains in contact with Arenado's representative, Joel Wolfe, who represents other Rockies.
The reasons scuttlebutt of potential Arenado trades arose this week are plentiful:
• Front offices talk about all kinds of things when people are together. Based on last season, teams expect the Rockies to be in the very rebuilding mode that they deny.
• It's possible that the crescendo of Arenado rumors was a function of the pursuit of former Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon, who signed with the Angels, sources told MLB.com. In an attempt to affect the Rendon negotiations, teams may have raised the possibility of trading for Arenado as leverage.
• In their season-ending question-and-answer session with the media, Bridich, manager Bud Black and owner Dick Monfort had to address Arenado's in-season quote that the lost season felt "like a rebuild" -- a notion the franchise's leaders forcefully disagreed with.
• The Rockies' payroll exceeded $157 million, a franchise record, last year. With shortstop Trevor Story and righty pitcher Jon Gray identified as candidates for multiyear contracts, and with several high-priced but less-than-optimally productive players on the roster, would it be prudent for the Rockies to unload the Arenado commitment?
Biggest remaining needs
1. Catcher: It was No. 1 on the list when the Winter Meetings started, and it still is. While the Rockies ended the Meetings in the final stages of bringing back veteran Drew Butera on a Minor League contract, they need someone who can catch 80-100 games -- or an equal partner to Tony Wolters. The scope will go beyond those most mentioned -- Austin Romine (reported Thursday to be working on a deal with the Tigers), Robinson Chirinos, Caleb Joseph and Martin Maldonado.
2. Starters and relievers: The Rockies always need pitching, but they look to be getting it through under-the-radar moves. They signed former Rays prospect José Mujica, who missed last season after Tommy John surgery but has the power mix the club likes, and made a waiver claim for righty reliever Tyler Kinley, who has had mixed results over 65 appearances in two seasons but has shown a workable power mix in the Minors. A contract for a Major League veteran free agent remains unlikely.
3. Money: There are expensive arbitration cases to deal with in Story and Gray. And relievers Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw, who have big contracts but also have results that suggest they could use a change of scenery, are still on the roster.
Rule 5 Draft
In the Triple-A portion, the Rockies reached out to the Brewers organization for two righty relief pitchers. Nate Griep, who possesses a fastball around 94 mph and a workable slider, went 6-1 with a 1.92 ERA in 56 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Michael Petersen, who had 65 strikeouts in 54 innings at Class A Advanced Carolina, has a solid fastball and is working on secondary pitches. The Rockies saw four pitchers taken in the Triple-A phase -- righty starters Erick Julio by the Angels and Eris Filpo by the Rangers, and righty relievers Enrique Saldana and Jacob Bosiokovic, both by the Cardinals.
GM's bottom line
Bridich was asked if the perception that the Rockies are no longer a contender is offensive.
"If I took offense to everybody's opinion all the time about our team, that's all I would be doing," he said. "I'm focused on other more practical and useful things as it relates to the club.
"One of those things is making sure that we have an understanding of how we're going to do certain things better next year, differently next year, and get us better for the playoffs. That takes a whole group effort. I think our players understand that one rough season doesn't mean that's who we are."