DENVER -- Beyond the denials of the Rockies, there are big holes in the notion that they're at all serious about trading third baseman Nolan Arenado.
The following is based on conversations with multiple Major League sources:
• Above all, no matter what other clubs, analysts and fans may insist, the Rockies believe they have the foundation of a contender in 2020. If they were looking to rebuild, not only would they be doing more than listening to teams about Arenado, but they would be entertaining two valuable pieces -- shortstop Trevor Story and right-handed pitcher Jon Gray. Each has two years of arbitration. General manager Jeff Bridich said during the Winter Meetings that the team considers them candidates for long-term deals, like Arenado and outfielder Charlie Blackmon have received.
• Given that they believe they can return and build upon 2017 and '18 -- when they made the postseason, before falling to 71-91 in '19 -- they would need to replace Arenado's production. Josh Donaldson, who has similar power (37 homers for the Braves last season) and tends to emerge from the recipe of stats that produce the Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) metric, is a free agent. The Rockies have not approached him, even though his projected salary is about $10 million less than Arenado and would be paid over a shorter period.
• The Rockies could be really creative here, by swinging a deal with the Cubs for Kris Bryant. Then they could try to retain him, find value on the market or plug in one of multiple third-base prospects on the team's MLB Pipeline ranking (No. 3 Colton Welker, No. 6 Ryan Vilade, No. 11 Tyler Nevin or No. 13 Josh Fuentes). There is zero indication that the Rockies talked to the Cubs about Bryant during the Winter Meetings.
Now comes the disclaimer that comes with all far-fetched rumors that arise during this time of year: Anything can happen. And none of the aforementioned points preclude the Rockies from receiving a trade offer that would replace Arenado's value and then some, maybe bring some pitching for now and later and (not to be underrated) receive Arenado's blessing, since he has a full no-trade provision.
But a key point is at no point have Bridich, manager Bud Black or owner Dick Monfort strayed from the notion that the Rockies already have a contending team that will return to form in 2020.
Catchers and dollars
The Rockies are expected to complete a non-roster deal with veteran Drew Butera but are still working through their plans to bring in a catcher on a Major League deal. According to Major League sources, there is a roadblock.
The Rockies saw former Yankees backstop Austin Romine join the Tigers on Friday on a one-year deal worth just over $4 million. They lost to the D-backs on Stephen Vogt (one year, $2.5 million plus a $500,000 buyout on a $3 million option for 2021), and they watched the Twins grab Alex Avila (one year, $4.25 million).
There are still several catchers who could work in a tandem with Tony Wolters, with each guy holding the possibility of working 80-110 games. Robinson Chirinos, Martin Maldonado and Jason Castro fit that category. Caleb Joseph, non-tendered by the D-backs, has worked more than 90 games just once (2015, Orioles) but has a good reputation for what Bridich calls "pitcher care."
However, multiple sources with knowledge of either the Rockies or the catcher market say there has been little in the way of financial discussion for the club. The going theory is the Rockies would have to escape some of their bigger commitments. Much speculation centers on dealing relievers Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee, even if they have to eat a large portion of salary.
Bridich, who did not offer the aforementioned theory, simply said the club will work through the catching issue.