Rockies look to bolster offense at Meetings

Bridich seeks run production, along with catcher, bullpen help

December 7th, 2018

DENVER -- After consecutive postseason appearances driven by homegrown talent -- whether it's been drafted and developed hitters such as , and Charlie Blackmon or a rotation full of pitchers who have never thrown a Major League pitch for another team -- can the Rockies look outside and find production that will make them a World Series threat?

The task of improving the offense is the No. 1 priority as the Rockies, under general manager Jeff Bridich, head to the Winter Meetings, which begin on Monday at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. In an odd twist for a franchise known for hitting, Colorado won 91 games -- second-most in its history -- on the strength of a rotation that led the National League in innings pitched, and the starters were a key element for a pitching staff that produced the lowest batting average against in the club's 26-season history (.250). Yet, the offense produced its lowest batting averages for a season (.256) and on the road (.225).

Hot Stove Tracker

Three offensive players the Rockies counted on extensively are in free agency -- second baseman DJ LeMahieu, right fielder and on-and-off starting outfielder . A team with a mid-level payroll usually looks first to the inside, and outfielder 's strong finish (.277, nine home runs, 27 RBIs in September) should put him in position to move into a starting role. Outfielder , and infielders and , also are poised for greater responsibility.

Still, the time has come for the Rockies to hit on an established offensive player, either through a trade or free agency. But any moves that add to the payroll come against the backdrop of Arenado heading into his final year of arbitration. The club is hoping to sign him to a multi-year deal, but that could take a bit. Manny Machado's free agency will likely set the parameters of what Colorado will have to do to keep Arenado.

Club needs

The key here is the roster is versatile enough, with veteran 's flexibility and the fact that homegrown players are trained at several positions, that the Rockies aren't hamstrung on the position of the needed acquisition. Could it be a versatile free agent such as or Josh Harrison? Could they make a play for first baseman , recently traded from the Phillies to the Mariners? The market also is full of second basemen and outfielders. Colorado just wants run production. The club also has been combing for bargains at catcher and relief pitcher.

Whom might they trade?

Most of the buzz has been players the Rockies don't want to trade -- like their starting pitchers and middle infielder Brendan Rodgers, who is ranked as the club's No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline. But look for Rodgers' name to come up. Other names that could surface are corner infield prospects Colton Welker (No. 2) and Tyler Nevin (No. 11). Expect clubs to ask about Dahl and righty pitcher , coming off 2018 struggles after a solid campaign in '17.

Prospects to know

The Arizona Fall League was an eye-opener, as Nevin and (No. 9) wowed experts. With Welker and Nevin in the system, could either of them be used in a deal? Is Hilliard -- big, fast and with bat speed -- a tailor-made Rockies corner outfielder or trade bait?

Rule 5 Draft

The Rockies enter the Winter Meetings at 39 players -- one shy of the 40-man roster limit. They aren't likely to participate in the Major League phase. The intriguing player who could draw interest is lefty pitcher Breiling Eusebio (No. 19), who was limited to three starts at Class A Asheville before undergoing Tommy John surgery. But considering his limited work in 2018 and '17 (shut down after eight Double-A starts with an oblique injury), it's a longshot.

Payroll summary

The Rockies are in the $88 million range entering the Winter Meetings. Whether it's a one-year deal or the basis of a multi-year, Arenado could break the arbitration record for one year ($23 million by Josh Donaldson in 2017), and there are six more arb-eligible players, including Story. Last year, the Rockies finished at $143,968,544 (per Spotrac), although that included a long-settled $4 million payout to former shortstop . Last year's Opening Day payroll was a club record, and Bridich has said the club is on a "responsible growth" plan.