Rockies looking at big-ticket first basemen

Trumbo, Encarnacion, Abreu among sluggers club could target

December 6th, 2016

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- General manager Jeff Bridich said the Rockies are considering the heavy price tag for free-agent first basemen and . Additionally, multiple Major League sources said there have been preliminary talks about White Sox slugger as the Rockies attempt to boost run production at the position.

According to FanGraphs' weighted runs created-plus statistic (wRC+), which measures offensive effectiveness, Rockies first basemen tied for third-worst in the Majors at 82, with 100 being considered the MLB average in the park-adjusted stat. As a comparison, the Tigers, because of , had a 158 wRC+ at the position.

According to reports, Trumbo is seeking a four-year contract in the $80 million range. The Rockies would lose the No. 11 overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft as compensation for signing anyone who received a qualifying offer from his 2016 club, which Trumbo did from the Orioles after leading the Majors with 45 home runs in 2016.

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Encarnacion, who has hit 193 home runs over the last five seasons, also received a qualifying offer. He turned down the Jays when they tried to retain him on a four-year, $80 million offer and has been reportedly seeking a five-year contract. The Blue Jays' landing of on a two-year, $12.5 million contract appeared to be part of a strategy to move on from Encarnacion.

The Astros, Yankees and Red Sox also have been connected to Encarnacion, but there is no indication any of them are moving toward a deal.

"In terms of adding talent right now, we're wide open -- we're open to all avenues," Bridich said Monday, when asked about Trumbo during a briefing with reporters on the first day of the Winter Meetings.

The idea of trading for Abreu came up in discussions during the recent General Managers Meetings. According to sources, the White Sox seek several prospects from what is considered a strong Minor League system in Colorado. Talks haven't gone beyond the preliminary stage.

While not discussing a specific situation, White Sox GM Rick Hahn dispelled the notion that their rebuilding process will hold off until they trade ace . Although it would be tempting to wait and see how things go if the White Sox can't move Sale, Hahn said the team won't pass up moves when they arise.

"We don't want to be caught in between," Hahn told White Sox reporters Monday.

The Rockies are intrigued by the prospect of adding first-base power to a lineup that already includes , who hit 83 homers over the past two seasons; , with 65 the past two years; center fielder , coming off a career-high 29 homers from the leadoff spot; and second-year shortstop , who hit 27 before missing the final two months with a left thumb injury.

The Rockies have free-agent options other than Trumbo, whom they nearly obtained from the Mariners in a trade last offseason before seeing him dealt to the Orioles, and Abreu, whom they nearly landed as an amateur out of Cuba in 2013.

Bridich acknowledged interest in free agents , who for the Brewers last season tied Arenado for the National League lead with 41 homers, and , who homered 22 times in 147 games for the Rangers last season. Bridich said the first-base search is comprehensive, so include , Adam Lind and Logan Morrison on the list of possibilities.

The Rockies also are staying in contact with , who had career highs in 2016 with a .282 average and .356 on-base percentage in a season shortened because of two fractures in his left hand.

The Rockies seek athletic ability, some positional versatility and, above all, run production.

The Rockies have converted left-handed-hitting prospect Ryan McMahon, who turns 22 on Dec. 14, from third base to first, but Bridich said the length of the contract for a potential free agent is not affected by McMahon's presence.

In other developments:

• The Rockies pursued veteran closer , before seeing him land in the NL West with the Giants for four years and $62 million.

"It's not all that surprising, based on what we were hearing and the nature of the current marketplace with free agency," Bridich said.

The Rockies seek late-innings arms to improve a bullpen that posted a Majors-worst 5.13 ERA last season, but they are not necessarily in search of a closer.

• Righty , a hard thrower who missed last season because of Tommy John surgery, is in a planned rest period after throwing a couple of "live" batting practice sessions at the team's complex in the Dominican Republic. He will resume throwing in early January and should be ready for Spring Training.

• The Rockies have to pay $22 million in 2017 to Mets infielder , whom they released last season. But with that money coming off the books next year, the Rockies can target current players for multiyear contracts. Arenado, who is headed into the second of four years of arbitration and is one of the game's top young stars, and Gonzalez, whose four-year, $80 million deal expires at the end of this season, are among candidates for extensions.

"It's about what the general landscape of our team and our payroll and our organization look like in regard to a long-term deal. And that's a big decision. It's not something we take lightly," Bridich said.

• As has been the case in the past, Gonzalez will play for Venezuela in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. The decision was expected, and MLB officially announced it Monday. Arenado previously announced that he will play for Team USA.