DENVER -- After developing quickly and qualifying for the postseason for the first time since 2009, the Rockies need to guard against losing ground in the late bullpen and behind the plate. At the same time, they need to improve their offensive consistency.
How will they handle both requirements this offseason?
First, the personnel to keep the Rockies winning appears in place.
Center fielder and leadoff man Charlie Blackmon and second baseman DJ LeMahieu, in their last winter of offseason eligibility, and third baseman Nolan Arenado, under club control through 2019, form a nice offensive and defensive nucleus.
Interestingly, the Rockies' experiment with young starting pitching in 2017 worked well enough that they are likely to stick with the young staff. The Rockies expect full and healthy seasons from righties Jon Gray and Chad Bettis, and lefty Tyler Anderson, and rookies German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman will be asked to take forward steps.
But several key questions face the club. Here's a look at offseason issues:
Free agents: Infielder Alexi Amarista ($2.5 million club option or $150,000 buyout), righties Tyler Chatwood, Pat Neshek and Greg Holland (expected to exercise player option), lefty Jake McGee, outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, catchers Ryan Hanigan and Jonathan Lucroy, first baseman Mark Reynolds.
Arbitration-eligible players: Righty Chad Bettis, lefties Zachary Rosscup and Chris Rusin, Blackmon and eMahieu.
Biggest potential free-agent losses: Holland, who signed a one-year deal in February, tied with the Dodgers' Kenley Jansen for the National League lead in saves with 41, and Lucroy, obtained from the Rangers at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, provided much-needed steadiness. The Rockies believe they are in a good negotiating position, since both players spoke positively of their time in Denver and the team appears to be in position to make competitive offers to both. If they escape, replacing them economically with players of similar accomplishment could be difficult.
Potential free-agent targets: High on the early wish list is Eric Hosmer, who hit 50 home runs over the past two seasons with the Royals, and could add another power hitter to the offense, and outfielder J.D. Martinez, who is coming off a monster year with the Tigers and D-backs. The Rockies did not make a play for Martinez at the deadline, but could look at him now. The Rockies also will have to be smart about pursuing setup relievers. The Rockies are expected to try to keep McGee and Neshek, but bidding could get heavy. That would leave the Rockies hoping for a solid acquisition within their price range.
Wild card scenario: The Rockies face a difficult decision regarding Gonzalez, who had a rough season before returning to form for the final two months. They have talented outfielders that could step in for him. David Dahl -- who has power potential -- didn't appear in the Majors because of a rib injury that developed into a back issue, and Raimel Tapia showed speed and the ability to hit for average but also was not fully developed defensively. The question is whether Gonzalez will put together a more solid full season as a middle-of-the-lineup threat.