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Rockies to address 'pen, prospects in offseason

October 3, 2019

DENVER -- The Rockies have said that beyond the normal, natural turnover, the key figures in 2020 are unlikely to change. But offseasons have their surprises. Well, at least fans can hope for them during the cold of winter. Can’t promise news, but can at least provide some questions that

DENVER -- The Rockies have said that beyond the normal, natural turnover, the key figures in 2020 are unlikely to change. But offseasons have their surprises. Well, at least fans can hope for them during the cold of winter.

Can’t promise news, but can at least provide some questions that you can ask frequently while staring out the window, thinking about baseball.

Can the Rockies jettison one or more of their high-priced relievers -- Wade Davis ($17 million), Bryan Shaw ($9 million) and Jake McGee ($9.5 million), all of whom had struggles in 2019?

Davis lost his mechanics, his fastball and his confidence. It would take a team believing a change of scenery would do the trick, the Rockies accepting at least one high-priced but underperforming player and possibly the Rockies paying part of the salary. Or, the Rockies can ride with him, knowing that Scott Oberg and Jairo Díaz performed well in their turns in the closer role.

Shaw, who at times showed a workable curveball but had some blowups, attracted some deadline interest. But he has an incentive that could give pause. If Shaw appears in 40 games in 2020 and is healthy at the start of ‘21, a $9 million option for ‘21 becomes guaranteed.

McGee went into his final five appearances with a sub-4.00 ERA, but he saw 65 percent of the runners he inherited score. However, before the Aug. 31 deadline, some supports suggested him as a pickup for a contender.

Could the Rockies really deal core players?

Some have suggested trading veteran outfielder Charlie Blackmon to an American League team, but the money would be complicated. And, considering the Rockies see themselves as a contender, would they be able to replace a player who could hit leadoff to cleanup and will be coming off .314/.364/.940 slash line this season?

It’s possible the Rockies could look to move Daniel Murphy, who struggled with injuries and less-than-desirable defense at first base. But his commitment of at least $14 million (including a $6 million buyout that increases to $7 million with award bonuses, such as the All-Star Game) could give pause.

The Rockies tend to hold onto their prospects, but expect teams ask about infielder Brendan Rodgers, their No. 1 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, or lefty starter Ryan Rolison (No. 2 prospect). Rodgers, who had a pedestrian Major League debut but plenty of offensive upside, is coming off season-ending right shoulder surgery.

Beyond the stated plan, why is so little news expected?

Beyond first baseman Yonder Alonso and catcher Drew Butera, both in-season signings, no Rockies are eligible for free agency nor do they have anyone with a contract option that needs to be decided.

What are key arbitration decisions?

There are some interesting decisions involving left-handed starting pitcher Tyler Anderson and righty reliever Chad Bettis. Both underwent surgery -- Anderson for a left knee chondral defect and Bettis a bilateral hip procedure -- and projections say they won’t be in the Major Leagues until after the 2020 season starts.

The Rockies have until the fifth day after the conclusion of the World Series to re-add them and other 60-day injured list players to the 40-man roster (the 60-day IL, which doesn’t count against the 40-man roster during the season, disappears), and until Dec. 2 to decide whether to offer contracts for ‘20.

Who needs to be added to the 40-man roster this winter to avoid the Rule 5 Draft, and is there a crunch for roster spots?

The Rockies’ 60-day IL includes not only Anderson and Bettis, but righty starter Jon Gray, Oberg and Rodgers. The next decision comes Nov. 20, when the 40-man winter roster is due.

The Rockies have several Top 30 prospects eligible to be placed on the roster and protected from the Rule 5 Draft -- Ben Bowden (Rockies No. 8), a lefty reliever who made it to Triple-A this year, corner infielder Tyler Nevin (No. 11), first baseman Roberto Ramos (No. 28) right-hander Reid Humphreys (No. 19, coming off right shoulder surgery), and outfielder Daniel Montano (No. 25). Also, there is righty Mike Nikorak, a 2015 supplemental first-round pick who has dealt with injuries.

How might the Rockies manage their roster?

Infielder Pat Valaika has not replicated the pinch-hit success of 2017, and he could be a candidate to be outrighted from the 40-man roster. But he could be kept in the organization to try to revive his career.

Righties Chi Chi González, who is out of options, and Tim Melville began the year on Minor League contracts, but they ended the season in the starting rotation and made arguments to be kept on the roster.

What needs could the Rockies fill via free agency or a trade?

As the Rockies leadership said this week, acquiring someone on a big contract is unlikely given the big-ticket players already in the fold. But we can dream of the pitching staff adding Tanner Roark or Jake Odorizzi, can’t we? While we’re at it, wouldn’t J.D. Martinez (should he opt out of his deal with the Red Sox) or Marcell Ozuna look good in Purple Pinstripes in the outfield?

If the Rockies make a minor move, what should fans expect?

Two of the Rockies' key cogs this season were right-hander German Márquez, the then-unknown prospect in the trade of outfielder Corey Dickerson to the Rays, and catcher Tony Wolters, claimed off waivers from the Indians in 2016. Neither was a headline player.

A prime example of what the Rockies need can be seen in the Dodgers, who can afford big-ticket players but helped build a World Series contender by snapping up undervalued players. Third baseman Justin Turner's signing was not big news. Super-utility man Chris Taylor came in an under-the-radar deal with the Mariners, and Kiké Hernandez was one of multiple players who changed hands in a trade with the Marlins.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.