DENVER -- Newly signed righty Bryan Shaw, re-signed lefty Jake McGee and Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich spent a warm winter's afternoon at Coors Field dreaming of an almost-loaded bullpen.The Rockies introduced Shaw and McGee on Friday after their contracts -- similar at three years and $27 million, each with
DENVER -- Newly signed righty Bryan Shaw, re-signed lefty Jake McGee and Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich spent a warm winter's afternoon at Coors Field dreaming of an almost-loaded bullpen.
The Rockies introduced Shaw and McGee on Friday after their contracts -- similar at three years and $27 million, each with a fourth-year option -- went official. All the Rockies now want for Christmas -- or at least by the time the 2018 season starts -- is a proven closer. They're talking with Greg Holland, who earned 41 saves for them last year, although they are keeping options open on others who could fill that wish.
The Rockies are coming off their first postseason appearance since 2009. They knew building on the '17 campaign -- which ended with a loss to the D-backs in the National League Wild Card Game -- depended upon addressing bullpen openings, with McGee, Holland and Pat Neshek testing free agency.
Neshek has a two-year agreement with the Phillies, but McGee is signed and Holland is in the mix for a return. Shaw, who helped the Indians to deep playoff runs the last two years and has had at least 70 appearances each of the last five years, moves into the slot Neshek manned after he was acquired from the Phillies at last season's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Bridich said it's not all about the bullpen, but the 'pen is a big deal. It's why, after signing catcher Chris Iannetta for two years at $8.5 million, he put the bullpen pursuit above other offseason needs. The Rockies may play in a park in which runs are plentiful, but they believe the combination of pitching and defense is as big a component in their success as it is for anyone.
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The Indians, for whom Shaw made 79 appearances in 2017 (4-6, 3.52 ERA, three saves, 73 strikeouts to 22 walks in 76 2/3 innings), led the Majors by converting 78.7 percent of their save chances, according to Stats, Inc. The Rockies were second at 77 percent -- just ahead of their NL West rival, the division-champion Dodgers at 76.1.
"Is the bullpen a part of that overall broader philosophy? Absolutely," Bridich said. "A big part of that is the addition or the inclusion of men, of adults, who look at this team and look at who we are, where we play and the division that we play in and look at it as a challenge that they are up for, a challenge that excites them. We have an opportunity to have a really good team."
McGee figured to be popular among teams looking for a hard-throwing left-hander. A left knee issue reduced his velocity and effectiveness in 2016, his first year with the Rockies. But this past season, McGee used a revised training program based on leg strength. After throwing his fastball just 51.4 percent of the time at an average velocity of 94 mph in 2016, he threw it 90.04 percent of the time (850 of his 944 pitches) at an average of 94.9 mph. He went 0-2 with three saves and a 3.61 ERA in 62 appearances, with 58 strikeouts to 16 walks.
"From the first year I was here to how well we played last year, the whole clubhouse together, the whole culture is pretty cool to be around," McGee said. "It's a winning culture now. For us to make the Wild Card and this year build off it, have a stronger team going forward, it's going to be awesome."
The Rockies researched the production, durability and competitiveness of Shaw. Additionally, Shaw, 30, considered off-the-field factors. He lives in Arizona, and he talked with several players, particularly Indians teammate and former Colorado reliever Boone Logan, about the Rockies' culture.
"I know a few guys on the team that I've played with in the past, and they really enjoy this organization, and players that have left this organization have nothing but amazing and great things to say about the clubhouse, the city, the front office -- everything that happens out here," Shaw said.
• The Rockies explored pursuing former Indians first baseman Carlos Santana, but it became a long shot because of what they planned to spend on the bullpen. Santana agreed Friday with the Phillies for a reported three years and $60 million. The Rox have acknowledged talking to Mark Reynolds, their first baseman the last two years (.274, .354 on-base percentage, .471 slugging percentage in 266 games).
If the Rockies stop there, they could go with Reynolds and left-handed-hitting Ryan McMahon, who hit .355 with 20 home runs and 88 RBIs in 119 combined Double-A and Triple-A games in 2017, and he appeared in 17 Major League games. Ian Desmond also could be part of the first-base mix.
• Despite reports of the Rockies and Holland being close to a deal during the Winter Meetings, the sides are simply talking through the club's offer. The Rox also are in contact with free-agent closer Wade Davis, and they have done research on possible trades with the Orioles for Zach Britton, the Rays for Alex Colome and the Royals for Kelvin Herrera. There could be other not-yet-known ideas.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and** like his Facebook page**.