For the first time, the Colorado Rockies sound willing to trade shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and/or outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.
The Rockies are telling clubs they are keeping their “eyes and ears open” for potential deals involving both players, according to major-league sources.
The mere willingness to discuss Tulowitzki and Gonzalez is a departure for Colorado, which previously refused to entertain deals for its two stars.
The Rockies, under new general manager Jeff Bridich, are not shopping either player or starting a fire sale, sources say. But team officials finally seem to have persuaded owner Dick Monfort to consider all possibilities.
A year ago at this time, Monfort said of Tulowitzki and Gonzalez, “The plan is to keep them. Next year, yes. And my plan is to always keep them.”
But Tulowitzki and Gonzalez again experienced injury-marred seasons, and the Rockies finished 66-96. In the past four seasons, they averaged just 69 wins.
Meanwhile, the team’s decision to make free-agent outfielder/first baseman Michael Cuddyer a $15.3 million qualifying offer signaled to many in the industry that the Rockies are planning other moves.
The Rockies say they made the offer because of how highly they value Cuddyer, but the veteran’s likely acceptance will leave the team paying nearly $70 million next season to seven players: Cuddyer, Tulowitzki and Gonzalez, plus left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, first baseman Justin Morneau and relievers LaTroy Hawkins and Boone Logan.
Morneau, coming off a bounce-back season at 33, is priced reasonably at $6.75 million. His departure would create an opening for Cuddyer, who currently is without a position. But Tulowitzki, 30, and Gonzalez, 29, would bring back greater returns, and the Mets, Red Sox, Nationals and Mariners are among the teams with pitching Colorado covets.
Those assurances might not come until Tulowitzki and Gonzalez get back on the field in spring training, and even then would qualify as risks. Tulowitzki averaged 88 games the past three seasons, Gonzalez 90 the past two.
— Contracts. Gonzalez is owed $53 million over the next three seasons — a reasonable number for a player of his ability, particularly at a time when teams are starved for offense.
Tulowitzki’s remaining obligation is more onerous — $114 million over the next six seasons, plus a $15 million club option or $4 million buyout for 2021. But when healthy, Tulo ranks among the best players in the game.
If the Rockies hold firm in that stance, it would be difficult for them to move either player this offseason. But if they are willing to be creative — and in Tulowitzki’s case, include cash in any deal — they could reshape their club dramatically.
For the first time, the door is open to that possibility.