Colorado Rockies: 3 Thoughts From Monday’s Winter Meetings

Aug 5, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher Mark Melancon (43) throws to the San Francisco Giants during the ninth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 5, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals relief pitcher Mark Melancon (43) throws to the San Francisco Giants during the ninth inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Monday was quiet on the news front for the Colorado Rockies, but that doesn’t mean it was without its share of intrigue. Here are the relevant bits from day two of the Winter Meetings in Maryland.

1) Big name pitchers changing teams

The headline-grabbing move of the day belonged to one of Colorado’s division rivals, as the San Francisco Giants landed closer Mark Melancon on a 4-year, $62 million pact. While the deal set a new mark for the largest contract ever awarded to a relief pitcher, that record will almost certainly fall again later this offseason when Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen sign contracts.

Melancon is older than those two, and he lacks their elite K rate, but few pitchers in the game can match his effectiveness over the last few seasons. For the Giants, a team that was plagued in 2016 by a mess of a bullpen, landing a guy with a track record like Melancon’s was an absolute necessity.

There were rumors that the Rockies and Melancon had “mutual interest,” and it’s not hard to understand why. Melancon played his high school baseball just outside of Denver, and Colorado also had more than their fair share of bullpen problems in 2016.

But as Kevin Henry pointed out earlier today, splurging on Melancon wouldn’t have been the most prudent move for a team in the Rockies position. Colorado has a more pressing need at first base, and they already have a decent ninth inning option in Adam Ottavino.

In other, non-official news, the big rumor of the evening is that the Nationals and White Sox are allegedly working on a trade that would potentially send Chicago ace Chris Sale to Washington.

In exchange, the White Sox would get super-prospects Lucas Giolito and Victor Robles, in addition to other prospects.

The idea of Chris Sale pitching in a Rockies uniform is fun to think about. But the asking price from Colorado would probably start with something like Brendan Rodgers and David Dahl, and that would only be the start. It’s possible that if the season goes poorly for the White Sox, they’ll lower their demands for Sale, but as long as his asking price remains this high, the only time we’ll see Sale at Coors Field is in a visitor’s uniform.

Tony Wolters of the Colorado Rockies

May 5, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies catcher Tony Wolters (14) talks to the dugout in the game against the San Francisco Giants in the third inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

2) Bud Black gives vote of confidence to Rockies young catchers

While first base has been the primary focus of Colorado’s offseason thus far (more on that in a bit), there were some who felt the team might pursue a veteran catcher. Tom Murphy and Tony Wolters are the only catchers on the Rockies roster with MLB experience, and combined, they have all of 77 starts.

With Colorado’s starting pitching staff also being among the youngest in the game, the idea of signing a veteran catcher and clubhouse leader to help them grow has been suggested more than once.

But the Rockies new manager Bud Black spoke to MLB.com about his roster earlier today, and did not sound like a man concerned about putting his trust into a youth movement behind the plate.

“Talking to our guys, they are high on Murphy and Wolters on their makeup, their aptitude, their work ethic, what they believed in, what they need to do to help our pitchers, and they are young, no doubt about it. But Mike (new bench coach Mike Redmond) and I and the pitching coaches, we’ll give them everything we can to make them the players they can be… Sometimes you feel good about the players you have, and you’ve got to trust them, even though they are young, you’ve got to trust them.”

This isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, but more Black acknowledging the reality in Colorado right now. The Rockies would surely love to have a veteran backstop who’s been to the playoffs and knows how to manage the ups and downs of a long season, but the cost of acquiring a guy like that isn’t worth it for a team with two talented, young MLB-ready catchers on their roster already.

Black appears to understand that, and appears to be ready to accept Murphy and Wolters as the solutions behind the plate.

Jeff Bridich, general manager of the Colorado Rockies

Nov 8, 2016; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Colorado Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich during the MLB general managers meeting at the Omni Scottsdale Resort. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

3) Jeff Bridich says the Rockies are being “more aggressive”

Bridich’s words on Monday were music to the ears of Rockies fans desperate to see the team make a splash this offseason. When asked how Colorado’s current approach differed from years past, Bridich said the team was being “more aggressive and maybe more opportunistic than we’re used to, or have been used to over the last four, five, six years.”

The most obvious place to apply this aggression is Colorado’s hole at first base. When Bridich was asked a question about right-handed slugger Mark Trumbo, the Rockies GM declined to confirm or deny the team’s interest in Trumbo specifically, but he did say, “In terms of adding talent right now, we’re wide open — we’re open to all avenues.”

It’s great to hear that Bridich and the Rockies are serious about putting a contender on the field soon, but they also need to be careful not to go overboard in their pursuit of a big name at first base.

Edwin Encarnacion and the previously mentioned Trumbo are both extremely dangerous home run hitters, but they’ll be expensive … and not just in dollars. Signing either would cost Colorado the 11th overall pick in next year’s draft. Both players are also liabilities on defense and on the base paths, and players like that generally don’t age well. A team with Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story patrolling the left side of the infield (not to mention Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez in the outfield) doesn’t need to break the bank for a risky long-term bet at first base.

The Rockies likely realize this, so when Bridich says “we’re open to all avenues,” he’s probably talking about players other than Encarnacion and Trumbo. Thomas Harding reported that the Rockies contacted the White Sox about Jose Abreu, but so far nothing has progressed past preliminary discussions.

Of all the first baseman linked to the Rockies this offseason, perhaps the most logical fit is Chris Carter. He’s the right-handed power bat that Colorado is seeking, and both the length and cost of what it would take to sign him (probably something like 2-year, $20 million) fits in to their budget and timeline for contention. The Rockies could also consider Mitch Moreland, although that would be adding another left-handed to a roster that’s already got more than a few of them.

Ultimately, this author believes that Colorado will end up with a cheaper option like Carter or Moreland, who can them most of the production of the big name guys for a fraction of the cost. That may frustrate some of the fans that want to see the team make a splash during the Winter Meetings for once, but in the long term, it’s probably the right move.

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