Baseball’s annual winter meetings open Monday at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. The location invites a bevy of cliches, so we’ll get those out of the way quickly.
Which team will roll the dice on high-priced free-agent outfielder Bryce Harper, or will his agent, Scott Boras, hold out until after the holidays to see if Harper can land baseball’s first 10-year, $350 million contract? Will the up-and-coming Phillies gamble $300 million to land infielder Manny Machado?
The Cardinals have already traded for star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, the Mariners shipped infielder Robinson Cano to the Mets, and it looks like the Indians are open to trading either Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer, depending on which starting pitcher draws the most chips. But what other big-time wheeling and dealing will take place? It should make for a very newsy four days.
Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich, as usual, is not showing his hand. In his first four winter meetings, Bridich showed no interest in making a big move simply for the sake of making a big move. Much to the consternation of Rockies hot stove fans, that philosophy remains intact and it’s quite possible the Rockies will leave Las Vegas without making a major trade or signing a high-profile free agent.
All we really know for sure is that Bridich says he wants to upgrade Colorado’s inconsistent offense. You can’t blame him. Colorado’s overall .256 batting average was the worst in franchise history, as was its .225 road average.
Following is a breakdown of where the Rockies stand entering the meetings.
— Money matters: The Rockies finished the 2018 season with a club record $143.9 million payroll (according to Spotrac). Entering the meetings, the club stands in the $88 million range, but it has a number of high-priced decisions to make. Star third baseman Nolan Arenado is entering his final year of arbitration and it appears he’ll break the arbitration record for a one-year deal, surpassing the $23 million made by Josh Donaldson in 2017. The Rockies also have six more arb-eligible players, including all-star shortstop Trevor Story, who could be in line for a $6 million salary. Bridich did not say if the Rockies will up the ante in 2019, but did say the club is following “a responsible growth” plan.
— Getting offensive: Before the 2017 season, the Rockies signed Ian Desmond to a five-year, $70 million deal, projecting him as a first baseman and utility player. Perhaps the Rockies will go athleticism and versatility again by signing a free agent such as Marwin Gonzalez or Josh Harrison.
Ideally, Colorado would like to land a power-hitting first baseman, thus freeing up Desmond for other outfield duty. First baseman Carlos Santana might be a fit, but he was just traded from Philadelphia to Seattle. Would the Mariners, currently in full rebuilding mode, turn around and trade Santana? It’s possible.
A dark-horse trade possibility could be Toronto outfielder Kevin Pillar, who’s athleticism and glove work would make him a good fit for Coors Field. He’s projected to make $5.3 million through arbitration and he showed some value at the plate last season, hitting 15 home runs, driving in 59 runs and slashing .252/.282/.426.
Free-agent A.J. Pollock, the former Diamondbacks outfielder who has tormented the Rockies for years, would be a decent fit, but he’s reportedly seeking a contract similar to the five-year, $80 million deal Lorenzo Cain signed with Milwaukee last winter. That’s probably too rich for the Rockies.
— Trade hurdles: As Bridich loves to say, “it takes two to tango,” so trades are impossible to predict. Plenty of teams covet the Rockies’ young talent, particularly top infield prospect Brendan Rodgers and front-of-the-rotation starters Kyle Freeland and German Marquez. Teams have inquired about inconsistent Jon Gray, too. Bridich has said that no one is “untouchable,” but the Rockies would have to be blown away to give up their core young pitchers.
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