WHO’S ON FIRST? W free-agent
One of the Rockies’ o≠season goals is to fill the hole. A look at possible candidates:
here have you gone, Todd Helton? Rockies Nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Could signing high-priced, slugger Mark Trumbo stop that yearning? How about Chris Carter? Should the Rockies bring back Mark Reynolds? Also, MLB.com reported late Monday night that the Rockies have engaged in preliminary trade talks with the Chicago White Sox about first baseman Jose Abreu. Wouldn’t that be huge?
Those are a lot of questions. But there is no question that the Rockies’ gigantic hole at first base, along with a questionable bullpen, impedes general manager Jeff Bridich’s vision to turn the Rockies into playoff contenders in 2017. As a unit last season, Colorado’s first basemen ranked 12th in the National League in on-base plus slugging percentage (.745) and tied for last in home runs (18).
Yes, Justin Morneau admirably filled Helton’s shoes in 2014, hitting .319 and winning the National League batting title. But despite Coors Field’s thin air, first base hasn’t been a power source for the Rockies since Helton mashed 32 home runs way back in 2004.
Monday, as baseball’s winter meetings
picked up steam here, Bridich was asked what he’s looking for in a first baseman.
“I’m looking for a Lou Gehrig type. You know of any out there?” he joked, then added he is being open-minded.
“Athleticism is important,” Bridich said. “Ideally, some versatility is important, if we can have that, but that’s not always the case when you are talking about a corner bat. We would want someone whose responsibility is to drive in runs and help generate or move along our offense on a consistent basis. There are a lot of ways to make that happen.
“Are we going to find a perfect player at first base? Probably not, but we are keeping an aggressive, open mind.”
Trumbo, the former Baltimore Orioles first baseman/right fielder who led the major leagues with 47 home runs last season, is the most tantalizing free-agent first baseman on Colorado’s radar. He would also be the most expensive. Reports Monday were that he’s seeking a four-year contract in the $75 million to $80 million range.
Plus, the team that signs Trumbo would also have to give up a firstround draft pick. That would seem to price the Rockies out of the market, but Bridich didn’t rule it out.
“I’m not surprised by that (money) and it’s not shocking for the type of player Mark is and the type of year he had,” Bridich said. “He’s certainly still part of our discussion process.”
Bridich said he’s proceeding with caution in looking at all options to sign a first baseman.
“It’s about what the general landscape of our team, our payroll and our organization look like in regard to a long-term deal,” he said. “And that’s a big decision. It’s not something we take lightly. But we are keeping an open mind to everything.”
Other first basemen would certainly come much cheaper than Trumbo. Carter, who tied the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado for the league lead in home runs with 41, is in limbo after having been designated for assignment by Milwaukee. Former Texas first baseman Mitch Moreland and Reynolds are also possible targets at a much cheaper price tag.
Reynolds, who last winter signed a one-year contract to play in Colorado, hit 14 home runs in 393 at-bats before getting hurt.
It wasn’t the power the Rockies expected, but Reynolds’ .282 average and .356 on-base percentage were career highs. He also played solid defense.
Regarding Reynolds, Bridich said, “Communication is still ongoing.”
As for the possibility that all-star right fielder Carlos Gonzalez would move to first base in 2017, new manager Bud Black ruled that out Monday. And corner outfielder Gerardo Parra, who filled in at first base last season, doesn’t appear to be a viable option as a full-time starter at first, either.
Black said Parra profiles as an outfielder who can occasionally be used at first base.
Jose Abreu The Rockies have long coveted the 29-year-old White Sox star, trying to sign him when he first defected from Cuba. Chicago would want big-time prospects for the former AL rookie of the year. The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder has hit 91 home runs in only three major-league seasons. Patrick Saunders, The Denver Post
The free agent hit .233 with 22 homers and 60 RBIs last season with Texas. Hits left-handed, but Rockies prefer a righthanded bat at first.
He surprised the Rockies with his stellar defense and .282 batting average last season, so he could be a cheap one-year alternative.
The free-agent slugger hit a major leaguehigh 47 home runs for Baltimore last season. However, his price tag is high: four years, $75 million to $80 million.
The free agent tied the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado for the NL lead with 41 homers, but he’s a suspect fielder and a poor overall hitter (.222) who strikes out a lot.