WHO’S ON FIRST? W free-agent

One of the Rock­ies’ o≠sea­son goals is to fill the hole. A look at pos­si­ble can­di­dates:

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Pa­trick Saun­ders

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.

Den­ver Post, Getty Images and As­so­ci­ated Press file pho­tos

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

Mitch More­land

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.

Mark Reynolds

He sur­prised the Rock­ies with his stel­lar de­fense and .282 bat­ting av­er­age last sea­son, so he could be a cheap one-year al­ter­na­tive.

Mark Trumbo

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.

Chris Carter

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.

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