Bridich will­ing to spend for Rock­ies to con­tend

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Pa­trick Saun­ders

na­tional har­bor, md.» De­spite six con­sec­u­tive los­ing sea­sons, Rock­ies fans have kept the faith. At­ten­dance at Coors Field last sea­son av­er­aged 32,129 per game — 2.6 mil­lion to­tal — to rank 11th in the ma­jors.

Now, per­haps, fans will be re­warded with in­creased off­sea­son in­vest­ment and team build­ing.

When the Rock­ies hired Bud Black as their new man­ager last month, owner Dick Mon­fort said: “Our pay­roll will be higher this year. It will be a record this year.”

At the win­ter meet­ings here this week, gen­eral man­ager Jeff Bridich told the MLB Net­work, “Maybe (a higher pay­roll) makes us be a lit­tle more ag­gres­sive and maybe a lit­tle bit more op­por­tunis­tic than we’ve typ­i­cally been used to over the past four, five or six years.

“It’s a lot of fun. I think it’s good for us … in some ways to be un­com­fort­able and do some things dif­fer­ently that we have done in the past.”

Words are cheap, of course, but there is ev­i­dence the Rock­ies are ready to make a big move. Bridich, for ex­am­ple, has not taken the Rock­ies out of the mix for high-priced, free-agent first base­man Mark Trumbo, de­spite a re­ported price tag in the four-year, $80 mil­lion range.

Ac­cord­ing to Bridich, he and Mon­fort are work­ing on the Rock­ies’ blueprint to­gether.

“We are to­tally in lock­step on all of this. Dick and I com­mu­ni­cate ev­ery sin­gle day, lit­er­ally,” Bridich said, then

added: “We are not just talk­ing about … our pay­roll grow­ing be­cause we are plan­ning on turn­ing around and do­ing the ex­act op­po­site. We are talk­ing about that be­cause we be­lieve that will hap­pen, and we are ex­pect­ing it to hap­pen over the next few years.”

The Rock­ies fin­ished the 2016 sea­son with a pay­roll of about $120.5 mil­lion, which ranked 19th in the ma­jors, ac­cord­ing to Spo­ With the Rock­ies be­liev­ing they are on the verge of con­tention, those num­bers should im­prove.

The Rock­ies, how­ever, al­ready have some ma­jor salaries on the books. Their high­est-paid player in 2017 will be New York Mets short­stop Jose Reyes, who was part of the 2015 Troy Tu­low­itzki trade and is still owed $22 mil­lion by Colorado. Cur­rently, the Rock­ies have ear­marked about $75 mil­lion, in­clud­ing $20 mil­lion for right fielder Car­los Gon­za­lez, as well as the money owed Reyes. Ad­di­tion­ally, third base­man Nolan Are­nado, cen­ter fielder Char­lie Black­mon and start­ing pitcher Tyler Chat­wood all are sched­uled to get ma­jor raises through ar­bi­tra­tion.

Bridich’s chief projects now are ac­quir­ing a power- hit­ting first base­man and shoring up a bullpen that had an MLB-worst 5.13 ERA last sea­son. To the for­mer end, the club has had talks with rep­re­sen­ta­tives for Trumbo, as well as free agent Ed­win En­car­na­cion. Also, Bridich con­firmed the Rock­ies have had “very pre­lim­i­nary” talks about mak­ing a deal with the Chicago White Sox for slug­ger Jose Abreu.

Should the Rock­ies ac­tu­ally sign ei­ther Trumbo or En­car­na­cion, they would lose a first-round, No. 11 over­all draft pick next sum­mer be­cause both play­ers re­ceived qual­i­fy­ing of­fers from their for­mer teams. En­car­na­cion’s ask­ing price is prob­a­bly higher than Trumbo’s. He turned down Toronto’s four-year, $80 mil­lion of­fer and, ac­cord­ing to mul­ti­ple me­dia re­ports, wants a five-year con­tract.

Bridich has also ac­knowl­edged in­ter­est in less costly free-agent first base­men, in­clud­ing Chris Carter, Mitch More­land and Mike Napoli. Colorado re­mains in touch with Mark Reynolds, who bat­ted .282 and hit 14 homers for the Rock­ies last sea­son.

Both Bridich and Black have said that Colorado’s closer could al­ready be in­house, with right-han­der Adam Ot­tavino as the fron­trun­ner, but ac­quir­ing a re­liever who would “play a sig­nif­i­cant role” is high on Colorado’s wish list.

“Are we in­ter­ested in guys who can help us man the eighth and ninth in­nings, and make us bet­ter in those in­nings? Ab­so­lutely,” Bridich said.

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