Rox shopping for specifics at Winter Meetings
GM O'Dowd will look to fill a set list of roster needs
DENVER -- The Rockies' expected signing of left-hander Jorge De La Rosa to a new two-year deal with an option for a third should take some of the suspense away from the Winter Meetings. But general manager Dan O'Dowd will still have a shopping list when he lands in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., next week.
The Rockies' priorities will be:
Finding a versatile right-handed bat -- a younger, more versatile version of Melvin Mora, who held the job in 2010.
Establishing a catcher to complement Chris Iannetta, who O'Dowd said will finally have a chance to grasp the starting role.
Adding a proven reliever to the bullpen -- and it doesn't matter if he's right- or left-handed.
None of those tasks figure to put the Rockies in the major headlines at the gathering of baseball executives and agents. That isn't a surprise, since the Rockies have not given any indication that they're going to stray from their usual policy of building with young players, usually those groomed through their organization.
In this case, it means they will exercise patience.
In many instances last season, the Rockies were overly dependent on the heart of their batting order: No. 3 hitter Carlos Gonzalez, who led the league in batting; and No. 4 hitter Troy Tulowitzki, who had a career year, even though he missed six weeks with a fractured left wrist. More production ahead of or behind them would answer a lot of questions.
But the Rockies are not expected to look outside for those answers.
"I'll continue to say the best way for us, is to see the guys who took a step back this past year to take a step forward next year," O'Dowd said. "We will look to complement them with guys who improve the overall depth of our roster or step in if a few of them continue to struggle."
That means unless a deal the Rockies can't pass up comes their way, the club will replace second baseman Clint Barmes -- dealt to the Astros for righty reliever Felipe Paulino -- with some combination Eric Young Jr., Jonathan Herrera and Chris Nelson. Those were the players who stepped in when Barmes slumped offensively late in the '10 season.
It also means left-handed hitters Todd Helton, who struggled through back and leg pain as well as poor swing mechanics, Ian Stewart and Seth Smith will be called upon to provide the production and power that was lacking last season.
And, O'Dowd said, it clarifies the Rockies' plans at catcher.
Iannetta signed a three-year, $8.35 million contract last winter, but found himself in the Minors a month into the season when he started slowly and Miguel Olivo took advantage of his shot at playing time. This time, the Rockies are looking for a backup backstop, and they're going to give Iannetta the best shot at consistent playing time in his career.
Iannetta will have to act upon it, but it'll be a two-way street: The Rockies will be in no position to pull the plug on him if he struggles for a limited number of at-bats over a short period of time.
"We have to give him the opportunity to get over the hump," O'Dowd said. "It's something we have yet to do with him, as we have with some of our other young players."
If the agreement with De La Rosa is completed as expected, it means the Rockies are less likely to add excitement to the Winter Meetings by trading for pitching. The White Sox's Gavin Floyd and the Rays' James Shields were reported to be potential trade targets.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.