Rockies aggressive, but won't force issue
Seeking infielders, starters, club has fiscal responsibility in mind
DENVER -- Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd sees his work at this week's MLB General Managers Meetings in Milwaukee as trading ideas, not necessarily trading players.The Rockies are seeking an everyday second baseman and a couple of pitchers for the starting rotation. Other teams are looking at Rockies reliever Huston Street and outfielder Seth Smith in possible deals, and the Rockies are known to have interest in a host of pitchers and infielders. Several trade possibilities have become public -- most notably talks with the Blue Jays, who are weighing their options for a bullpen closer, and the Braves, who have a potential second baseman the Rockies like in Martin Prado. They also continue to kick the tires with the Padres on second baseman Orlando Hudson, a former Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner. But O'Dowd, while not commenting on specific talks, said Wednesday there is more smoke than fire.
"Everyone is in a fact-finding mode, to see what's out there as they shape their team and what they want to do with it, but it's too early to tell yet," O'Dowd said. "To tell you the truth, it's the same song and dance that we have at this time of year."It could be different for the Rockies, who normally make under-the-radar signings and deals. They've been linked to a couple of big-name free agents coming off injuries in pitcher Roy Oswalt and outfielder Grady Sizemore. They also are more aggressive going after second-base candidates. They pursued Jamey Carroll, who signed with the Twins as a shortstop, and Mark Ellis, who accepted an offer from the Dodgers this week.
"We value each player for what he's worth to our organization, and it looks like both guys were just valued differently by their new clubs than they were by us," said O'Dowd of Carroll and Ellis. "When that happens, we're willing to move on. So we moved on."
The Rockies also spoke to their one-time second baseman, Clint Barmes, on Wednesday, and made overtures toward Rafael Furcal before declining to pursue him.Expect the Rockies to continue to see what it will take to pry away a young starter, such as the Marlins' Anibal Sanchez or Ricky Nolasco, or the Rays' Wade Davis or Jeff Niemann. But with any of their targets, the Rockies' aggressiveness will be tinged with fiscal responsibility. "It just depends on who they are," O'Dowd said. "We're pursuing players, but with where we're at, we're not just going to add players to be adding them. It's like the second basemen we're going after. We have an idea of what we feel they are worth, and if the other side feels they're worth something different, we're just going to move on." O'Dowd said if the Rockies don't find a starter at second, he could envision a combination of Jonathan Herrera and Chris Nelson, both of whom saw extensive action at times last season. Also, O'Dowd considers Eric Young Jr., who became a full-time outfielder late last season but is playing second in Venezuela this winter, a candidate. But their willingness to explore free agency and trades is a clear message that the internal candidates are fallback positions. The Rockies' best pitcher, left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, is recovering from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow and will miss much of the first half of the year. Although righty Juan Nicasio is making a fast recovery from a vertebrae fracture he suffered last season -- he recently threw a 25-pitch bullpen session in the Dominican Republic in front of head athletic trainer Keith Dugger and could be ready for Spring Training -- and there is young starting pitching talent, finding a couple of starters is a priority. The Rockies have reached out to Kevin Millwood, who finished last season with the club, Jeff Francis, the Rockies' No. 1 pitcher during their National League championship year of 2007, and Paul Maholm as part of a wide search for depth.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. Ken Gurnick, a reporter for MLB.com, contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.