The Rockies appear to be on of the MLB teams that is stuck in the middle. Despite a hot start to 2013, they wound up winning just 78 games. With a core of Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler, the team has youth and talent, but the results just aren't there. With some savvy moves they could work their way into Wild Card contention, but there is just as much of an argument that could be made for the Rockies to break up their core and start fresh. What will they do?
As has been the case since the inception of the franchise, the Rockies could really use some starting pitching, but their need isn't nearly as pronounced now as it has been in previous years. They actually have a pretty nice core in place with Jorge De la Rosa leading the staff and the emergence of Jhoulys Chacin and Tyler Chatwood as quality rotation members. Adding a more reliable veteran to the back of the rotation would be nice, but the Rockies have largely punted on signing free agent starters due to the complications of pitching at altitude and, more importantly, convincing someone to willing come pitch at altitude.
Where the Rockies are likely to expend some effort on the free agent and trade market is on their bullpen. While Rex Brothers has stepped up to become viable closer, the overall bullpen depth took a major blow when Rafael Betancourt went down for Tommy John surgery that could very well end his career. Considering that the Rockies used their bullpen more than any other team in the National League last season, restocking the relief corps should be a chief concern for them.
Let's not bury the lede too much here though. The real big issue in Colorado is that for the first time in 17 years, they have an opening at first base. That could turn into an opening in right field if the Rox opt to shift Michael Cuddyer to first (which they should), but the point is that they now have golden opportunity to slot another big bat into their lineup. And thanks to Helton and his giant contract retiring, they actually have the money to fill that hole with.
It appears the Rockies are going to be some kind of players when it comes to adding a power bat to the lineup. According to reports, the Rockies made a serious run at adding Cuban slugger Jose Dariel Abreu suggesting that they have the ability to give a contract that might creep over $10 million in average annual value. While they lost out on Abreu, they should be in play with similar players like Kendrys Morales, Mike Napoli and Nelson Cruz. Giving up a draft pick might scare them off from those candidates if their salary demands don't, so it would be of little surprise if Colorado winds up with a lower tier option like David Murphy, Justin Morneau, Corey Hart or Mike Morse.
There is also some thought that the Rockies could instead focus on finding two-way catcher and either trade Wilin Rosario or move him to a different defensive position. They won't have the money to be in the Brian McCann conversation, but making a run at Carlos Ruiz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia or A.J. Pierzynski is not at all out of the question and already rumors have started that Chooch is very much on their radar.
When it comes to pitching, the Rockies will probably just revert back to their annual plan of scooping up whatever veteran leftovers with reasonable groundball rates that are willing to sign cheap one-year contracts and then crossing their fingers that they rolled the dice on the right guys. Tim Hudson, Chris Capuano, Paul Maholm, Roberto Hernandez, Jake Westbrook and Edinson Volquez.
On the relief front, the Rockies have some help from within and got a good break when Matt Belisle picked up his end of the mutual option, but their GM Bill Geivett is on record as wanting to add a veteran with high leverage experience to round out the pen. They don't have the money to go after one of the high-priced closers, but they could be a good fit for Jose Veras on the high end or Chad Qualls or LaTroy Hawkins on the low end.
As mentioned above, Wilin Rosario could find himself on the trading block. The team likes his power, but his improved but still poor defense behind the plate and apparent allergy to drawing walks have raised real questions about his viability as a long-term solution at catcher. If the Rockies can sign a veteran replacement, they could look to shop Rosario to try and fill holes elsewhere.
One of the more intriguing trade possibilties for Colorado is speculation that they could part ways with center fielder Dexter Fowler. The theory being that the Rockies know they won't be able to afford to keep Fowler once he hits free agency after the 2015 season, so they would cash out on him now while his value is at a peak. For a team that appears to be at least trying to contend in the NL West, dealing your starting center fielder and leadoff hitter seems counter to that goal, but it might be worthwhile if they can fill multiple other needs in one fell swoop. After all, this Tulowitzki-Gonzalez-Fowler core hasn't taken them anywhere the last four years, so it might be time for a shake up.
If the Rockies are looking at a power bat to plug in at first base, Mark Trumbo would be an ideal player target and that is only partly because of the immense entertainment of seeing him the ball 600 feet at Coors Field. Alas, there probably isn't much of a trade match there since Colorado doesn't have the pitching prospects the Angels are seeking. What would be almost as fun and actually make more sense as it would allow Cuddyer to shift to first base would be prying Yoenis Cespedes away from Oakland. If they are looking for a move a little less ambitious, the Rockies could explore a move to scoop up Ike Davis or Lucas Duda from the Mets.