It was a magical time for the Colorado Rockies at the 2017 MLB Winter Meetings. Okay, maybe that’s overstating things. But compared to pre-2016 Winter Meetings, where the Rockies only seemed to be active in the Rule 5 Draft, having the Rockies do anything on the free agent market in mid-December is a welcome change.
Last year the Rockies made arguably the biggest splash at the Winter Meetings by signing Ian Desmond to a five year, $70 million contract—to play first base. The Rockies had the industry abuzz, but not for the best of reasons. This year general manager Jeff Bridich came in with a definite to-do list: bolster the bullpen and add power at one of the corners.
It was clear early on that securing a Proven Closer (TM) was part of that plan to bolster the bullpen. The Rockies had been linked with their former closer Greg Holland multiple times, but reports emerged that they were also pursuing former Cubs closer Wade Davis. Then news surfaced that they were in the market for Rays closer Alex Colomé. The Rockies were firmly involved in the predicted “run on relievers.”
While there was plenty of smoke (right up to the end) around potentially signing Holland, the two sides left Orlando without a deal in place. The Rockies didn’t leave the Magic Kingdom empty-handed, though: They were able to lock up righty reliever Bryan Shaw for three years on Tuesday and $27 million, and then brought back lefty reliever Jake McGee on a reportedly similar deal on Wednesday. Bridich checked off at least part of his to-do list, but it seemed the Rockies still wanted to bag one of those big name closers.
Davis and Holland represent the two biggest names on the reliever market, prompting fears that the Rockies might have eyes bigger than their stomachs. However justifiably nervous one might be when considering handing out big contracts to relief pitchers, the Rockies are in the middle of their first contention window in over half a decade. With around $50 million to spend on free agents coming into the offseason, paying a bit of premium for some certainty at the back end of the bullpen is not the worst way to allocate funds.
That is, of course, assuming they are able to add a bat to the mix. The Rockies were linked early in the week with free agent first baseman Logan Morrison, but that rumor quickly evaporated in favor of two others: Carlos Santana and Mark Reynolds. Like the Holland/Davis rumors, nothing really came of those but the door doesn’t seem to be closed on them yet either.
The team was bad on offense in 2017. While it’s theoretically possible that two of Ian Desmond, David Dahl, and Trevor Story could experience resurgences in 2018, it seems like it would be playing with fire to count on them to do so. We’ve been beating the drum for Santana for a while now; his combination of patience, power, and affordability would make him a valuable addition to the lineup. Meanwhile, Reynolds’ second half raises more red flags than a Soviet-era military rally; signing him to be anything more than a backup first baseman/bench bat would be the opposite of smooth.
In the end, the 2017 Winter Meetings were a mix of reasonable signings and exciting rumors. For Rockies fans, that’s a strange and new experience. The Rockies currently have a full 40-man roster, but they also have roughly $25 million left to spend. Considering that and Bridich’s unfinished to-do list, the Rockies’ offseason is surely just getting started.