The Colorado Rockies need to improve their offense this offseason. First base continues to be an obvious place for the Rockies to upgrade, even with a preferred option off the board now that Carlos Santana signed with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Let’s take a look at the Rockies’ options.
Internal option – let Ian Desmond take over
Due to the team’s interest in Santana and other first baseman, we are generally inclined to think that the Rockies realize Desmond is a better fit in the outfield for now. He didn’t hit for enough power last season (.274/.326/.375 with seven home runs), and his athleticism seems like a better fit in the outfield. It seems like it makes more sense to mix and match Desmond with other guys in the corners of the outfield while seeking a thumper at first base.
Maybe a number of us on the outside think that makes sense, but we would be wise to remember that Desmond was signed to be a first baseman. The team might look to add offense in the outfield, such as their rumored interest in Jay Bruce, and then try to have Desmond settle in at first base.
The Rockies might also look to have Desmond play first and the outfield, and that’s where our next option comes in.
Internal option – give Ryan McMahon a chance
All eyes will be on McMahon and outfielder David Dahl to provide offensive bursts from within the organization this year. A third base prospect at one point, McMahon has focused on second and first base as he has worked up through the minor leagues.
The lefty torched Triple-A in 2017 to the tune of .374/.411/.612. That earned him a promotion to the big leagues that yielded minimal at-bats: McMahon posted a .158 average in just 24 plate appearances with the Rockies.
There’s certainly a chance that McMahon is ready to take over at first. If he’s not ready to win the full-time job, which will be a lot to ask of a 23-year-old rookie, he might at least be ready to share the job with Desmond or another right-handed batter. If the Rockies want to go the latter route, that might explain their interest in a familiar face this offseason.
External option – bring back Mark Reynolds
The Sheriff of Swattingham almost feels like he should be called an internal option even though he is technically a free agent. Cumulatively he was solid in 2017, slashing .258/.338/.451 with 22 home runs. But those of us who watched the Rockies all year know that doesn’t tell the whole story, and Reynolds’s second-half swoon coincided with a bad stretch of Rockies’ offense that nearly cost them the playoffs.
Whether or not it would be a good idea to bring back Reynolds would depend on what his role would be. As a bench bat and the short side of a platoon with McMahon? That actually sounds kind of great, especially if you believe in McMahon. As a guy “competing for the job” with Desmond who ends up being the starter? That simply won’t be good enough.
External option – Logan Morrison and other cheap guys
Between Desmond and McMahon, the Rockies can talk themselves into having both a good right-handed and left-handed option. They can therefore look to less expensive, more specialized external options to help piece things together. That might be how Reynolds would fit and it likely explains the team’s reported interest in Morrison.
Lucas Duda and Adam Lind would be a couple other left-handed options. Mike Napoli might be an option for a right-handed bat. At the right price on a short-term deal, it would probably be hard to go wrong with this type of signing, but it’s arguably unnecessary if the team doesn’t see a clear upgrade over the guys they already have. That might mean that the Rockies need to go bigger to make an external option worth it.
External option – try to win the bidding war for Eric Hosmer
The Phillies might have thrown a wrench into the first base market with their three-year, $60 million deal with Santana. That is a higher annual average value than most people expected. If Hosmer was already in line for a big payday in free agency (MLB Trade Rumors projects six years and $132 million), his price might have just gone up even more.
We know the cases that will be made for Hosmer: he is just 28 years old, he proved that he is a winner and a leader in his time with the Kansas City Royals, he is regarded as a good defender, and he’s coming off a season in which he improved his power numbers with 25 home runs and a 132 OPS+ in 2017. Even if some of those points hold more water than others, they will add heat to the market for Hosmer and have the Rockies competing against big spenders like the Boston Red Sox if they pursue him.
The price itself would arguably be enough to say the Rockies should stay away from Hosmer, but he also doesn’t profile well as a hitter for them (think Desmond, but left-handed and he yells from the dugout more). With Santana gone, that means the Rockies don’t have an obvious option if they want to make a splash to solve their first base situation. But let’s not forget a rumor from last winter that could still be on the table.
External option – try to trade for José Abreu
The rumors around Abreu this winter are quieter than this time last year, when it seemed like the Rockies might actually be able to trade for the slugger. The Red Sox are the only team with a trade interest in Abreu that seemed to gain traction. Those talks reportedly fizzled because of how much the White Sox value Abreu as a clubhouse presence in addition to his outstanding play on the field.
Abreu was outstanding again in 2017, slashing .304/.354/.552 with 33 home runs and a 140 OPS+. That would also seem to drive up his price. The Rockies would have to pay big if the White Sox were willing to listen, meaning it would cost multiple prospects you’ve heard of to land Abreu.
Trying to trade for Abreu would be a “win now” move a step above paying big for the bullpen as the team has done so far this winter. Trades will be a key factor as the Rockies weigh the risks of different moves and balance the need to win now and build for future years. A deal for Abreu would push the line of how much the Rockies are willing to give up.
What should the Rockies do?
They should avoid Hosmer. They should make sure they’re getting a bargain if they sign a free agent from the Morrison/Duda/Napoli tier. They should exhaust trade talks for Abreu if the White Sox are willing to listen to offers.
What will the Rockies do?
My prediction is that they will probably end up with a combination of McMahon, Desmond, and Reynolds (with some Gerardo Parra sprinkled in for fun!) with a lot of pressure on the kid to upgrade overall production at a key spot.
What do you think? What is your best-case scenario for first base, and what do you think the team will actually end up doing?
Which first base option will the Rockies choose in 2018?
This poll is closed
Logan Morrison (or other cheap guy)