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Manager Bud Black says young Rockies no longer “in awe”

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Rockies news and links for January 20, 2018

Bud Black says young, improving Rockies ‘aren’t in awe’ of the majors anymore | Mile High Sports
Rockies Manager Bud Black recently expressed his confidence in a young roster taking steps forward in the 2018 season. For young pitchers Germán Márquez, Antonio Senzatela, Kyle Freeland, and Jeff Hoffman, Black notes that they are no longer “in awe of big-league hotels, flights…Now, they can concentrate on getting better and improving.” Not only is big league experience necessary for the former rookies, but Black also notes more established players like Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, and DJ LeMahieu gained valuable postseason experience, even with just the one National League Wild Card Game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2017.

Black expresses his belief that the Rockies will keep moving forward in 2018, and is happy with new additions Wade Davis, Chris Iannetta, and Bryan Shaw, saying that he expects they will be able to enhance the clubhouse leadership aspect of the roster as well. By all accounts, Rockies fans have a lot to look forward to heading into the upcoming season.

Possibilities abound for Rockies’ McMahon | Rockies.com
One of the Rockies’ top prospects, Ryan McMahon, was a key member of the team that gained valuable experience at the major-league level in 2017. And while he didn’t get into the game, McMahon was also able to make the Wild Card Game roster. MLB Pipeline recently released their rankings of the game’s top first base prospects, and McMahon came in second on the list, just behind Brendan McKay of the Tampa Bay Rays. At Rockies.com, Thomas Harding has quotes from McMahon about maintaining his defensive versatility and his high hopes for succeeding at the MLB level in 2018.

Rockies’ versatile Pat Valaika ready to play any position, including first base | The Denver Post
Utility player Pat Valaika received 195 plate appearances in 2017, by far his most extensive look in the majors to date. Valaika slashed .258/.284/.533, coming up big in key pinch-hit situations in which he hit .328. The slugging percentage and a .275 isolated power percentage (which ranked 16th in MLB among hitters with at least 130 PAs) indicate that Valaika certainly possesses some pop, but the on-base percentage and 3.6% walk rate show that he is lacking the necessary on-base ability for a full-time player. Defensively, Valaika played all four infield positions, in addition to left field in 2017. While it is hard to gather much about his defensive ability at any one position, UZR/150 felt he was more than capable of handling first base, second base, and shortstop, while rating him more roughly at third and in left.

Valaika specifically spoke to reporters about playing first base, and noted that he is making sure to keep up with his ability to play any position, including first. Valaika only made one start at first in 2017 and played 11 innings there altogether. Valaika should be able to handle first base just fine. The position is one that Rockies fans have inquired about much this offseason, with McMahon seemingly the current favorite to spend much of the time there in 2018.

Ian Desmond was initially signed to be the team’s first baseman and will likely see at the very least a few starts at the position during the upcoming season. On the free agent market, Eric Hosmer, Logan Morrison, Mark Reynolds, and Danny Valencia remain. The first two profile as regular first basemen (and much costlier options) and the latter as potential platoon partners with McMahon. If the Rockies don’t seek out an additional bat to play first base, the right-handed Valaika could very well see increased playing time at first to complement the lefty-swinging McMahon.

The Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders compiles quotes from Valaika about his preparation for the upcoming season, plus features a mini-story about starters Freeland and Jon Gray expressing their elation over the offseason bullpen additions.

Freeland celebrates his Holm-town success | Rockies.com
The Rockies Caravan moved into Denver, and Freeland, Gray, Valaika, and yes, Dinger too, visited Holm Elementary School, notable as being the old stomping grounds of Denver’s own Freeland. MLB.com’s Thomas Harding has a nice story about Freeland’s youth with quotes from his parents and former educators. They were all excited to see Freeland return, and Freeland was excited to meet with his former teachers and today’s youth, and to reflect on his experiences from his “Holm-town.”

Colorado Rockies: A possible trade for Christian Yelich? | Rox Pile
The latest reports suggest that the Miami Marlins are taking offers for Christian Yelich, but are not promising him a trade. Yelich, of course, has expressed a desire to be traded in no uncertain terms. As the Rockies look to build on a year in which they made the postseason despite finishing 27th in the league in wRC+, Yelich (who would have ranked 3rd on the 2017 Rockies in wRC+, behind Blackmon and Arenado) would no doubt provide a boost for the offense.

Rox Pile’s Olivia Greene explores what a possible trade for Yelich might look like, suggesting first and foremost that Desmond be part of the deal. Desmond seems the most likely candidate among Rockies outfielders to be included in a Yelich deal, but we have no indication that Miami would be interested in taking on the remaining four years and $62 million remaining on Desmond’s contract.

Of course, much more than just Desmond would be required to pry Yelich away from the Fish. The Marlins reportedly asked for Ronald Acuna from the Atlanta Braves in their conversations about a potential deal, a prospect with whom the Braves understandably were not comfortable parting with. While the Marlins seemed to get limited returns in their trades for Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna, the initial request for Acuna suggests that is not the case in conversations regarding Yelich. It would likely take the inclusion of 1. Brendan Rodgers, 2. One of Ryan Castellani, Yency Almonte, or Peter Lambert, and maybe even 3. One of Sam Howard, Garrett Hampson, or Daniel Montano to get this done. I wouldn’t be comfortable doing that, and I don’t think the Rockies front office seems to be either.

If the Rockies could pull off something like a Desmond (and/or Gerardo Parra)/Hoffman/Howard/Tommy Doyle package, I would get on board. I think this is close enough to the Stanton return for it to warrant discussion, but I don’t think we can count the Marlins accepting this, especially considering the ask of Acuna from Atlanta.

BSN Rockies Podcast: Free Agent Wars: The Last JD | BSN Rockies
The latest BSN Rockies podcast features a host of Q+A’s with Drew Creasman. Creasman mentions that he expects a good year from Chad Bettis in 2018, explores possibilities as to why the free agent marking is moving so slowly, and predicts how many home runs Carlos Gonzalez will hit for the [Insert Team Name Here] in 2018.

Around Baseball

Free-agent slugger CarGo ever the optimist | Rockies.com
Gonzalez does remain unsigned, and he mentions himself that he thinks the market for JD Martinez is playing a large role in that fact. We know that the Rockies have remained in contact with CarGo, and that the Diamondbacks, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, Houston Astros, and Kansas City Royals have expressed interest. I had previously thought that Gonzalez would land with Toronto, but their recent deal with Curtis Granderson may preclude such a deal from coming to fruition.

I think I had an existential crisis in the middle of writing this. I… think I want the Rockies to re-sign CarGo. During the 2017 season and this offseason, I had been advocating that it would be best for both sides to go their separate ways. But, I mean, he’s CarGo. He and this organization have been through a lot together. There’s been so much discussion about the Rockies going after offensive upgrades and the offseason has been so slow. And a .262/.339/.423 slash isn’t that bad, and he’s bound to be better next season. It almost seems right at this point.

Diamondbacks OF Yasmany Tomas arrested for reckless driving and criminal speeding | AZ Snake Pit
After a quiet offseason, the Diamondbacks finally found themselves in the news this week. Unfortunately, it is not the kind of news they want to be hearing. Outfielder Yasmany Tomas, coming off an injury-plagued 2017 season, was arrested for reckless driving and criminal speeding on Thursday morning. Tomas was clocked at 105 mph in a 65-mph zone on Arizona State Route 101.