DENVER -- It's not clear how the Rockies will improve the top of their pitching rotation, but there's nothing wrong with looking at possible free-agent targets.
The Rockies haven't paid top dollar since the signings of Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle, for a total of $172.5 million before the 2001 season, went sour. Also, pitchers who believe they can hit the contract jackpot now and another time after this contract rarely choose Coors Field as a home.
But this is not a list of the top-ranked free agents this year or the most-accomplished ones over their career. This is strictly a look at the pitchers who just might perform well at Coors Field, where the Rocky Mountain atmosphere has left even the best pitchers puzzled.
So lefty David Price (0-2, 5.93 ERA, four homers in 13 2/3 innings) and John Lackey (9.18 ERA in four starts, 15.1 hits per nine innings despite 17 strikeouts per nine) occupy the same category as Jeremy Guthrie and Kyle Kendrick, who struggled mightily in Purple Pinstripes. The Rockies could always take a shot at a past-his-prime talent like Tim Lincecum (6-4, 4.52 in 14 starts), but that type of signing (Roy Oswalt, anyone?) hasn't worked.
So here are some starters in their prime who could be candidates to conquer Coors:
1. Johnny Cueto
You might as well dream big. Cueto's 3-1 record and 2.61 ERA in five starts at Coors Field includes his final appearance for the Reds on July 25. Knowing he had been dealt to the eventual World Series champion Royals, Cueto struck out five in eight scoreless innings.
2. Ian Kennedy
Kennedy has a 1.18 WHIP in a healthy 10 starts at 20th & Blake, and he has held a generally potent lineup to a .230 batting average. Plus he has yielded just seven home runs in 62 2/3 innings. Kennedy has succeeded despite the ball being in the air (0.66 ground-ball ratio) but he has forced four double-play grounders. Kennedy started 2015 late because of a left hamstring injury, but has exceeded 200 innings three times and reached 180 innings two other times.
3. Mat Latos
Latos has won -- 3-1, 3.49 ERA in six starts -- and stayed in the strike zone to the tune of 3.18 strikeouts for each walk in Denver.
4. Jordan Zimmermann
Zimmermann has worked at Coors Field plenty -- 3-0, 4.23 ERA in five starts -- and has 24 strikeouts against 10 walks in 27 2/3 innings. Plus, he has thrown 195 or more innings each of the last four years.
5. Doug Fister
After a downturn in 2015 due mainly to a lat strain, could the Rockies make an attractive offer? There's not much to go on -- 5 2/3 innings, nine hits and two runs in a win at Coors on July 21, 2014. But could the Rockies sell Coors as a good place for a comeback?
6. Dillon Gee
Gee's name came up in trade talks with the Mets last year, but the Rockies lost interest after signing Kendrick. Gee is not considered a top-of-the-rotation stalwart, but in three starts at Coors, he is 2-1 with a 4.08 ERA.