DENVER -- The Rockies' quest for starting pitching could cost them a corner outfielder -- either established star Carlos Gonzalez or potential star Corey Dickerson -- in a trade. Parting with either would be difficult, but less costly than free agency.
The price the Rockies pay (in either players or money), and -- more importantly -- what exactly the Rockies decide to do could be determined during the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn.
MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2015 Winter Meetings from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, with the Network launching 35 hours of live Winter Meetings coverage on Sunday at 6 p.m. MT. Fans can also catch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, as well as the announcement of the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration Era Committee inductees on Monday at 9 a.m. MT and the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 8 a.m. MT.
Free-agent righties Ian Kennedy, Doug Fister and Mike Leake have been mentioned as possibilities, but indications are that the Rockies are looking at trade possibilities. Pitchers such as White Sox lefties Jose Quintana and Indians righty Carlos Carrasco -- each of whom have solid overall numbers despite so-so win-loss records and high marks from scouts -- or Braves righty Shelby Miller could emerge as targets.
Expect the Rockies to also look for creative deals to increase their bullpen depth.
A flirtation this week with the Mariners and first baseman Mark Trumbo, who was subsequently dealt to the Orioles, showed that general manager Jeff Bridich is serious about listening to any proposal to improve the club. The Rockies had no qualms about going forward with Ben Paulsen at first base, but they listened anyhow.
The only unrealistic scenarios would involve dealing third baseman Nolan Arenado, the face of the franchise and one of the game's top stars.
Club needs: The Rockies need front-line starting pitching in the worst way, but they are in line with just about everyone else. Without acquiring a rotation leader, the Rockies will be seen as a rebuilding team, but one with hopes of arriving early. A surprise season for the club in 2016 would rest on lefty Jorge De La Rosa staying consistent (and shaking nagging injuries), righty Chad Bettis continuing the forward steps he made in '15, and righties Tyler Chatwood and Jordan Lyles realizing their potential after both dealing with two years of injury-related absence.
The Rockies have high hopes for the aforementioned pitchers and a group of hopefuls led by 2013 top pick Jon Gray and righty Jeff Hoffman, a '14 top pick who came from the Blue Jays as part of the Troy Tulowitzki deal. But adding a proven starter would take the Rockies out of the realm of hope and into more realistic aspirations for contention.
The Rockies spent last year trading (for Jairo Diaz and Miguel Castro), finding (Justin Miller) and developing (Scott Oberg) relief arms that showed promise at season's end, but upgrading that group is a priority. If somehow a rotation forms, a strong bullpen is a must for the Rockies to contend.
Offensive needs are difficult to gauge because it depends on what the Rockies give up to get the starter they need. The Rockies also must decide whether they're willing to part with any of their well-respected group of prospects. The Rockies could use a right-handed bat, either for the bench or for matchups against left-handers, but they operate under the philosophy that impact is more important than right-left roster balance.
Who they can trade, if necessary: Baseball personnel say whether a team covets Gonzalez or Dickerson really depends on the team's situation. The safe bet is that at least one of them is necessary to make a major deal for starting pitching. Any squad that thinks a change of scenery could help lefty Boone Logan rebound from two years of elbow injuries would be welcome by the Rockies. And as much as they want to hold onto pitchers they drafted and developed, the Rockies would have a decision to make if another organization believes it can unlock the potential within lefty Tyler Matzek or righty Eddie Butler, both of whom had forgettable 2015 seasons.
Top prospects: According to MLBPipeline.com, the Rockies have the No. 4 second baseman (Forrest Wall), the No. 3 shortstop (Brendan Rodgers), the No. 3 third baseman (Ryan McMahon) and the No. 6 righty (Gray). Add to that outfielders Raimel Tapia, freshly added to the 40-man Major League roster, and David Dahl and there is a bright future. But how much of that can be disturbed to help the rotation in the present?
Rule 5 Draft: The Rockies can continue to build their collection of young, power arms. They choose fourth, and those arms are plentiful. Righties Corey Black (Cubs), Zack Jones (Twins) and Alberto Tirado (Phillies), and lefties Onelki Garcia (White Sox), Reymin Guduan (Astros) and Sam Selman (Royals) fit the bill. The lack of depth from the left side could be addressed here.
Payroll summary: Adding the Rockies' commitment to seven signed players and the projected (by MLB Trade Rumors) cost of arbitration-eligible players Arenado, center fielder Charlie Blackmon, second baseman DJ LeMahieu and pitcher Adam Ottavino, they're at about $84.3 million. The Rockies began last season a tick above $97 million. The team doesn't announce its payroll budget, but there is no indication of a plan to increase it significantly.