Rockies continue to field inquiries on OFs

Rockies continue to field inquiries on OFs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Wednesday's spike in reports and rumors involving the Rockies possibly trading star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez -- for frontline starting pitching -- just might be all talk, for now. And that's OK with the Rockies, since the talks could produce a deal, even if it occurs after the Winter Meetings.

Wednesday started with ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick tweeting about a "flurry" of talks and CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman linking the Orioles to a Gonzalez pursuit. Many of the reports and tweets reiterated that several teams are inquiring about Gonzalez, who is owed $37 million over the next two years, as well as affordable outfielders Corey Dickerson (whose contract is under club control the next four seasons) and Charlie Blackmon (who has three years of club control).

But no rumor had specific information, and the fact Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich planned to leave Nashville early Thursday -- before the 8 a.m. MT Rule 5 Draft that officially concludes the Meetings -- made it more likely that any dealing would occur after all MLB team representatives were gone from Nashville.

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Barring the Rockies and another team saying the magic words, it's possible this Nashville shopping trip will end with the Rockies bringing back relief pitchers Jason Motte and Chad Qualls, each of whom completed free-agent signings Tuesday.

"This is one very condensed, crazy week in a long offseason," Bridich said during his daily media briefing. "This is just part of our offseason. Hopefully there are still things we're looking into, trying to do, and there certainly are teams that are checking in on our players and asking questions of us. If that results in something else, other than what we've already done here in Tennessee, then great."

Rockies add Motte, Qualls

The trade possibilities for Gonzalez, as well as Dickerson and Blackmon, exist in an orbit that involves a strong group of free-agent outfielders that includes Jason Heyward, Alex Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes. Teams must decide whether to commit to lengthy free-agent contracts, go the expensive but shorter route of trading for Gonzalez, or going with the belief that Dickerson or Blackmon can be stars at a fraction of the salary.

Various sources link Gonzalez to the Orioles, Angels, Cubs, Cardinals and Giants -- all of whom are players in big-money free agency. In a twist on the theme that the free-agent pursuit is connected to trade talks, some of the Orioles-related speculation mentioned the team also trying to retain free-agent first baseman Chris Davis, with reports saying he could make in the range of $150 million over seven years. The theory is the Orioles could look at other options, including Gonzalez, if Davis leaves. Bridich said the Davis situation has not been mentioned in the Rockies' talks with the Orioles.

Multiple Major League sources said the Rockies are sticking to their high asking price -- known to include but not be limited to a front-of-the-rotation pitcher in talent or accomplishment, or both. The price may vary on all three because of contract status and the appeal they have to other teams, but the sources say it's high in all cases, an indication of how the Rockies view Gonzalez, Dickerson and Blackmon.

Dickerson's three-run homer

The Rockies' words and actions in Nashville reveal they are committed to trading for a pitching upgrade, rather than buying it in free agency.

Bridich declined to reveal his pricing structure, but said, "Look, the reason that teams are checking in on our players is because they're very good players. And they're good players in different stages of their career."

The Rockies driving a hard bargain and not immediately producing results has caused much hand-wringing from fans, who have watched the team struggle to two next-to-last and three last-place finishes in the National League West in the last five years. All this comes against a backdrop of eye-popping acquisitions of pitchers by National League West opponents.

The D-backs spent big on Zack Greinke and traded big for Shelby Miller. The Giants signed Jeff Samardzija. The Dodgers lost Greinke but have reportedly reached a deal with Hisashi Iwakuma. But a year ago, the Padres' many moves made them the talk of winter, and they finished in fourth place.

"You can't really spend time worrying about what other people are doing all the time," Bridich said. "You're going to drive yourself crazy. So we have some goals in place, and we have some parameters related to those goals and things that we want to do and would love to do. But I don't think we're going to step out and do anything radically different.

"Some of the starting pitchers that have been added to the division are very good pitchers. So that'll add to the challenge. But every year is going to be a challenge. Not everything that's done on paper during the winter months turns out to be the solution."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.