Rockies OFs could be fallback for other teams

Rockies OFs could be fallback for other teams

DENVER -- The Cubs' landing of free-agent outfielder Jason Heyward on a reported eight-year, $184 million agreement Friday was the first major move in an outfield market that is a major factor in the Rockies' moves.

The Rockies have veteran right fielder Carlos Gonzalez, whose $37 million over the next two years represents a bargain in this market, left fielder Corey Dickerson (four years of club control) and center fielder Charlie Blackmon (projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $4.5 million this winter -- his first year of arbitration) to deal for starting pitching and bullpen help. All three names came up with the Cubs during the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., which concluded Thursday.

But the Cubs weren't the only ones. The Rockies' outfielders are options for teams that still have some prime free agents to choose from in Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon and Justin Upton. The Rockies hope to trade for pitching. Although righty Ian Kennedy appears to be the team's top free-agent option because of his history at Coors Field and in the National League West, the club fears it will not meet the free-agency price.

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The Rockies also are setting high prices for their outfielders. They want frontline starting pitching, but that's hard to come by, so they're looking at packages involving solid mid-rotation Major League starters or top-prospect starters on the cusp of the Majors, plus immediate relief help.

Early speculation Friday centered on the Cardinals, for whom Heyward played last season, being interested in trading for Gonzalez. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch linked Gonzalez with the Cardinals as a trade possibility immediately after reports of Heyward's deal surfaced. The Rockies and their fans covet Marco Gonzales, who starred in the area at Rocky Mountain High in Fort Collins, Colo., and whose father, Frank Gonzales, managed the Rockies' Short-Season Class A club at Boise last year. However, injuries have reduced the Cards' pitching depth.

In Gonzalez's case, trading for him could be an alternative if teams' free-agency plans at other positions go awry. According to reports Friday, the Orioles pulled a seven-year, $150 million offer to re-sign free-agent first baseman Chris Davis. The teams talked during the Winter Meetings, and some reports speculated the Orioles would make a run at Gonzalez, who could replace Davis as an impact lefty bat. Indications are the Orioles have little interest in being talked out of another Denver high school product, righty Kevin Gausman, who is considered a rising star.

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The Angels have been reported as a possible Gonzalez suitor. According to reports, the Angels could make pitching available to obtain outfield impact. The Angels have not been a player for the top free-agent outfielders because of luxury-tax concerns. But the possibility of a package involving lefty starter Hector Santiago was reduced when the Angels sent reliever Trevor Gott to the Nationals as part of the price for infielder Yunel Escobar.

The White Sox have long been speculated as a possible landing spot for Gonzalez. But the Rockies have been interested in lefty Jose Quintana -- a starter the White Sox want to keep -- as well as bullpen help. The Indians are similar; they need offense, but they want to cling to starters many teams request, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar.

ESPN.com reported Friday that the Royals have talked to the Rockies about all three outfielders. In past years, Gonzalez's salary was more of an obstacle than it may be now, and the Royals have numerous pitchers on the cusp of the Majors. The Giants also have talked to the Rockies about Gonzalez in the past and were reported to be interested during the Winter Meetings.

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.