Bridich sees CarGo, Blackmon as key cogs

GM does not view young veteran outfielders as trade targets

Bridich sees CarGo, Blackmon as key cogs

DENVER -- Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich made clear that he does not look at outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon as bait in his efforts to improve the roster.

It's easy to view Gonzalez and Blackmon as possible candidates to be moved. The team's needs in the bullpen and at first base, an outfield that has homegrown talent rising to the Majors, and the interesting and expensive contracts of right fielder Gonzalez and center fielder/leadoff man Blackmon add up to a combination that ignite Hot Stove talk.

But even with the departure Monday of Walt Weiss as manager, Bridich is presenting the Rockies as a picture of hope and stability, with Gonzalez and Blackmon illustrating both.

"Depth for me in the outfield is a good thing for us," Bridich said in an interview near season's end. "There's positional versatility. There are guys with options. That's a huge strength for us. I really like our outfield."

The market doesn't figure to be teeming for Gerardo Parra, who dealt with a .253 batting average and a left ankle sprain that wouldn't heal -- and is guaranteed $19.5 million over the next two years (including a $1.5 million buyout on a $12 million club option for 2019). And late callups David Dahl, Raimel Tapia and Jordan Patterson are the types of talents the Rockies tend to hoard.

So Hot Stove convention points to Gonzalez, owed $20 million next season to end his contract, and Blackmon, who made $3.5 million in 2016 as a first-time arbitration-eligible player and is due a raise.

But Bridich insisted each player was most valuable in purple, black and silver.

Gonzalez trade reports are a rite of winter, even though since becoming GM after the 2014 season, Bridich has been emphatic in his praise of Gonzalez's play and his presence.

"As I've said before, if there was any real desire, he would've already been traded," Bridich said. "He's a positive influence in that clubhouse. He can act as that Latin to non-Latin bridge and he can bring people together and help create connections within a group because of who he is, his personality and, generally, his outlook on life.

"The overarching, overriding element of Carlos Gonzalez as a Colorado Rockie has been positive -- positive for him, positive for the group, positive for the organization. He's become a true pro."

Bridich did take a moment to remind that Gonzalez is "a human being," but with such effusive praise it's hard to imagine he wants to say goodbye. Like Bridich, Gonzalez speaks of trade rumors in a bemused manner.

"That's funny, man," said Gonzalez, who played in his third All-Star Game and hit .298 with 25 home runs and 100 RBIs. "Another year of not making the playoffs, so that's not going to stop unless I sign an extension or play next year and go for free agency.

"But an extension hasn't come up. One of the things we've talked about is how to get the team better, things like that."

Blackmon's four-hit performance

Blackmon had his best year, with a .324 batting average, a career-high 29 homers and 82 RBIs (a club record for a leadoff man), as well as an OPS split of .939 home and .926 road. Bridich discussed him as joining Gonzalez, star third baseman Nolan Arenado and 2016 National League batting champ DJ LeMahieu as key cogs in 2017.

"He's just become part of a solid group of young veterans," Bridich said. "We have some rookies and then we have this core group of young veterans, and he fits right in there, the way he goes about his business. I couldn't be happier with what he's added to this group."

Blackmon doesn't expect to read his name in credible Hot Stove reports.

"I don't make that decision, but I think I'm very much a part of the team and part of the team's future, so I'm not going to worry about it," Blackmon said. "It's going to be interesting. There are always moves to be made. Your team can always get better. I'll be interested to see what happens, and I'll follow it."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.