DENVER -- Whether the Rockies can accelerate their path to winning depends on general manager Jeff Bridich, who has solidly built with youth over two seasons.
Colorado promoted Bridich from player development director to GM after the 2014 season, and his most successful moves have been acquiring prospects as the Rockies take baby steps in the wins department, from 68 in '15 to 75 in '16.
Of the players filling seven positions on the current daily lineup, just one is manned by a player who is a free agent after the 2017 season: right fielder Carlos Gonzalez. A rotation of pitchers 27-or-younger could end up as one of the best in club history. And all of Bridich's young acquisitions could contribute this upcoming season.
But the quickest way to go from a building club to a contender immediately, under new manager Bud Black, is for Bridich to score big while filling key holes -- first base, where the Rockies' .745 OPS ranked 22nd in the Majors, and the bullpen, which posted a Majors-worst 5.13 ERA. Bridich's quest is backed by a pledge from owner Dick Monfort to increase the payroll above last year's season-ending total of $120,586,400 -- a club record.
While anything can happen between now and then, Bridich and the Rockies are gearing up for the annual swap meet/shopping spree -- the Winter Meetings from Dec. 4-8.
MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2016 Winter Meetings from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C. Fans can watch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, including the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 8 at 7 a.m. MT.
For now, before any arbitration-eligible players or new acquisitions, the Rockies have $66 million committed to seven players. The largest amount dedicated is $22 million for Mets infielder Jose Reyes, whom the Rockies released last season.
Here's a quick look at positions of need:
• Bridich has said since season's end he is monitoring lefty reliever Boone Logan, who shook off two injury-addled seasons for a solid 2016 to complete a three-year, $16.5 million deal. The added payroll, however, could allow the Rockies to go younger from the left.
A strong possibility is Mike Dunn, who had 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings with the Marlins last year and has a career K/9 number of 10.0. He is also familiar with new bench coach Mike Redmond, manager for part of his Marlins tenure. His market could be influenced by the Cardinals' signing of Brett Cecil, a former Blue Jay, who got four years and $30.5 million.
• The Rockies are reportedly in the running for closer Mark Melancon, a Denver-area native who saved a combined 47 games with the Pirates and the Nationals last year.
• Free agents like Matt Holliday, who has expressed an interest in returning to his original team and moving permanently from the outfield, and Mark Trumbo are possibilities at first base on the market. But this could be the place where a smart trade could wind up saving money and solidifying the position that has been in flux since Todd Helton retired after the 2013 season.
Bridich has said trades to fill first base are possible, but he wants to avoid trading outfielders Gonzalez and Charlie Blackmon. If Bridich holds that line, he'll face tough decisions concerning whether to part with mostly homegrown position players or some of the pitching depth the Rockies have built. Colorado could return to Mark Reynolds, who compiled an .806 OPS in a season that saw him twice miss large chunks of games because of separate broken left hand incidents.
But let's review Bridich's previous acquisitions: In various trades, Bridich netted potential starting pitchers Jeff Hoffman (Blue Jays) and German Marquez (Rays) and reliever Jairo Diaz (Angels), who had a solid end of 2015 but missed last season because of Tommy John surgery. Little-publicized deals brought righty starter-reliever Shane Carle (Pirates) in '14 and righty starter Yency Almonte (White Sox) in '15. They were added to the 40-man Major League roster this offseason and are candidates for a '17 debut. Bridich also made a waiver claim from the Indians for catcher Tony Wolters, who put together a standout 2016 defensive performance as a rookie.
As for Bridich's Major League acquisitions, catcher Nick Hundley, who signed a two-year deal before 2015, provided expected offense and clubhouse leadership but dealt with injuries. Even with the injuries, it could be argued Hundley was the most consistently productive. Utility man Daniel Descalso's two-year deal saw a bad '15 (.205/.283/.324) and a solid '16 (.264/.349/.424). Both are free agents.
All six acquisitions in 2016 had struggles, mainly because of injuries.
The roughest was for outfielder Gerardo Parra, who missed 60 games with a left high-ankle sprain and saw his OPS drop to a career-low .671 in 2016. Similar fates touched Jake McGee (11.6 strikeouts per nine innings in '15 to 7.5), righty relievers Jason Motte (23 2/3 innings because of rotator cuff strains) and Chad Qualls (nine appearances after the All-Star break because of colitis), outfielder Ryan Raburn (.203 second half while dealing with nagging injuries), and Reynolds.
All but Raburn and Reynolds are under contract for 2017.