Rox see improving 'pen, first base as top priorities

Rox see improving 'pen, first base as top priorities

DENVER -- Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich acknowledged Tuesday the team has talked to free-agent closer Mark Melancon and lefty reliever Mike Dunn in an effort to improve what was the weakest part of the club in 2016.

Melancon, a Colorado native, earned 98 saves over the last two seasons with the Pirates and Nationals, while Dunn had 103 strikeouts in 96 1/3 innings for the Marlins over the same period. Both are highly sought relievers -- Melancon has been linked to the Giants in recent weeks -- and pursuing them shows that the Rockies are serious about improving the Majors' worst bullpen in '16.

Hot Stove Tracker

"That is a priority for us, yes," Bridich said. "As usual this time of year, it's any or all of the above that we're looking at."

Bridich also said the Rockies are just beginning to determine how best to pursue their biggest offensive need -- a productive first baseman.

During the recent General Managers Meetings, conversations with other clubs revealed that if the Rockies want to add a solid Major Leaguer via trade, it would cost them. The Rockies saw a parade of prospects make solid debuts, such as outfielders David Dahl and Raimel Tapia, catcher Tom Murphy and pitchers Tyler Anderson, Jeff Hoffman and German Marquez.

Hoffman's first career K

Bridich said he has never made a player "untouchable," but the return had better be special if he's to be convinced to trade young talent.

"I'm a fan of a lot of our players," Bridich said. "I think we have a very talented system. I think we have talent up and down the system -- young talent at the Rookie levels, A-ball talent, talent that's at Double-A and Triple-A and approaching the big leagues and pushing to the big leagues. I'm not surprised when people have interest in our players."

But the Rockies' pursuit of a first baseman has been slow, partly because they're still assessing the landscape.

Mark Trumbo, who hit 47 homers for the Orioles in 2016, could cost the Rockies Draft-pick compensation, depending on the language of the Collective Bargaining Agreement being negotiated between MLB and the MLB Players Association.

There could be a lower-cost option in Chris Carter, who tied the Rockies' Nolan Arenado for the National League lead in homers at 41. The Brewers designated Carter for assignment Monday.

Also, there is interest from former Rockies star Matt Holliday -- who played some first base during an injury-affected 2016 with the Cardinals -- in returning to Colorado as a free agent. Bridich said the Rockies are trying to "wrap our heads around" the viability of Holliday playing full time at first base, where he doesn't have much experience.

Holliday open to Rockies reunion

The Rockies are in good shape at catcher, with Murphy, Tony Wolters and Dustin Garneau. Righties Jon Gray, Chad Bettis and Tyler Chatwood and the left-handed Anderson also make the basis of a solid rotation that has several prospects -- Hoffman, Marquez, righty Antonio Senzatela and lefty Kyle Freeland -- battling for big league time. 

Bridich said he is working closely with new manager Bud Black on personnel moves, and leaning on his expertise as a former Major League pitcher.

With fewer holes to fill than in the past, Bridich, heading into his third season as general manager, calls the Rockies "a very different team."

"There's been an injection of youth into the team in a number of different areas, talented youth," he said. "So there should be some reason for excitement. That's always the case when you have good, young players that comprise the team.

"It's been fun over the last two years to see the growth of some young veterans -- not older veterans but young veterans -- and to see them make positive growth, and growth in good areas, and become better big leaguers. You put all those things together and there should be reason for excitement."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com 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.