Blackmon understands why trade rumors fly

Center fielder tapped into power last year with 29 HRs

Blackmon understands why trade rumors fly

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Charlie Blackmon appreciated the phone call from Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich, even though he didn't think it was necessary.

From the end of last season, speculation had flown that the depth of the Rockies' outfield and their needs in other areas meant the club would entertain trading Blackmon, the everyday center fielder since 2014. Speculation grew when the club signed Ian Desmond, who played center last season for the Rangers -- never mind that the Rockies said all along Desmond was going to play first base.

When the Desmond news broke during the Winter Meetings, rumors increased. Blackmon to the Blue Jays for pitcher Marcus Stroman? Blackmon to the Cardinals for anyone, up until the point St. Louis signed Dexter Fowler? Blackmon to the Nationals? Bridich wanted to give Blackmon the straight scoop.

"I don't feel like he needed to," Blackmon said. "It was nice that he did it. But I understand it's a business and they're making decisions to help our team get better. If they think it's going to help; it's not like, 'We personally like or don't like you.' That's not the case."

But even with his quirky personality out of the equation, the Rockies -- who will begin official full-squad workouts on Monday -- love having him around, and last season provided many reasons.

Blackmon led Major League leadoff hitters with 29 home runs and his 82 RBIs as a leadoff man were fourth-most in National League history. In addition, his 111 runs, 187 hits, 35 doubles, .324 batting average, .381 on-base percentage and .552 slugging percentage all were career highs.

New manager Bud Black said the Rockies knew all along that the club wanted to keep Blackmon.

"Just talking to Jeff, and I can't speak for him, but I know that all that talk about Charlie was driven from outside Jeff's office," Black said. "That was not something he was talking about at all.

"[Blackmon] has gotten markedly better as a big league player in a pretty short period of time. The strength to the body, the more consistent at-bats, dangerous in the box where he became a real threat each and every time he got in the box or when he got on first base."

The last two seasons, Blackmon, 30, has made a dramatic statistical jump in a part of his game. He stole 43 bases in 2015, and last year brought the power surge. Black noted that being healthier, after turf toe fasciitis cost him 13 games in April, should help Blackmon's stolen-base totals.

Blackmon, who avoided arbitration with a one-year, $7.3 million contract and has one more year of arbitration remaining, said there isn't a specific focus. He just wants to build on what he has picked up through experience.

"I think part of it is a result of my swing getting better and me understanding how to use my body better to swing the bat," Blackmon said. "And part of it is being a more-experienced hitter."

Concentrating on the specific features of his game gives him less time to worry about the emotions that swing with various rumors -- which could crop up again depending on how the season goes.

"I just think they value me pretty high, I guess, and that's why nothing happened," Blackmon said. "I think that's good. But it's my opinion that if a deal had come along where they had gotten a deal worth more than what I was worth, then they would've made the deal. And I would expect that to happen."

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.