Rockies Home Growns Get Nod Over FA's
The exhibition games have started.
Former Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and first baseman Mark Reynolds remain among an abnormally large number of free agents still looking for work.
They are victims of the reluctance of agents to get involved in serious contract talks with teams until the big names on the free agents, such as Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez, set the upper limits of where salaries would go.
And the unsigned now find themselves in limbo.
Having opened camps teams are more focused on who they have, looking to sort out where their real needs may be.
The Rockies are among them.
They have kept lines of communication open with both Gonzalez and Reynolds, but there is no sense of urgency, particularly not when the agents for the veteran players are indicating to inquiring teams that they are looking for multi-year deals.
Yes, both Reynolds and Gonzalez has solid resumes, particularly from their days with the Rockies, but what the Rockies have to come to grips with is whether that merits a two- or three-year contract in light of the young players emerging form the Rockies farm system.
Think about it.
The Rockies feel set in center field with Charlie Blackmon and are not concerned about right field in light of the feeling Gerardo Parra, recovering from surgery for a broken hamate bone in his right hand, will be ready for game action in two weeks.
That leaves left field up in the air. Do they sign Gonzalez for two years or do they take time to evaluate the home-grown duo of Raimel Tapia and David Dahl, knowing that they have veteran Ian Desmond capable of answering the left field question.
With Nolan Arenado at third, Trevor Story at shortstop and DJ LeMahieu at second, the Rockies do have to answer the question of who is on first.
They, however, also feel they most likely have the answer – not just for now but for long term – with Ryan McMahon, one of the organization’s prime prospects who made the adjustment from third to first the past two seasons in the minors. Again Desmond remains in the picture as a possible platoon-mate for the left-handed hitting McMahon if need be.
The Rockies have found reason to have faith in their farm system in the recent years with the likes of third baseman Arenado, Blackmon and Story.
They have a potential starting rotation from the home-grown likes of Jon Gray, Chad Bettis, Tyler Anderson, Kyle Freeland, and Antonio Senzatela. And even the starters from outside the organization received their finishing touches in the Rockies system. Jeff Hoffman, who was an original No. 1 draft of the Blue Jays, did his finishing work in the Rockies farm system after being acquired in the Troy Tulowitzki trade on July 28, 2015. German Marquez, acquired along with Jake McGee from the Rays in the Corey Dickerson deal, began his time with the Rockies at the Double-A level.
Given the recent success it should not be a surprise the Rockies feel comfortable with the potential replacement parts coming from within.
-- McMahon struggled at Double-A Hartford in 2016, but he also was 21, the youngest American-born player in the Eastern League that year, was being asked to make the transition from third base to first base, and played on a team that did not play a home game the entire season.
He answered any questions outsiders may have had in 2017. He opened the season at Hartford, but after appearing in 49 games and hitting .326 with six home runs and 32 RBI he was promoted to Triple-A Albuquerque, where he hit .374 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI in 70 games.
He was selected MiLB.com Fan’s Choice for Best Offensive Player in the Minor Leagues. He was the Double-A Eastern League Player of the Month in April, and the Pacific Coast League Player of the Month in June.
-- Tapia hit .288 in 70 games with the Rockies last season, overcoming a yo-yo-like season in which he made the move from Triple-A Albuquerque, where he hit .369 in 58 games, to the big-league Rockies six different times. He has speed, and focused on strength in the off-season. In the spring opener on Friday, the left-handed-hitting Tapia got attention when he drove a home run easily to left-center field at Salt River Fields.
-- Dahl has been given a clean bill of health after a 2017 season in which he was limited to 77 minor-league at-bats because of a stress reaction in his rib cage that was discovered in spring training and saw his activity limited to two games at High-A Lancaster July 12-13, and 17 games at Albuquerque before being shut down for good July 31.
He did not swing a bat again until last month, but has been full-speed this spring. And remember, he arrived in spring training a year ago pretty much a lock for the left field job after a 2016 season in which he went from Double-A Hartford to Triple-A Albuquerque to the Rockies, and hit .315 in 63 games.