The Rockies have a full cast of position players on their hands after signing Ian Desmond, but they’re continuing to keep an eye on high-profile free agent sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Trumbo, according to general manager Jeff Bridich.
“It would be stupid of us not to keep track,” Bridich told MLB Network Radio on Tuesday (Twitter link).
Encarnacion and Trumbo have been connected to the Rockies throughout the offseason, but their odds of signing either seemingly decreased significantly with the addition of Desmond. Although the 31-year-old Desmond has spent his entire career in either the middle infield or the outfield, Colorado handed him a five-year, $70MM deal with the intention of deploying him at first base. The Rockies would presumably send Desmond to the outfield if they were to further increase their payroll by inking either Encarnacion or Trumbo, the former of whom would be a first base-only option in the National League. Trumbo has experience in the outfield, where he spent most of 2016 as a member of the Orioles, though he’s clearly better suited at first.
The Rockies already have a full complement of starting outfielders in Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez and David Dahl, and an expensive reserve in $8MM man Gerardo Parra. Blackmon’s name has been especially popular in the rumor mill since the club picked up Desmond; however, if the Rockies were to trade him, they would reportedly require a return similar to the haul the Nationals sent the White Sox for fellow outielder Adam Eaton earlier this month. While Blackmon is coming off a career year, having slashed .324/.381/.552 with 29 home runs, 17 steals and a personal-best 3.9 fWAR across 641 plate appearances, expecting him to bring back an Eaton-type package would likely be unrealistic. Blackmon is a couple years older (30 to 28), for starters, and is only under team control for two more seasons. He’ll make an estimated $9MM in 2017, his penultimate year of arbitration, while Eaton is controllable through 2021 (including two club options) at just $38.4MM.
Regardless of what it would mean for Blackmon or Gonzalez, who’s due $20MM in the final year of his contract and doesn’t seem likely to land an extension, pairing Encarnacion or Trumbo with hitter-friendly Coors Field would be an enticing proposition. It would also only cost the Rockies a second-round pick instead of a first, which they surrendered when they signed Desmond.
Trumbo, who will turn 31 in January, led the majors with 47 home runs last season, though his track record pales in comparison to Encarnacion’s. Since his 2012 breakout, Encarnacion is second in the majors in homers (193) and third in ISO (.273). The soon-to-be 34-year-old has also posted a .272/.367/.544 line, good for a robust 146 wRC+, along with an impressive BB/K ratio of .83. The longtime Blue Jay’s overall production took a step backward last season (.263/.357/.529 in 702 PAs), but he remained among the majors’ top hitters and tied a career high with 42 long balls.
Trumbo’s plate discipline is nowhere near that of Encarnacion, evidenced by both the subpar BB/K ratio (.27) and below-average on-base percentage (.303) he has put up in his career. Trumbo should cost less than Encarnacion as a result, which could make him a likelier target for Colorado. At last check, Trumbo’s best offer was from the Orioles – four years, $52MM – but they pulled that proposal off the table over the weekend. Encarnacion, meanwhile, is in long-term discussions with several teams, agent Paul Kinzer revealed last week.