It’s been a quiet offseason for the Rockies, whose free-agent additions to this point consist of right-handers Pierce Johnson (one year, $5MM) and Jose Urena (one year, $3.5MM). The Rox have also claimed Brent Suter from the Brewers, signed Tyler Kinley to an extension and issued a handful of minor league deals, and they were reportedly interested in several free-agent outfielders before those players landed elsewhere (Michael Conforto, Cody Bellinger, Brandon Nimmo among them).
They’ve clearly been linked to a number of left-handed-hitting outfielders since the offseason began but have also appeared limited in the extent to which they’re comfortable paying those players. Jon Heyman of the New York Post wrote recently that the Rockies are indeed trying to add a lefty-swinging outfielder to their group, adding that they “may consider” a reunion with Corey Dickerson, who spent the first three seasons of his career calling Coors Field home. The Rox shipped Dickerson to the Rays in the trade that brough German Marquez to Colorado, and Dickerson has since bounced to six teams while settling in as a productive, if somewhat limited corner outfielder.
Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post, however, throws some cold water on the possibility of a Dickerson reunion, writing in his latest mailbag column that he’s not heard of any real interest expressed by the Rockies. Dickerson would indeed be something of a tough fit with the Rockies’ roster, as currently constructed. While names like Bellinger and Nimmo could’ve been plugged into center field, Dickerson has been primarily a left fielder in recent seasons. Bryant is expected to man that position when healthy, and across the outfield, Randal Grichuk has been at least comparable to Dickerson from an offensive standpoint over the past few years. Playing Dickerson in right and Grichuk in center is a stretch, too; Dickerson ranked last among MLB outfielders in arm strength last season, according to Statcast.
The Athletic’s Jim Bowden echoes Heyman’s sentiment that the Rox are prioritizing the addition of a left-handed-hitting outfielder, calling free agent switch-hitter Jurickson Profar a “real possibility” for the club. That said, many of the limitations that apply to Dickerson also apply to Profar. He’s primarily been a left fielder since a pair of shoulder surgeries and a case of the yips pushed him from shortstop, to second base, to the outfield. He’s also not a demonstrably better offensive player than in-house options like Yonathan Daza and the aforementioned Grichuk, although his .244/.333/.375 slash over the past three seasons (103 wRC+) would be a slight improvement. That said, both Daza and Grichuk can play center field, while Profar has just 156 career innings at the position — none in 2022.
It’s fair to question just how much the Rockies are willing to spend to acquire the lefty outfield bat they reportedly covet. It never seemed likely that the Rox would match last year’s spending — not after they inked Kris Bryant to a $182MM contract and subsequently pushed their projected 2023 payroll (currently about $163MM) up into franchise-record territory. But the team’s activity thus far, or lack thereof, doesn’t paint a portrait of a club that is planning to win many bidding wars in free agency this time around.
Whether due to a desire to shed payroll or simply to free up time for younger players, it appears the Rockies have at least been willing to listen to offers on first baseman C.J. Cron. Saunders writes in his mailbag that Colorado hasn’t received much trade interest in Cron, however.
Given Cron’s status as a productive hitter and solid defender at first base, there’s little reason to simply attempt to dump his $7.25MM salary, even if the Rox would eventually like to take a longer look at 24-year-old Michael Toglia at first base. Toglia, the team’s first-round pick in 2019, has had strikeout troubles in the upper minors but also walked at a 12% clip, slugged 32 homers between the minors and a brief MLB debut in ’22, and has drawn praise as an above-average defender at first base. Given Toglia’s proximity to the Majors and Cron’s status as an impending free agent (following the 2023 season), it stands to reason that the latter could yet be a trade candidate — be it later in the offseason or as the summer deadline approaches.
Depending on Colorado’s appetite for spending, the trade market ought to present various avenues to acquire a lefty bat — whether a true center fielder or perhaps another corner option (with Grichuk and Daza then being relied upon as the primary options in center). The Twins (Max Kepler), Orioles (Anthony Santander), A’s (Seth Brown), Pirates (Bryan Reynolds) and division-rival D-backs (Jake McCarthy) all have lefty or switch-hitting outfielders who’ve come up in trade rumblings, to varying extents, this offseason.