Charlie Blackmon is slated to become a free agent for the first time in his career, as the veteran outfielder is in the final season of the five-year, $94MM extension he signed with the Rockies back in April 2018. However, it seems possible that Blackmon could end up remaining in Colorado, as both the player and the team have interest in continuing the relationship.
Rockies GM Bill Schmidt told Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post that the club is “very interested” in retaining Blackmon, adding that “Charlie would provide a good leadership structure for our young guys. And he can still play.” From Blackmon’s perspective, he said he would be open to playing for a new team, “but Colorado is certainly my first choice….Right now, I’m not thinking about any other options.” Blackmon also left open the possibility of retirement, stating “I’m not saying officially, either way,” that he plans to play in 2024, but “there is definitely a possibility I’ll come back.”
Between the Rockies’ last-place record and a fractured hand that cost him almost two months of action, it has been a difficult season for Blackmon, despite some solid personal statistics. The 37-year-old is hitting .285/.372/.463 with seven home runs over 285 plate appearances, translating to a 113 wRC+. This would be Blackmon’s best offensive performance (and first above-average season at the plate) since 2019, when he posted a 127 wRC+ as part of a 32-homer campaign. While Blackmon’s hard-contact rates haven’t been good, he is at least making a lot of contact, as he has one of the lowest strikeout rates of any batter in the league.
Despite these numbers, Blackmon’s age and relative lack of defensive utility figures to limit his free agent market, perhaps capping him at one guaranteed year or a one-year deal with a club/vesting option. A two-year contract might be feasible with the Rockies as a nod to his long history with the team, as Blackmon has played all 13 of his Major League seasons in the Mile High City. As Schmidt noted, Blackmon has stature as a clubhouse leader, which is important for a team that is counting on an upcoming core of young players to get the franchise back on track.
Blackmon has played only right field for the last five seasons, with the UZR/150 metric loving his glovework while other defensive metrics rank him as average or below average on the grass. Since the National League instituted the designated hitter, Blackmon has spent more time as a DH than as a right fielder, and that usage is likely to continue into 2024 should Blackmon indeed return to Colorado.
Michael Toglia figures to get regular looks at both first base and in right field next season, so a scenario exists where the Rox could use Blackmon in right field whenever Toglia has infield duty, and then the DH spot could be rotated between Blackmon and other players. Of course, Kris Bryant is also a factor, and as Saunders notes later in the piece, Bryant and manager Bud Black have both been open to the possibility of Bryant playing mostly as a first baseman next year. Nolan Jones’ emergence will make him a regular in the Rockies’ lineup in some fashion next year, though Jones has played more left field recently and that might be his primary position in 2024 even if Colorado does toggle him around to a few different positions.