The Rockies deepened their rotation and catching corps late last week with signings of Dakota Hudson and Jacob Stallings, and their next move could be of similar scope in the outfield. Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports that the Rox are looking for a “depth outfielder” — ideally someone who can handle all three positions while hitting from the left side of the dish.
As things stand, the Rockies have a largely right-handed outfield mix. Left fielder Nolan Jones bats left handed, but each of Brenton Doyle, Sean Bouchard and Hunter Goodman is right-handed — as are the bulk of the team’s upper-minors options (with the notable exceptions of top organizational prospects Zac Veen and Yanquiel Fernandez, though both are likely more than a year from the Majors still). Colorado re-signed franchise stalwart Charlie Blackmon earlier in the offseason, but he’s expected to reprise his role as the team’s primary designated hitter in 2024.
Adding some outfield depth from the left side makes a good bit of sense then, although the free-agent market is pretty light. It’d be a shock to see the Rockies spend at the levels necessary to sign Cody Bellinger, and the options beyond him aren’t exactly plentiful. Joey Gallo would make an interesting upside play at Coors Field, but his production has been in a free-fall since the 2021 trade sending him from Texas to the Bronx. Travis Jankowski and old friends Raimel Tapia and Rafael Ortega could make sense, with the latter two in particular likely to be available on minor league contracts.
Trade scenarios for this type of player abound. There are too many to list in full, though reasonable on-paper trade partners include the Royals (Kyle Isbel, Drew Waters), Mariners (Cade Marlowe, Taylor Trammell, Zach DeLoach) and Tigers (Akil Baddoo). It’s also possible that the Rox could simply fill the need with a spring waiver claim or deal for an out-of-options player who’s been squeezed out of a roster spot with his current team (e.g. Nick Gordon, Jake Cave).
The extent to which the Rockies can add to their payroll remains unclear. Colorado has added around $9-10MM in salary with the offseason pickups of Hudson ($1.5MM), Stallings ($1.5MM) and Cal Quantrill (projected $6.6MM salary in arbitration, via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz). That said, the Rox still appear headed toward a reduced budget for the 2024 season. They didn’t lose much in the way of free agency — lefty Brent Suter being their lone departure of note — but GM Bill Schmidt traded away veterans like C.J. Cron, Randal Grichuk, Brad Hand and Pierce Johnson at the deadline. That group combined to help push Colorado’s 2023 Opening Day payroll to a franchise-record $172MM, but they’re currently about $30MM shy of that total.
Like so many other clubs in MLB at the moment, the Rockies face ample uncertainty regarding their 2024 television broadcasts — and thus, their revenue. AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, the RSN that previously broadcast the team’s games, is ceasing operations in 2024 (as first reported by Kyle Newman and Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post back in September). Saunders reported in a mailbag column over the weekend that MLB may step in to handle the Rockies’ broadcasts in 2024, but there’s yet to be a formal announcement on that matter.
However their broadcast situation plays out, it’s quite likely to adversely impact the team’s revenue. Couple that with the Rockies’ extreme longshot postseason odds, and it’s unsurprising (though surely still frustrating for their fans) that the team has had a rather quiet offseason and instead appears to be focusing on in-house development with an eye toward 2025 and beyond.