- Rockies outfielder David Dahl is likely to begin the year in the minors, thus opening up a spot on Colorado’s bench for fellow outfielder Mike Tauchman, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post explains. The 27-year-old Tauchman brings minimal major league experience (32 plate appearances, all of which came last season), but he has performed well in the minors and could make more sense for a reserve role than Dahl, 23. While Dahl’s a former high-end prospect who impressed as a rookie two years ago, a rib injury kept him from the majors last season, and there’s no obvious path to playing time for him in Colorado at the moment. As such, he’s likely to begin the year as a full-time player at the Triple-A level.
March 16: ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports that Gonzalez is actually guaranteed just $5MM on his deal with the Rox, though he can earn $3MM of incentives quite easily (Twitter link). Per Crasnick, Gonzalez will earn a $1MM bonus for accruing 125, 150 and 175 days of Major League service time this season. In other words, as long as he’s on an active roster or disabled list (be it the Rockies’ or another team) for that number of days, he’ll receive those bonuses. In effect, he’ll get that $3MM so long as he isn’t released.
March 12: The club has announced the signing.
March 9, 12:23pm: Gonzalez will be guaranteed $8MM on his deal with the Rockies, per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (Twitter link).
9:44am: The Rockies are reportedly set to bring right fielder Carlos Gonzalez back to Denver. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the two sides are merely working through the final language details of the contract, and MLB.com’s Jon Morosi adds that there’s an agreement “in principle” on a one-year pact. Heyman reported last night that the two sides were close to an agreement on a one-year deal. Gonzalez is represented by the Boras Corporation.
A reunion between the two sides has been reported to be a possibility for much of the offseason, but CarGo remained on the market well into Spring Training as he explored all opportunities. He’ll now return to the team with which he broke out as a star-caliber player back in 2010 and the team which he has thrice represented at the All-Star Game over the past nine seasons.
Gonzalez, 32, picked a poor time to struggle through one of the worst seasons of his big league career. The slugger posted a .262/.339/.423 slash and 14 home runs in 2017 — his lowest total in a full season at any point in his career. While he rebounded in the season’s second half and finished out his 2017 campaign with a torrid .327/.401/.553 batting line in his final 227 plate appearances of the season, that apparently didn’t prove convincing enough to garner a multi-year deal on the open market. (Gonzalez did sport a ridiculous .401 BABIP during that turnaround.)
He’ll now look to carry as much of that production as possible into a full season and rebuild his stock in an effort to land a longer-term pact next winter. Bryce Harper, of course, headlines the 2018-19 crop of free-agent outfielders, and CarGo will also face competition in the form of Andrew McCutchen, Adam Jones and longtime teammate Charlie Blackmon.
Gonzalez was one of baseball’s most feared hitters from 2010-13, when he batted .311/.370/.556 in nearly 2200 plate appearances with the Rockies. Since that time, he’s been more good than great, posting a collective .272/.332/.484 line, which translates to a 103 OPS+ after adjusting for Coors Field. To be fair, he’s turned in two fairly strong seasons — including a 40-homer 2015 campaign — against two weak seasons in that time, and his 2014 season was ruined by a knee injury that has not sent him back to the disabled list since.
As far as 2018 goes, Gonzalez will likely supplant Gerardo Parra as the primary right fielder. His return will present Rockies brass with a similar outfield quandary to the one they faced last spring, as the team will now have Blackmon and Gonzalez as outfield regulars with Parra, Ian Desmond, Raimel Tapia and a (hopefully) healthier David Dahl all in the mix for the remaining outfield at-bats. It’s possible that Gonzalez could be platooned to an extent, and there’s previously been talk of him eventually getting some occasional looks at first base, where Desmond also has experience. Extra time at first base for Desmond could take some time away from top prospect Ryan McMahon, but McMahon also has experience at second base and third base, giving skipper Bud Black plenty of opportunities to get creative with his lineup.
Regardless of how the team divides the playing time, the added depth should serve as a boon to the on-field product, and CarGo’s return should also go over well in the clubhouse. Rockies superstar Nolan Arenado recently lauded his longtime teammate in an interview with the Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders, and the Post’s Nick Groke tweeted this morning that the clubhouse seems energized by the news, with Blackmon stating that he “would love to have CarGo back.”
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- Carlos Gonzalez’s return to the Rockies will lead to more time at first base for Ian Desmond, which clouds prospect Ryan McMahon’s role with the big league club, writes Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post. McMahon, who has had a strong Spring Training thus far, was perhaps in line to receive a fairly lengthy look at first but could instead be ticketed for Triple-A to get regular at-bats rather than occasional playing time in a limited role with the Rox. Manager Bud Black suggested to Saunders that the final two weeks of camp will be especially important for McMahon, as he’ll be facing higher-quality pitchers as teams begin to narrow their rosters. “That gives you a good gauge, the last couple of weeks, of what you are seeing,” said Black. “Not so much the first couple of weeks — for me.”
- Three prominent players have reportedly agreed to terms in recent days, all settling for much less in dollars and years than had been expected. Reports also suggest that those players could have had greater earnings had they taken offers available previously. Though agent Scott Boras says Mike Moustakas never received a multi-year contract offer before returning to the Royals, two sources tell Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star that the Angels dangled a three-year pact in the range of $45MM. Meanwhile, the Rockies are said to have offered slugger Carlos Gonzalez an extension in the realm of three years and $45MM this time last year, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports on Twitter. And the Rox also were willing to go to three years, at a $21MM guarantee, to catcher Jonathan Lucroy earlier this winter, Nightengale adds on Twitter. (Lucroy is reportedly in agreement on a one-year deal with the Athletics, though terms are not yet known and the deal is not finalized.) Of course, in each case it’s easy to understand why the player in question might have elected against jumping at the reported opportunity at the point at which it was presented.
The Rockies are “close” to reaching a deal to bring back free agent outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). If finalized, the deal would be for a one year term, per the report.
The possibility of a reunion has existed to some extent all winter, but whispers have picked up steam of late. His former teammates have pined for a return for the long-time Colorado star and GM Jeff Bridich has suggested all along it was at least a possibility.
Of course, there have long been some practical reasons to think that Gonzalez’s time with the Rox would come to a close. Though the team did pursue an extension with him last winter, the current roster composition does not exactly scream out for a left-handed-hitting corner outfielder.
At present, the Colorado outfield already features at least two lefty-hitting options in Charlie Blackmon and Gerardo Parra. Two of the club’s most intriguing young outfielders, Raimel Tapia and David Dahl, also hit from the left side. While it has previously been suggested that Gonzalez could slide into first base, the Rockies have a talented left-handed-hitting youngster slated to see time there in Ryan McMahon.
Notably, Gonzalez has struggled particularly against left-handed pitching in recent seasons. He has not posted even league-average production against southpaws in a given campaign since back in 2013.
If the Rockies can figure out a way to spread the playing time in a sensible manner, there’s certainly still reason to hope that Gonzalez can produce at the plate. He limped to a .262/.339/.423 slash last year, with just 14 home runs in his 534 plate appearances. But he did carry a personal-best 10.5% walk rate and likely shouldn’t be counted out for at least a partial power recovery. Over the prior two seasons, he swatted 65 long balls and posted solidly above-average overall batting lines even after accounting for the boost from playing at Coors Field.
- Heyman also writes that there’s still a chance the Rockies could bring Carlos Gonzalez back to Denver. The Rox have remained in touch with Gonzalez and Scott Boras, though Gonzalez is talking with “a couple” of clubs as he looks to find an offer to his liking. There hasn’t been much in the way of injuries to starting outfielders among contending clubs thus far in Spring Training, so no new opportunities for Gonzalez have really arisen.
Reliever Koji Uehara says that he is open to considering offers from teams in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league, as the Japan Times recently reported. That’s something of a reversal from the 42-year-old reliever, who had indicated he did not intend to play again in his homeland. After preparing for the MLB season, but finding interest scant, Uehara now says he has changed his mind and would consider pitching once again in the NPB. It’s at least a bit surprising that Uehara has not generated more pursuers among major-league clubs. He continued to produce declining results in 43 innings last year, finishing with a 3.98 ERA, but still ended with 10.5 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9 and generated a strong 15.8% swinging-strike rate.
Here are a few more pitching notes from around the game:
- While it’s clear the Rangers intend to utilize new pitching addition Tim Lincecum in the bullpen, just how he’ll be deployed isn’t yet clear. Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram posted a video of the former ace discussing his new club. It seems that Lincecum is intrigued by the possibility of closing but is largely open to fitting in wherever the team prefers. “They see that,” Lincecum says of working in the 9th. “I feel like I could do that. I’ve done that in the Cape and at the college level. It’s going to be, obviously, different, but I feel like I could tap into that mentality.”
- The Rockies elected this offseason to make a number of bullpen additions but not to pursue outside acquisitions for the rotation. That decision was no doubt as much about the team’s assessment of its internal options as it was about a need to maximize resources. In a pair of articles, here and here, Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports on two key staff members. Antonio Senzatela is said to be hard at work on his secondary offerings, with a new change-up in the works alongside continuing work on a curve. Meanwhile, fellow young righty Jeff Hoffman dealing with a shoulder issue. There’s no indication its a serious injury, but Hoffman is still going to rest for at least a week or more before he resumes throwing. As things stand, the Rox may be lined up to utilize a five-man unit that does not include either of these hurlers, as the current Roster Resource depth chart projects, but both are important parts of the near-term and future picture in Colorado.
- When the Twins brought in righty Michael Kohn last fall, the hope was that he could rebound from a rotator cuff problem and get his career back on track. Unfortunately, he’ll now require an absence of four to six months to recuperate from a “nerve issue,” per Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press (via Twitter). The 31-year-old Kohn has a 3.52 ERA in 115 career innings in the majors, though that has come with a 111:79 K/BB ratio. It’s hard to read much into his results last year, as they were mostly accumulated in the low minors, but Kohn was able to make it through 13 solid innings late in 2017, over which he racked up 18 strikeouts against just four walks while permitting two earned runs on eight hits.
The prospect of an extension between the Rockies and star third baseman Nolan Arenado doesn’t seem likely in the near future, as Arenado tells MLB.com’s Thomas Harding (Twitter links). “I don’t think anything is going to happen until after the season. We have a good team and our focus is on winning — as it should be,” Arenado said. He also added “and that’s what everyone wants,” which could indicate that both he and the Rockies are content to table negotiations for the time being.
There has been some inevitable speculation about Arenado’s future as he gets closer to free agency, and Colorado GM Jeff Bridich said in December that “there definitely are conversations that will happen” between the team and the player about a potential extension. That said, there also isn’t yet any pressing need for talks between the two sides given that Arenado is controlled through the 2019 season. The third baseman will earn $17.75MM in 2018 as per the terms of a two-year deal signed in January 2017 that covered two years of Arenado’s arbitration eligibility. He is eligible for arbitration one more time next winter before hitting the open market in the 2019-20 offseason.
The Rockies have historically shown a willingness to spend big to keep star players in-house, as evidenced by past extensions for Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitzki, and Carlos Gonzalez. It is worth noting that all of those deals were made during the tenure of former general manager Dan O’Dowd, though Bridich has certainly been behind his own share of hefty contracts (i.e. Ian Desmond, Wade Davis) in his time running Colorado’s front office.
An Arenado extension certainly projects as the largest contract in franchise history given the third baseman’s durability, youth (he turns 27 in April) and outstanding play both offensively and defensively. Given the huge money that would be involved in locking Arenado up, one can’t blame the Rockies for wanting one more season of information before fully exploring a $200MM+ deal. The Rox also have Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu scheduled for free agency next winter, and re-signing either could be difficult if a huge future commitment has already been made to Arenado.
From Arenado’s own perspective, he has already achieved enough financial security that he may not feel much urgency to complete a long-term deal. He has already banked $5MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility, $29.5MM via that two-year agreement, and he’ll be in line for a salary worth $20MM in his final arb-eligible season.
The Rockies “remain in contact” with free agent first baseman Mark Reynolds, Jon Morosi of MLB.com tweets. Reynolds, who hit 30 homers for Colorado in 2017, is the best free-agent first baseman available on the market, and a reunion between the two has long seemed like a solid fit in theory. However, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports recently contacted Reynolds’ agent, Jeff Boris, who tells him that the Rockies haven’t made any type of offer to Reynolds this winter. The 34-year-old carries a .274/.354/.471 slash line across two seasons with Colorado, but graded poorly among first baseman in quality of contact statistics like hard contact rate, average exit velocity and barrels per plate appearance last season.
Other small news items out of the NL West…
- In other Rockies news, Nick Groke of the Denver Post writes that the team is in a bit of a bind following news of injuries to utilitymen Pat Valaika and Shawn O’Malley. Valaika is expected to miss 2-3 weeks with an oblique strain, while O’Malley is expected to be out 4-6 weeks due to a broken right hand that will require surgery, according to Groke. He also notes that Desmond is capable of playing multiple infield positions, while top prospect Ryan McMahon has experience at second and third base. Beyond that, Colorado’s best options are minor-leaguers Daniel Castro, Garrett Hampson and Brian Mundell, and none of those players are on the club’s 40-man roster.
- The Dodgers aren’t in a rush to add a pitcher following the news that right-hander Tom Koehler could miss “extended time” with an anterior capsule strain. Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register quotes president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, who says that the team is “no more likely” to add a pitcher through trade or free agency in the wake of Koehler’s injury. “I don’t think it necessarily changes the thought process in terms of deals that made sense 3 days ago will still make sense,” says Friedman. “And I don’t think the opposite is true. I don’t think something is going to make more sense right now than it did 3 days ago.” The Dodgers reportedly like their in-house options and the depth they have in spring training camp.
Giants righty Jeff Samardzija held an interesting chat with MLB.com’s Jon Morosi. In large part, it’s a lengthy discussion of Samardzija’s multi-sport background and decision to pursue baseball professionally — which, he says, was driven more by interest than any considerations of the health implications of playing in the NFL. The San Francisco hurler likens the game of baseball to a “big painting you put together” and hints he could still have some masterpieces in his brush. He also suggests he’s not yet thinking about the end: “Where’s the end of the wick? Who knows? Let’s find out. That’s the fun of it all.”
More from the NL West:
- As the Padres consider roster options, the club is looking to squeeze some added utility out of certain players. Infielder Christian Villanueva, in particular, will be tried out as a backup option at short, per MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell (via Twitter). The 26-year-old, who’s out of options, has played all of 14 innings at short as a professional. But after he posted a .296/.369/.528 slash at Triple-A last year, the Pads seem to be looking for ways to hang onto Villanueva.
- In other Padres news, the organization is seeing promising signs from injured hurlers Robbie Erlin and Colin Rea, per Cassavell. The Tommy John recoverees are certainly interesting players to watch this spring, as both have shown their talent at times in the past. Erlin, it’s worth noting, is well ahead of Rea in the rehab process, though both are well over a year removed from their procedures. Both are part of a long list of pitching possibilities in Padres camp, as reflected in the current organizational depth chart over at Roster Resource.
- It seems one area of focus this spring for the Rockies is finding a way to swipe a few more bags. As Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports, the club is particularly interested to see whether the fleet-footed Raimel Tapia can learn to translate his speed into stolen bases. Just as interesting as the efforts on the bases, it seems there’s at least some hope that Tapia could hold down a spot at the top of the lineup. That seems a bit of a questionable fit, as the young outfielder doesn’t walk much and is therefore quite reliant upon maintaining a lofty batting average on balls in play to get on base. While lineup construction is hardly the most consequential issue facing the Rox, it seems worth noting that second baseman DJ LeMahieu has led the club in OBP in each of the past two seasons and would seem to be a sensible fit in the leadoff spot.