The MLB offseason is just different nowadays. Gone are the days where the Winter Meetings are action-packed with free-agent signings and teams making headlines entering the new season.
Today, clubs are unwilling to sacrifice their medium- and long-term outlooks in exchange for potential immediate success. Because of the different mindset taken on by front office executives, the free agent market has slowed considerably over the past few years. Many players sign following the new year and sometimes even wait until the start of Spring Training before deciding where to play.
Typically, the cream of the crop in the free-agent pool secure sizeable contracts; however, the market for veteran players has diminished over time with many teams looking for bargains more than ever before to conserve on payroll.
The Colorado Rockies are one of the teams that themselves bargain hunting this offseason. The only significant move the club has made was singing veteran Daniel Murphy to a two-year, $24 million contract. Murphy will fill a major hole at first base for Colorado, but the club still has multiple other issues that need attending if the Rockies expect to make a leap in 2019.
Before the end of last season, there was speculation that the Rockies would move on from second baseman DJ LeMahieu. The two-time All-Star has been a staple in the Rockies’ lineup for the last seven seasons, owning a .299/.352/.408 slash line and earning three Gold Glove awards.
Reports have indicated that LeMahieu is seeking a long-term deal, rightfully so considering he is 30 years old. That said, he may find himself a victim of baseball’s new age thinking, which could present an opportunity for the Rockies to bring him back on a short-term deal.
Veteran third basemen Mike Moustakas found himself in a similar situation last offseason and wound up returning to the Kansas City Royals on a one-year, $6.5 million contract.
Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports that the Rockies are considering signing free-agent second baseman Brian Dozier, adding that the club has some payroll concerns. Harding continued to say LeMahieu, and Jed Lowrie would fit but are seeking long-term contracts that Colorado is currently unwilling to offer.
Bringing back LeMahieu certainly has its benefits, being that he his a tremendous two-way player, fan favorite, well-liked teammate in the clubhouse and friend of Nolan Arenado, who is set to become a free agent following 2019.
So far it appears LeMahieu has not fielded a strong market and as Spring Training approaches, Colorado could potentially snag him on a team-friendly deal, like Carlos Gonzalez received last offseason.
Regardless if LeMahieu is a viable option for Colorado, the team should absolutely look to add a second baseman if they intend to contend for a World Series in 2019. Colorado currently has a stacked infield with Arenado, Murphy and shortstop Trevor Story. Retaining LeMahieu or adding someone of a similar caliber would bolster the infield and solidify the group as one of the best in baseball.
Dozier is an intriguing option and could potentially sign a team-friendly deal following a down year by his standards. Dozier hit .215 with 21 home runs in 2018. Regarded as a power bat, Dozier would slide nicely into Colorado’s lineup which already houses the National League leader and runner-up in home runs (Arenado, Story).
Lowrie, 34, would also be a solid addition, but is coming off an All-Star season, which could drive his asking price up; however, like the rest of the free-agent second baseman, there is no established market for his talents leaving the possibility open that he could sign on a short-term deal.
Internally, the Rockies possess some young talent that could take over the duties at second base. Ryan McMahon has played all over the diamond throughout his time in the minor leagues and has shown signs that he could be an impact player of the future for the Rockies. Garrett Hampson is another young infielder that impressed manager Bud Black enough in his brief stint at the major league level last season to warrant a postseason roster spot.
Brendan Rodgers is the ace of the Rockies’ farm system and a top-10 prospect in baseball. Rodgers has been groomed to be an infielder of the future in Colorado but has yet to crack a spot on the major league roster. Nonetheless, the 22-year-old was impressive in the minor leagues last season, hitting .275/.342/.493 at Double-A Hartford and ended the year at Triple-A Albuquerque.
While all the team’s prospects are intriguing, there would be some risk in going with the inexperienced players. Re-signing LeMahieu or going out and finding another quality second baseman should be Colorado’s top priority.