By Pat Graham, AP sports writer
DENVER (AP) — A couple more arms for a shaky bullpen. Maybe another utility player or two. Possibly a long-term deal for outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.
Those are among the priorities for Colorado Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich with spring training just a month away. He’s not quite done tinkering with a team that’s added a new coach in Bud Black , a new first baseman in Ian Desmond — really new, too, having never played the position — and a left-handed reliever in Mike Dunn .
“We’re still fairly active and engaged in both the free-agent market and the potential trade market,” Bridich said Tuesday. “The focus now is really on pitching, specifically on our bullpen.”
That’s why relievers such as Greg Holland and Joe Blanton remain on the Rockies’ radar as they try to repair a bullpen that blew 28 saves in 2016.
On the utility player front, Colorado is close to finalizing a deal with Alexi Amarista, who hit .257 in 150 plate appearances last season for the San Diego Padres. The 27-year-old Amarista would be another versatile piece for the Rockies as he reunites with Black, the longtime Padres skipper who’s taking over for Walt Weiss. Amarista is expected to take a physical this week.
Bridich also remains open to an new deal for Gonzalez, an All-Star who hit .298 with 25 homers and 100 RBIs last season. Gonzalez has been the subject of trade rumors over the last few seasons. He is paid $20 million this season, then is eligible to become a free agent.
“We feel like there’s a good chance we’ll be able to at least explore further,” said Bridich, whose team finished 75-87 last season, which was its best mark since 2010.
As for his arbitration-eligible players — third baseman Nolan Arenado, outfielder Charlie Blackmon and right-hander Tyler Chatwood — Bridich hopes to get deals done as the sides swap numbers on Friday.
And if Arenado, one of the top third basemen in the game, was receptive to examining a longer deal, hey, Bridich is all ears.
“We’re going to keep an open mind to anything,” Bridich said. “We’ll have conversations if they’re deemed necessary on something further. But any sort of those conversations that we have will be kept internal.”
Bridich doesn’t plan on adding a veteran arm to a youthful starting rotation that includes Jon Gray, Chad Bettis — who was recently pronounced cancer-free after dealing with testicular cancer — Tyler Anderson and Chatwood.
“I’m very excited, as are many people in the organization, about the core group of starters we have already at the major league level, and the type of talent we have got in our potential starters coming up at our Double-A and Triple-A levels,” Bridich explained.
Meanwhile, down in Florida, Desmond has started his conversion to first base. The All-Star outfielder is “working out daily,” Bridich said, after Desmond signed a $70 million, five-year contract in December.
“As we get closer and closer to spring training, the efforts to help him learn the position will increase and ramp up,” Bridich added.
The Rockies may not be completely done adding power to their already powerful lineup, either. They’re closely monitoring what’s going on with slugger Mark Trumbo, who hit 47 homers last season with Baltimore.
“We remain in touch. I think for good reason — Mark is a great player,” Bridich said. “We have certain priorities we’re trying to accomplish with where we’re at with our team and where we’re at with the offseason. There are probably some priorities ahead of where we would be at, if anything, with Trumbo.”