DENVER -- Various teams' pursuits of free-agent center fielders Michael Bourn and B.J. Upton could determine whether the Rockies will receive serious trade inquiries for center fielder Dexter Fowler, baseball sources told MLB.com on Tuesday.
The Rockies insist they aren't shopping Fowler, who made $2.35 million last year and is arbitration-eligible for two more years. But the Rockies are listening, and several teams -- the Braves, Phillies and Rays, especially -- could be calling. The Rockies' search for a dependable starting pitcher could allow them to listen to offers for Fowler, who hit .300 with career highs in home runs (13) and RBIs (53) last season.
If the Phillies strike out on the free-agent market, with Upton considered the top target but Bourn in a group right behind, they could end up calling the Rockies about Fowler. The Denver Post reported Tuesday that the Braves, who employed Bourn last year, are pursuing Upton as a free agent but could call the Rockies about Fowler as a backup plan.
The Rays, who employed Upton before he went to free agency, also could end up talking to the Rockies about Fowler, although the Rays are believed to be in more of a listening mode than an inquiring mode.
The Rockies' young, relatively inexpensive roster could help make a deal possible. The acquisition of big corner infielder Ryan Wheeler from the D-backs last week for lefty reliever Matt Reynolds adds to the number of young players who will be under club control for years to come.
To deal Fowler, the Rockies will have to receive pitching as part of the package. That's why the Braves (Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Tommy Hanson), Phillies (Vance Worley, Ethan Martin, Trevor May, Jonathan Pettibone) and Rays (Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Niemann, Cesar Ramos and any number of prospects) are considered the top possibilities.