NASHVILLE -- The Rockies have arrived for business at the Winter Meetings, even though some key officials are here only in a virtual sense. New manager Walt Weiss, his newly constituted coaching staff and senior vice president of Major League operations Bill Geivett are among the club officials who will be at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center for the annual event, which begins Monday and runs through Thursday. Notably absent are general manager Dan O'Dowd and the club's scouts. Nonetheless, they will be busy.
Rather than convene with other teams for several days, the Rockies have decided that they can be more productive meeting in Denver, without having to pack up all of the materials, computers and video information. The Winter Meetings do place everyone at one site, but the truth is much of the negotiation from team-to-team is done by cell and text. Several club officials said the Rockies will see if having the GM and key evaluators not make the trip will be just as productive as sending them. Theoretically, the Rockies believe they can be as effective. As assistant general manager before the Rockies promoted him to his new post during the season, Geivett has been a major voice in trades and negotiations with free agents. So he will conduct any face-to-face meetings. O'Dowd remains the team's chief baseball officer and the person with ultimate responsibility for player acquisition, but Geivett has a high level of authority in such matters. The ultimate goal, regardless how the club goes about it, is to improve the pitching staff, whether it's by adding a dependable veteran such as Jeff Francis or Kevin Correia, or making a trade. The trade market is more likely to net them a young talent, rather than veterans with long track records. The Rockies' top trading chip is center fielder Dexter Fowler, although the club insists it is listening more than shopping. The volume of phone calls, however, was light in the days leading to the Winter Meetings. The issue is teams are sifting through some attractive center-field options on the market. B.J. Upton, the top free agent, has signed with the Braves, but Josh Hamilton, Michael Bourn and Angel Pagan are on the free-agent market, and it appears bidding on them is the priority for teams looking for a center fielder. With a strong 2012 season, Fowler appears to have settled the Rockies' longtime need for a leadoff hitter. Fowler's strong defense also is a plus; former Rockies manager Jim Tracy at times stayed with Fowler through slumps because of his ability to cover the vast center region at Coors Field. However, it appears Colorado could fill in for him defensively, either by moving two-time Rawlings Gold Glove winner Carlos Gonzalez from left or inserting Tyler Colvin, who played well in the position in a part-time role last season. Not to be underrated are the team's needs to fill a left-handed specialist hole in the bullpen -- the Rockies dealt their most logical person for the role, Matt Reynolds, to the D-backs just before Thanksgiving -- and a catcher to cover them, since all they have on the Major League roster are Wilin Rosario and veteran Ramon Hernandez, who is coming off hamstring surgery. It's likely the Rockies will seek a veteran they can add on a Minor League contract to help with catching depth and be ready for regular Major League duty if necessary.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.