LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Rockies left the Winter Meetings on Thursday close to having accomplished two of their three biggest priorities.
Colorado traded for a front-of-the-rotation talent in lefty Brett Anderson from the Athletics, and as the contingent headed back to Denver, it was moving closer toward signing free-agent lefty J.P. Howell, with a number of others possible if that doesn't materialize.
As a team that isn't a major spender, the offseason can be difficult for fans when additions aren't being made during an event like the Winter Meetings, even if work is being done.
Deals done: The team pulled its biggest offseason move, acquiring Anderson for lefty Drew Pomeranz and right-handed Minor League starter Chris Jensen.
Several other moves occurred well before the trip -- the Rockies signed right-handed closer LaTroy Hawkins for one year at $2.5 million, traded center fielder Dexter Fowler to the Astros for right-handed starter Jordan Lyles and outfielder Brandon Barnes, and moved close to an agreement with free-agent first baseman Justin Morneau.
Morneau was in Denver on Thursday, and once the physical is completed the Rockies are expected to officially announce the deal, which is expected to be for two years at $12.5 million, with a $6.3 million payment for 2014.
Rule 5 activity: The Rockies selected hard-throwing right-hander Tommy Kahnle from the Yankees in the Minor League phase. Kahnle pitched at Double-A Trenton last season.
Here is a scouting report, from Jim Callis of MLBPipeline.com:
Kahnle posted a 2.85 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 60 Double-A innings this year, thanks to a mid-90s fastball. The 2010 fifth-rounder lacks a reliable secondary pitch and control (45 walks), which is why he was left unprotected.
Goals accomplished: Last year, three of the Rockies' five most frequently used starters (Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin and Tyler Chatwood) finished above .500, and the team was 49-32 in their starts. And Juan Nicasio struggled on and off but had a 9-9 record. Yet the Rockies went 74-88 and finished last in the National League West.
The move for Anderson throws Nicasio into competition for the fifth spot with Lyles and lefty Christian Friedrich, with right-handed prospects Eddie Butler and Jonathan Gray expected to knock at the Major League door at some point.
Adding quality and depth to the rotation simply had to happen, and the Rockies were willing to pay for it. With the Athletics sending $2 million, the Rockies picked up the rest of Anderson's $8 million 2014 salary.
"Any way you can get an impact starter, whether you're pooling for it players or cash, it really doesn't matter as long as you can get him," Rockies senior vice president of Major League operations Bill Geivett said.
Unfinished business: Howell, who turns 31 on April 25, held left-handed hitters to a .164 batting average and righties to a .222 mark last season while going 4-1 with a 2.03 ERA in 67 appearances for the Dodgers. The Rockies backed away from spending on a right-handed bat to make sure they had room to pursue Howell, and they have other routes if they can't get him.
Howell or someone like him should be a good complement to Hawkins and lefty Rex Brothers, who served as closer last season when Rafael Betancourt was injured. Hawkins was signed as closer, but with an additional power lefty being used late in contests, manager Walt Weiss has the flexibility to use Hawkins earlier and Brothers as closer in some situations.
• Wrapping up the relief issue leaves the Rockies short a right-handed bat who could come off the bench or start part-time. The Rockies could get a low-priced backup type.
The Rockies considered using the bulk of their financial resources on a corner bat, but decided to go for pitching. The hitter they discussed, outfielder-first baseman Michael Morse, reached a one-year, $5 million agreement with the Giants on Thursday.
Bottom line: "We'll see what happens, but we feel good about where we sit right now."