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Disclaimer: No indication Rockies owner can be swayed into dealing Tulo … Still, team has to be prepared if talks occur

We preface everything here with the simple statement, based on conversations with sources inside and outside the Rockies organization:

Owner Dick Monfort has no interest in trading shortstop Troy Tulowitzki at Thursday afternoon’s non-waiver Trade Deadline. The belief that a healthy Rockies club, with an improved rotation and a bullpen overhaul, is a winner next season means odds are against Monfort moving Tulowitzki — signed for extreme riches through 2020 — this offseason.

But the way to not get caught off guard is to be prepared, even if you know nothing may happen.

In the days leading to the Trade Deadline, the Rockies are getting ready for the magic phone call, even if it’s not coming.

The Rockies spent much of Monday studying the Mets organization, looking at current Major Leaguers and prospects, and gauging the abilities of young pitchers who have not reached their arbitration years. Any Mets pitcher who is anyone, whether he is working in Queens – like National League Rookie of the Year candidate Jacob deGrom – or prospects such as righty Noah Syndergaard (No. 1 on the MLB.com Mets Top 20 Prospects list) or Rafael Montero (No. 6), the Rockies are prepared to discuss. If the names of numerous position players come up, the Rockies are prepared.

But here’s the thing. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson on Monday said it is “unlikely” the team will make any deal, and sources throughout the game are saying it’s unlikely anything serious will occur with the Rockies. And, as can’t be stated enough, it’s all fantasy unless Monfort changes his belief that the Rockies will win with Tulowitzki.

But that’s the way these things work. Oh, it’s not only the Mets. We hear the Rockies have beefed up their knowledge on the Cardinals and the Angels – two teams with the money and Major League-ready players to make the Rockies’ baseball people at least listen if they were to call – and a few other teams that may have interest. Speaking of which, since Tulowitzki’s showing up at Yankee Stadium Sunday sparked so many conspiracy theories, we are told the Yankees are not one of the teams that the Rockies believe have players it takes to pull off a Tulowizki deal.

There’s absolutely no indication either team will make that call before the deadline. Nonetheless, the Rockies want to have detailed information if talks ever begin.

Other fronts appear to be quiet, although there is interest.

• We identified the Pirates as a team that is taking a look at Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins, and now we’re told that 5-6 clubs are interested in Hawkins, knowing he can pitch in any situation. But two issues are making it hard to deal the 41-year-old reliever with the ageless right arm:

The Rockies believe his influence is strong enough on young players and young pitchers that they want to keep him around, even though the team is in last place.

The Rockies’ requirement for help at the start of next season, plus pitchers under club control applies to Hawkins. Teams in contention haven’t offered what the Rockies want.

• It’s doubtful the Rockies will move lefty Jorge De La Rosa, who has pitched better at Coors than any pitcher in their history. The Rockies have been listening when clubs inquire, but after it surfaced that the Rockies coveted Orioles righty Kevin Gausman and a whole haul of prospects, no other team’s interest made it to the rumor stage. Expect the Rockies to make the $14 million qualifying offer to De La Rosa, a free agent after this season, and use that as the basis for keeping him.

• While the Rockies have scouted lefty Brett Anderson since his return from a broken left index finger, but there are no active discussions. The Rockies are expected to pick up Anderson’s $12 million option for next season.

– Thomas Harding

Pirates believed to be interested in Hawkins

The Rockies don’t appear to be willing to make a major trade at Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, but interest could pick up in a smaller deal for closer LaTroy Hawkins.

The Rockies won the first two games against the Pirates this weekend by big margins, so Hawkins was not forced into a save opportunity. However, the Pirates are believed to be interested in the 41-year-old right-hander. With the Rockies requiring players that can help them at the start of next season and always searching for young pitching under club control, a deal could be difficult but not impossible

It would be a case of the rich — in terms of power arms to protect a lead — getting richer. They have righties Jeanmar Gomez and Jared Hughes, lefties Justin Wilson and Tony Watson and righty closer Mark Melancon. And Melancon has proven adept in closing situations recently.

If the Pirates want to beef up their bullpen, it would be in middle relief or possible insurance in case Melancon struggles, is ailing or is unavailable on a given day. Hawkins, who can pitch in any situation and tends to become more effective as the season progresses, could be a fit.

Hawkins could be an upgrade over righty Ernesto Frieri, who has struggled since coming in a trade with the Angels for righty Jason Grilli.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is quite familiar with Hawkins’ ability and leadership skills. Hawkins was part of the bullpen when the Rockies went to the 2007 World Series under Hurdle.

A trade could be a boon for Hawkins. Although he has been effective this year, the struggles of the Rockies have reduced his opportunities to pitch. He has 37 appearances so far. In his career, he had 980 regular-season appearances going into Sunday. Getting t 1,000 is a goal for a solid pitcher who has never been to the All-Star Game. The opportunities can be more frequent with a contender.

But Hawkins enjoys Colorado, and the Rockies believe he has value even if the team doesn’t win this year. The Rockies’ young pitchers have struggled but some have bright futures, and the club believes Hawkins’ work ethic and willingness to lend experience are valuable even if it doesn’t show up in the younger pitchers immediately.

– Thomas Harding

Rockies Tulowitzki does not have no-trade clause; talks are intriguing if not imminent (Also, a look at many possible Rockies deals)

Tulo turn

Contrary to what has been repeated in many reports, Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki does not have a no-trade clause — at least not at this point — in his contract.

Going strictly by the contract language (and consulting with sources with direct knowledge of the contract), if traded, Tulowitzki would receive a $2 million bonus from the club he would land with, and only then would a no-trade provision go into effect. That is in addition to the five years and $104 million, plus incentives and escalators, left on his deal.

Now, from the standpoint that Tulowitzki is one of the game’s most-respected players and someone who has been through thick and a lot of thin with the Rockies, it stands to reason that if such a decision were made the club would at least listen to Tulowitzki’s preferences — especially if there were places he didn’t want to go. However, he does not have that right within his contract, and he is not a 10-and-5 player (10 years in the Majors with the last five with the team).

All that said, the chances are low that Tulowitzki would be dealt by next Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline. Tulowitzki has said all along he doesn’t expect a deadline deal, and the more likely scenario is he would meet with his family and club officials after the season and get an idea of the team’s direction before deciding whether to press for a trade. Sources around the Majors say Rockies owner Dick Monfort’s position with them is the same as it is publicly — he is not seeking a deadline deal, and there is no guarantee he wants to make a deal even after the season.

Tulowitzki’s being on the 15-day disabled list with a hip flexor strain also complicates the chance of a deal now.

By the way, Major League sources say the Rockies aren’t anywhere close to dealing outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, a sublime talent who has dealt with injuries the last two years.

Given that, current trade rumors are to be seen as laying the groundwork for talks after the season.

Those talks could become really interesting. Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote today that the Mets are interested in being players if the Rockies ever decided to deal Tulo or CarGo. Sherman names pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz, plus outfielder Brandon Nimmo and infielder Dilson Herrera as players the Rockies like. Given the Rockies’ perpetual need and desire for young pitching, the names Syndergaard and Matz would make it hard for club officials to dismiss if talks were to become serious.

Of course, anything the Mets do is related to the Yankees. Sherman points out that Tulo’s love for Derek Jeter, the Yankees shortstop who must be replaced, and the fact the Rockies like the Yankees’ top pitching prospect, righty Luis Severino. And the Cardinals have been rumored as a possible trading partner since last winter.

In other developments:

–The same article by Sherman points out that the Rockies have had interest in Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and notes the Rockies have pieces the Yankees want – lefty starters Jorge De La Rosa and Brett Anderson, and catcher Wilin Rosario, who could preserve his bat and mitigate his defensive issues by being a designated hitter or playing another position. But we are told that the Rockies aren’t looking to deal Rosario before Thursday’s deadline.

But expect Rosario to be an offseason topic of conversation. The Rockies have been sticking with him, believing his power hitting can make up for defense that has been a work in progress ever since he was promoted from Double-A in 2011. However, the Rockies may be forced to re-think.

The pitching staff will continue to be young. Left-hander Tyler Matzek and right-handers such as Eddie Butler and Jon Gray (Matzek and Butler debuted this year, and Gray is on the radar) will be in the rotation sooner than later. Righties Jhoulys Chacin and Jordan Lyles have been around, but are in their 20s.

It might be time for a veteran catcher, or one with frontline all-around ability who is special at calling games, to trim the learning curve for the pitchers. Two examples come to mind: 1) Late in his career, Pudge Rodriguez went to the Marlins and later to the Tigers, teams that didn’t have recent histories of winning. He made a major difference to those young staffs, and the result was a World Series win wit the Marlins and a World Series appearance with the Tigers. 2) It’s hard to quantify but easy to appreciate the impact Russell Martin had last year with the Pirates, who ended a 20-year postseason drought with pitchers who needed help reaching their potential.

–The Rockies are in a quandary when it comes to dealing their own pitching. They want young pitching under club control, but what if the best bargaining chips are their own desirable pitchers.

The Rockies are listening to trade offers, but the price they’ve set with the Orioles shows that they’ll take only the cream of another team’s crop. But even if they receive pitchers with bright futures, is there any guarantee they’re going to have the present that De La Rosa has?

De La Rosa has been by far the Rockies’ best pitcher at Coors Field, and whether he qualifies as the best pitcher in club history is a growing debate. Dude is 42-14 at Coors Field. And he likes pitching there. After seeing top prospects — lefty Drew Pomeranz, now with the Athletics, is a clear example — flame out at Coors, who’s to say anyone else’s prospects are going to make it?

Maybe the Rockies take the plunge. Or maybe they are better off retaining De La Rosa, who is in the final year of his contract. The $11 million qualifying offer the Rockies would need to make to preserve the right to compensation in case3 he left is $3 million more than he is making. That could give them another year with De La Rosa, or it could be the basis for a longer-term deal for a pitcher who wants to be here.

–Everyone says the Rockies need starting pitching. Heck, the Rockies say it. That being the case, it’s puzzling to see lefty Brett Anderson’s name in possible trade reports, although teams would be sensible to check on his availability.

Anderson missed 16 starts with a broken left index finger, and injuries have been an issue throughout his career. But let’s look at his two starts since coming off the disabled list: 1) Clearly rusty and still with little experience at Coors Field, he gave up five runs in the first inning against the Twins at home in the final game before the All-Star break. But he got through six with just one additional run. 2) At Pittsburgh, lacking his best stuff, Anderson pitched with savvy and professionalism and held a lineup for a contending club to one run in seven innings.

Once again, do you trade this top-end ability for guys whose best may or may not arrive at all or may or may not arrive at Coors Field?

Of course, there is a money issue. Anderson has a $12 million club option for 2015, or a $1.5 million buyout. If the Rockies believe that they’re a good team that has been ruined by injuries, it stands to reason that they pay the money and hope to be healthy next season.

–Well, we’ve laid out how the Rockies are leaning against dealing Tulo and CarGo, are likely to wait until after the season to address the catching situation, and have plenty of reasons not to deal De La Rosa or Anderson. So where do they get the young pitching they crave?

They’ll listen when teams discuss outfielder Drew Stubbs. The Mariners are the hot rumor. They’ll also listen to offers for righty pitcher LaTroy Hawkins. But there will be debate about how much a team is willing to give up for Stubbs, whose home/road splits and low on-base percentage history are concerning, and Hawkins, who is fit and effective but also 41.

Still, being in a pennant race makes giving up valuable pitching prospects sound like a better idea. So we’ll see. If Stubbs or Hawkins don’t bring offers of top-level prospects, the Rockies still must listen. This year’s injuries exposed a startling lack of starting depth, and they have to get it from somewhere.

– Thomas Harding

A look at the Rockies’ plans with Hawkins and Brothers, plus notes on batting and pitching pursuits

The Rockies’ pursuit of veteran right-hander LaTroy Hawkins, which resulted in a one-year, $2.5 million guarantee that will become official once Hawkins passes a physical, can be seen in an odd way as a compliment to young lefty Rex Brothers, who served capably as closer when veteran Rafael Betancourt was injured.

Brothers, who turns 26 on Dec. 18, went 19-of-21 on save chances and finished with a 1.74 ERA last season. At times he struggled putting away hitters early in innings but he still struck out 76 (against 36 walks) in 67 1/3 innings. It certainly is a signal that he could become even more effective.

But before Betancourt went through a right groin strain, an appendectomy and finally a season-ending elbow injury, many of Betancourt’s save opportunities came partly because of Brothers’ effectiveness as a setup man. Brothers’ club-record 30-inning scoreless streak, which covered 32 games, ran from April 10 to June 27. Only the final nine games of the streak came while he was in the closer role.

As the season progressed, several games ended with Brothers not even taking the mound, because the middle relief and setup men pitched away the lead. It’s the old sabermetric argument: Why have the best option sitting in the bullpen while lesser pitchers blow it?

Hawkins ended up an effective closer for the Mets late last season. He earned all 12 of his saves and blew just one from Aug. 6 to season’s end. He struck out 18 against one walk and held opponents to a .222 batting average in those 23 appearances. At 41, he still throws hard enough and deceptively enough to be trusted with the final inning. The Rockies believe if he holds the closer job, it frees them to use Brothers when the game is tight before the ninth. And if plans change and Brothers at some point ends up the closer — which has been his plan his entire career — Hawkins gives them an attractive option in a setup role.

The Rockies still want to shore up the setup roles through free agency. Signing Hawkins as closer likely takes them out of the chase for Brian Wilson and Grant Balfour, who could be invited to pitch the ninth inning by another club. But a hard throwers such as Jesse Crain, Joe Smith or Jose Veras could further fill the Rockies’ needs.

The attempt to load up the back of the bullpen makes for intriguing competition and decisions when it comes to holdovers from last season. The club likes the 96 mph-plus fastball that righty Chad Bettis brought last season when used in relief, and will keep him there rather than revisit him in the rotation. They tested righty Adam Ottavino in late innings and there were some encouraging numbers, such as a 2.00 ERA at Coors Field. Righty Mitchell Boggs finished up with the Rockies after struggling mightily with the Cardinals when forced into the closer role, and the club is having internal discussions about returning him to a starter role. Boggs started 15 of his first 24 big-league appearances when breaking in with the Cards in 2008 and 2009.

The Rockies also continue to be in the market for starting pitching, although it’s unclear exactly where they’ll look. They’re often leery of accomplishment elsewhere because of the Mike Hampton-Denny Neagle experiment a few years back, but Tim Hudson profiled well. However, Hudson decided to take his passion and intensity to the NL West with the Giants.

Left-handed hitting outfielder-first baseman James Loney continues to be a prime candidate for the corner bat the Rockies seek. Corey Hart, coming off a knee injury, told a satellite radio audience on Tuesday that the Rockies, Red Sox and his former team, the Brewers, have checked in with him. Not much will be known until next month, when he is cleared for full activity. What isn’t clear is how strongly the Rockies are pursuing first baseman Mike Napoli, whose ability to make a pitcher work would fit nicely at first base. However, with his 2013 team, the World Series champion Red Sox, and others in the mix, the Rockies may drop out of the bidding the way they did with catcher Carlos Ruiz, who re-signed with the Phillies on Monday.

– Thomas Harding

Teams inquire about Rockies’ Fowler

The idea that the Cardinals and Rockies would discuss a trade involving shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was the big rumor going into the General Managers Meetings in Orlando this week, but that never happened. However, industry sources said several teams inquired about the availability of center fielder Dexter Fowler. As the Denver Post’s Troy Renck reported this week, the Rockies have asked Carlos Gonzalez, who has extensive experience in center, if he would switch from left to center if Fowler is dealt.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com explains the Rockies’ position, and his report involving the Mets and first baseman Ike Davis could point to a possibility, and Jon Paul Morosi of FoxSports.com (via Twitter) identifies the Mariners as a suitor. ESPN Insider AJ Mass reports that the Reds and Rockies have talked, with three-time Gold Glove second baseman Brandon Phillips possibly coming to Denver, and the Reds moving speedy Billy Hamilton from center field to second.

But the Rockies have a lot of thinking to do before dealing Fowler. Although Fowler suffered finger, ankle and knee injuries and saw his numbers drop (.263, .369 OBP, .407 SLG, after .300/.389/.474 in 2012), the Rockies aren’t forgetting his .399 OBP before he was hit on the right hand by a pitch in June and the spiral began. Fowler also finished with 12 home runs, one shy of his career high, in 119 games.

The Rockies are already seeking a power bat for a corner position, either right field or first base, help in the starting rotation and a hard-throwing veteran for their bullpen. Any deal would most likely have to address one of the existing needs and replacing Fowler.

Fowler is due $7.35 million in 2014, and is still under club control for 2015.

In other Rockies Hot Stove-related developments:

–The Rockies, who have depended on the Draft and player development (more successfully in the past than with the current team), are reluctant to lose a 2014 pick by signing a player who received a qualifying offer from his former club. It wouldn’t hurt the Rockies as much as another team because the pick would be their second-highest rather than the first-rounder because the Rockies select in the top 10. Still, if the Rockies fill their corner bat hole through free agency, it will more likely be a player that doesn’t cost compensation — for example, James Loney, Justin Morneau, Corey Hart — than Carlos Beltran, Nelson Cruz or Mike Napoli, all of whom turned down qualifying offers.

– The Rockies made a play for catcher Carlos Ruiz but got sticker shock after hearing rumors he had received a two-year, $20 million offer, but they continue to monitor the situation and could be in play if the bidding doesn’t go that high.

– Thomas Harding

Tulo to Cards a Hot Stove rumor too hot not to talk about

Top representatives of the Rockies and the Cardinals will be in the same place, Orlando, during the MLB Generals Managers Meetings. So does two plus two equal a trade of Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the Cardinals?

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak spoke to SiriusXM Radio’s Jim Bowden on Sunday morning, and Bowden tweeted that the Cards are willing to trade a starting pitcher for  shortstop who will be under team control for years. Tulowtizki is 29 and signed through 2020, and the Cards can afford the $134 million he is owed over the life of his contract.

The possibility of talks is too hot for the Hot Stove rumor mill to ignore, even though Rockies owner Dick Monfort has said he has no plans to trade Tulowitzki (or outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, for that matter), and no other club official has said privately or publicly that the team would deal Tulowitzki for multipe parts. FoxSports.com reporter Ken Rosenthal last week called a deal that would sent Tulo to the Cards a “longshot.” However, he suggests the Cards give up first baseman Allen Craig, right-handed starter and National League Rookie of the Year candidate Shelby Miller and righty closer Trevor Rosenthal for Tulowitzki.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports wrote Sunday that the teams were expected to talk about a possible deal, adding that the teams have had informal talks. Passan reported that the Cards are unlikely to trade Craig, but Matt Adams (who played first when Craig was injured late in the regular season and held the job during the World Series when a hobbled Craig returned) could be in play. Yahoo! reports the Cards could turn to the Rangers and try to procure Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also suggests that the Indians’ Asdrubal Cabrera, the D-backs Didi Gregorius or free-agent Stephen Drew could replace Pete Kozma as the Cards’ shortstop.

– Thomas Harding

 

 

How would Carlos Beltran look in purple pinstripes?

Open-market musings:

How would Carlos Beltran look in right field for the Rockies?

The club is weighing various options in free agency, with a big bat being one of the priorities. While trads are an option, the Rockies are more likely to go the free agency route. That’s what they did two years ago when they signed Michael Cuddyer, who paid off for them by winning the National League batting title this year.

Don’t be surprised if the Rockies don’t at least seriously consider making a run at Beltran, who made his first World Series appearance this year while with the Cardinals. He’ll be 37 to start next season, but was quite productive in 2013 — .296, .339 OPB, .491 SLG. Those aren’t far from the numbers over his career. With a team that includes Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Cuddyer, it could be a fit. He could come in at two years and $30 million, as the MLB Trade Rumors Web site predicts. The Rockies had interest in him in the past.

Of course, there are many was for the Rockies to spend their money on a slugger, who can fit in at either first base or right field with Cuddyer playing the other position. Nelson Cruz, who is expected to turn down the Rangers’ qualifying offer and test the market, Justin Morneau, Marlon Byrd, James Loney (.338, nine home runs, 54 RBIs, .957 OPS in 55 games at Coors Field) and Corey Hart also could fit the bill. Brian McCann can catch and play first base, but at the top of his earning value in terms of money and years it’s doubtful the Rockies will be a serious competitor for his services.

The Rockies will attempt to bring in a pitching leader, and are expected to inquire about Tim Hudson — despite the fact the Braves, Royals, Indians and and Red Sox have already identified themselves as contenders — and Josh Johnson. The price figures to be high for Ricky Nolasco or Ervin Santana, as SI.com and others report, but the Rockies need a stalwart and can’t be counted out in those sweepstakes. Matt Garza, who could score big in free agency, and Jason Vargas also could be possibilities.

Also, add the name of righty reliever Jesse Crain to the list of publicly identified free-agency targets. The Denver Post has identified Brian Wilson, Grant Balfour, Joe Smith and Jose Veras as bullpen possibilities. ESPNNewYork.com reported the club is looking at LaTroy Hawkins.

The Rockies are also pursuing free-agent catcher Carlos Ruiz, although the Phillies are making a push to keep him. If the Rockies sign him, the intriguing situation is what becomes of catcher Wilin Rosario, a slugger who doesn’t have Ruiz’s experience or ability defensively.

– Thomas Harding

Rockies seek experience

The early reports on the Hot Stove have the Rockies seeking power and experience in the bullpen and skill behind the plate.

The Denver Post has reported the Rockies have expressed interest in Brian Wilson, Grant Balfour, Joe Smith and Jose Veras. In addition, ESPNNewYork.com reported Thursday that the Rockies are courting veteran LaTroy Hawkins, who was a leader and effective pitcher on the 2007 World Series team and is still going strong at age 41.

The Denver Post also mentions Carlos Ruiz as a catching target. To sign Ruiz, the Rockies are going to have to be creative to get Wilin Rosario’s power bat into the lineup with regularity. The team used Rosario at first base last season and right field has been mentioned. Still, there are forces in the organization who see Rosario as an asset because of his power. However, Ruiz is considered strong defensively and in working with a pitching staff, while Rosario is a work in progress. Another possibility behind the plate is Brian McCann, although the price tag may be higher than the Rockies are willing to pay. McCann also can play first base.

– Thomas Harding

Still, the team is looking for improvement offensively, with first base and right field as the positions to target. Look for the Rockies to evaluate Justin Morneau, Marlon Byrd, James Loney, Corey Hart and Nelson Cruz among others.

Rockies won’t deal Cuddyer, believe they’re a contender

The Rockies enter the second half four games under .500, but at 4 1/2 games behind the National League West-leading D-backs, which has Rockies owner Dick Monfort believing the team is a contender. That assessment will color the team’s approach to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, even though they tend not to make huge moves.

The Rockies were 35-32 when shortstop Troy Tulowitzki left the lineup with a broken rib. Tulowitzki returned for the final series before the break, and team could improve if he can stay healthy and performs to his current numbers (.332, 16 HRs, 52 RBIs in 64 games).

“You’ve got him back — you don’t know for how long; he’s got a history – but if he stays healthy, yeah I think so,” Monfort said when asked if he believes the Rockies have a shot.

Monfort threw cold water on the suggestion that the club could trade All-Star right fielder Michael Cuddyer.  Speculation during the break was that the Rockies could deal him for an established pitcher, such as the Cubs’ Matt Garza.

“Not a chance,” Monfort said. “You look at how vulnerable we are when we lose ‘Tulo,’ he [Cuddyer] is a right-handed bat,” Monfort said. “Right-handed corner bats with power are pretty important. You put into the mix he’s a guy that has Major League at-bats, and he plays first base.”

Monfort said he could see trading for “the right starting pitcher,” but he said he will not deal key lineup parts or prized prospects. That’s especially true in the case of Garza, who is a free agent at season’s end. Still, there are holes in the rotation. Juan Nicasio threw well in his final start before the break, after a brief demotion to the Minors. Lefty Drew Pomeranz has yet to have a strong start in the Majors this year.

That could mean the Rockies are more in the market for bullpen help. White Sox All-Star right-hander Jesse Crain has been a prime target, but he currently out with a shoulder injury and it isn’t certain if he’ll pitch before the deadline.

“We’re hoping Nicasio stays good, but that still leaves a hole until [veteran Roy] Oswalt comes back [from a hamstring injury], but that’s no given,” Monfort said. “I guess that’s where you’d look first, but bullpen is something else.

“Starting pitchers don’t profile well here. You just never know when you get one of those, a la [Jeremy] Guthrie, a la Jason Marquis.”

Monfort allowed for the possibility that the right starter at the right price could be had closer to the deadline.

“Everybody’s asking price is huge for these pitchers right now,” Monfort said. “You never know what happens [close to the deadline when teams struggle]. Look at San Diego. They went from a buyer to potentially a seller.”

Thomas Harding

Rockies pursue numerous pitching targets

Will the Rockies make a move for a proven starting pitcher at, before or after the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31?

Here’s what we’re hearing, according to those with knowledge of the possibilities:

The Rockies are not considered prime contenders for the Marlins’ Ricky Nolasco, but it’s not impossible that they’ll talk to the Marlins. Nolasco is in the final year of his three-year, $26.5 million deal. With many clubs around baseball, including National League West contenders the Giants and the D-backs, being mentioned as possible trading partners, the question is whether the asking price will be too high in terms of prospects or Major League-ready players.

Another possibility is the Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo, who is 6-7 with a 4.20 ERA, but in his last four starts is 2-1, 1.08. His last one was a clunker (eight hits and five runs, three earned, in four innings of a loss to the Cubs). Gallardo’s usually impressive stuff was so ordinary at the start of the year — he faced Colorado on Opening Day — that Rockies scouts are going to have to be convinced if the team is to pursue him seriously.

A sleeper team in the mix is the White Sox, who are willing to deal pretty much everyone but left-hander Chris Sale and slugger Paul Konerko. Expect the Rockies to pay attention to lefty John Danks, who had season-ending left shoulder surgery last August and has returned to make seven starts (1-5, 4.68 ERA). His last start was a good one – three runs, one earned, in 7 1/3 innings of a start against the Mets on Wednesday. Danks struck out seven, gave up seven hits, and didn’t walk anyone.

The Denver Post also includes Cubs starter Matt Garza among those the Rockies are “aggressively scouting,” and are taking a look at reliever Kevin Gregg. The Rockies have pursued Gregg as a setup man in the past.

Don’t forget, however, that the Rockies are always looking for bullpen help, and are taking a look at White Sox righty Jesse Crain, who is 2-2 with a 0.52 ERA in 36 appearances covering 34 2/3 innings. Back in 1999, Crain was Colorado’s high school player of the year at Fairview High in Boulder.

Thomas Harding

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