DENVER (AP) — First baseman: Check. Veteran reliever: Check.
Usually more frugal this time of year, the Colorado Rockies are crossing quite a few big-ticket items off their free agency shopping list. On Thursday, the team shored up its shaky bullpen by agreeing to a $19 million, three-year contract with reliever Mike Dunn.
It’s the second splashy move the Rockies have made in recent days. They also signed All-Star outfielder Ian Desmond to a $70 million, five-year deal as he makes the switch to first base.
Colorado may not be done shopping, either.
Even after adding Dunn and Desmond, Colorado general manager Jeff Bridich hinted he may still be retooling the team for Bud Black’s first year as Rockies manager. Colorado went 75-87 last season, its best record since 2010, and is trying to close the gap on the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants in the NL West.
”I believe in this club and this collection of players we have already on the team and the players that are coming in,” Bridich said. ”But I think it would be remiss to say we’re going to sit here and be satisfied.”
Hence, the conversations with free agents such as long-ball hitters Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion.
”Our process will always be, as I’ve said, eyes and ears open to whatever, whether that’s free agency or a trade,” Bridich said.
By signing with Colorado, Dunn not only moves closer to home but possibly to landing a closer’s role. The Farmington, New Mexico, native has typically worked the middle innings over his career.
”You always want to potentially become a closer if you’re a reliever,” Dunn said Thursday at his introductory news conference. ”Ultimately, I want to win baseball games, however that pans out.”
The 31-year-old left-hander gets $4 million next season and $7 million in each of the following two years. Colorado has a $6 million option for 2020 with a $1 million buyout, and that season’s salary would become guaranteed at $7 million if pitches in 60 games in 2019 or 130 combined in 2018-19.
Dunn figures to help buoy a bullpen that blew 28 saves last season. He went 6-1 with a 3.40 ERA in 51 appearances for the Miami Marlins and had eight holds and four blown saves.
Another thing: He’s far from intimidated by the way routine fly balls travel in the thin air of Coors Field.
”You make good pitches, you’ll get outs,” Dunn casually said. ”Make better pitches and win the game.”
Dunn joins a bullpen that includes relievers such as Adam Ottavino – the favorite to be the closer heading into spring training – Jake McGee, Chad Qualls and Jason Motte, along with younger arms like Carlos Estevez. Colorado finished 12-20 in games decided by one run last season as the bullpen posted a 5.10 ERA.
”We’re trying to build a good pen where once the starter comes out and we have the lead the game is over,” Dunn said.
Dunn was picked by the New York Yankees in the 33rd round of the 2004 amateur draft. He is 28-25 over his career with the Yankees, Atlanta Braves and the Marlins. He’s durable, too, only landing on the disabled list once in his career – at the beginning of 2016, with a strained forearm.
”I can’t guarantee the results, but I guarantee I’ll leave everything on the field,” Dunn said. ”My goal is to get in 80 games, maybe 81 – try to pitch every other day. I train for that and that’s what I shoot for.”
Dunn grew up in Farmington, which is about a seven-hour drive from Denver.
”When I was younger, I told my dad, ‘I’ll pitch in that stadium someday,”’ Dunn said. ”This has been a location I’ve been looking at for a long time. I’ve been paying attention to what they’re doing. It’s a very exciting group of guys.
”It’s a team that has got high hopes and it’s somewhere I really want to come and hopefully win a championship.”