December 2011

It’s the Seth Smith shopping season

With the addition of Michael Cuddyer to the outfield, the Rockies are hoping to trade left-handed hitting outfielder Seth Smith to fill other needs, which have been identified as pitching and second base. The club had lengthy talks with the Braves in hopes of landing infielder Martin Prado. However, any such deal would wend up being contingent on the Braves swinging another trade to fill the hole that Prado’s departure opened. The Braves appeared close to one at one point, but that’s no longer the case. That trail is now cold.

During the Winter Meetings, the Rockies had talks with the Mariners and those could be gaining new life, although it’s unclear how far along those talks are. During the Winter Meetings the Mariners appeared willing to trade infielder Chone Figgins, a onetime contributor to winning teams with the Angels who has struggled the last two years. That almost certainly would require the M’s to eat most or all of the two-year, $17 million remainder of the contract. The Rockies, the team that originally drafted Figgins, were lukewarm at that point.

Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported this week that the Mariners, Athletics, Mets, Braves and Rays are possibilities.

Blake reaches agreemernt with Rockies

Veteran third baseman and utility man Casey Blake has agreed to terms on a one-year contract, Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd announced Tuesday, during outfielder Michael Cuddyer’s introductory press conference at Coors Field.

Blake, 38, appeared in just 63 games for the Dodgers last season (.252, 4 HR, 26 RBIs) because of various injuries — a back problem, an elbow infection and a neck nerve issue that led to surgery. O’Dowd said Blake checked out medically, but the contract will not become official until Blake passes a physical. The physical is not likely to occur until after the holidays.

“We think we added a culture-changer, just like we added in Michael Cuddyer,” O’Dowd said.

The contract calls for a non-guaranteed base salary of $2 million, with another $1 million available in performance bonuses.

Over 13 seasons with the Blue Jays, Twins, Orioles, Indians and Dodgers, Blake has hit .264 with 167 home runs and 616 RBIs.

Cuddyer honors Killebrew with number choice

New Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer annoucned that he will wear No. 3 to honor a friend and former Twins great, the late Hall-of-Famer Harmon Killebrew. His introductory press conference at Coors Field starts soon.

Cuddyer wore No. 5 with the Twins, for whom he played 11 seasons.

“Strictly as a human being, he’s one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever come in contact with,” Cuddyer said. “One of the first things I did was look at the roster, see if 3 was available and ask for it. I’m very happy to get it.”

Braves, Rockies continue to discuss Smith-Prado trade

The Rockies could use one more bat, specifically at second base. The Braves need a left fielder. None of this has changed since the offseason began and reports surfaced of the possibility of the Rockies sending left-handed hitting outfielder Seth Smith to Atlanta for right-handed hitting infielder Martin Prado. Dialogue between the teams continued through last week, and word Monday was the possibility of a trade remains alive.

The frontburner issue for the Braves appears to be seeing what kind of package they can receive for right-handed starting pitcher Jair Jurrjens, a move that could fill other needs.

The Rockies reached a three-year, $31.5 million agreement with former Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer last week, and are in position to deal Smith.

The Rockies’ main need is a durable starting pitcher, but they have shown no interest in dealing the multiple prospects that many teams require for such a deal. So adding another bat at second base, where the Rockies for now have a possible combination of former first-round Draft pick Chris Nelson and solid multi-position man Jonathan Herrera, has risen to the top of the pecking order.

It would be yet another roadblock for Nelson, who took awhile to find his legs as a professional but has earned compliments from manager Jim Tracy for his work ethic. If such a deal occurs, Nelson could get his chance at third base — if hot prospect Nolan Arenado needs more time to develop. Arenado put up dominant numbers in Class-A last year and in the Arizona Fall League, and will be given a shot to make the Majors this spring.

As for the pitcher, the Rockies would like to re-sign veteran righty Kevin Millwood, who displayed leadership — not only on the mound, but with his preparation between starts — that could help a mostly young starting staff. While it would be nice to add a 200-innings stalwart, it doesn’t look possible on the trading market, it’s cost-prohibitive in free agency, and might not be necessary. A veteran hurler who can stabilize the pitching until left-hander Jorge De La Rosa returns in May or June from Tommy John surgery might be good enough to keep the club in good position in the National League West.

The Denver Post reported late last week that the Rockies have reached out to free-agent right-hander Brad Lidge, who grew up in Colorado  and, through his agent, expressed interest in pitching for his hometown team. Lidge, who has history as a dominant closer, is coming off a 2011 season with the Phillies during which he missed time with a partially torn rotator cuff and experienced elbow issues. The Phillies have discussed bringing him back. Given his current health, it’s more likely that wherever he signs it would be under a Minor League deal. If the Rockies bring back infielder Melvin Mora, who played for them in 2010, it would be under a Minor League deal.

Rox, Cuddyer reach three-year, $31.5 million agreement

The Rockies are putting the final touches on a three-year signing of outfielder Michael Cuddyer to a three-year, $31.5 million contract, a Major League source confirmed to MLB.com on Friday morning.

The right-handed hitting Cuddyer, 32, hit .284 with 20 home runs and 70 RBIs for the Twins last season. He has hit at least 20 homers three times in his career, including a career-high 32 in 2009. In 1,139 career games, all with the Twins, Cuddyer is a .272 hitter with 141 homers and 580 RBIs.

Cuddyer figures to fit in the lineup in left field, but also could move to first base on days Todd Helton is not in the lineup. The Rockies could use him in the No. 5 spot behind shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, or at No. 6 if the Rockies want the left-handed hitting Todd Helton to continue to bat behind Tulowitzki.

The Rockies also were looking to re-make the flavor of the clubhouse, after finishing 73-89 last season and not showing the toughness that had become a trademark of the club in recent seasons. The team has added a pair of veterans via free agency – catcher Ramon Hernandez for two years and $6.4 million, and Cuddyer.

The Rockies still aren’t likely to be done with building the 2012 roster. Left-handed hitting left fielder Seth Smith is the team’s main trading chip, who figures to be supplanted by Cuddyer, is the team’s main chip in attempts to deal to fill other holes. A key one is the need for a starting pitcher capable of 200 innings, with left-hander Jorge De La Rosa having to come back from Tommy John elbow surgery and out until sometime around June .

The Rockies rid themselves of $7 million in salary by dealing relief pitcher Huston Street to the Padres and further trimming the payroll of a projected $2.6 million when they sent arbitration-eligible third baseman Ian Stewart to the Cubs as part of a four-player trade, the Rockies achieved enough payroll relief to make an offer to an outfielder.

But signing Cuddyer means the Rockies will not be able to continue to pursue Hiroki Kuroda, a right-hander reportedly looking for a one-year deal in the $13 million range.

The Rockies began pursuing Cuddyer early in the free-agency period, but needed the market to fall into place. That occurred on Tuesday, when news surfaced that outfielder Josh Willingham moved toward accepting an offer from the Twins. The original thought Twins were not going to sign both players, but the Twins remained in the running.

According to reports, the Phillies and Mariners were still trying to sign Cuddyer as of Thursday.

Rockies talk to Cuddyer; Twins in the mix

Negotiations continued Thursday between the Rockies and free-agent outfielder Michael Cuddyer. The Mariners, Phillies and a somewhat unexpected suitor, the Twins, are also in the mix. It’s not clear how quickly the Rockies or anyone else can come to an agreement.

Cuddyer has spent his entire Major League career with the Twins, who made him a three-year offer. It was believed that the Twins were no longer a possibility when outfielder Josh Willingham signed for three years and $21 million. But multiple reports said the Twins had not dropped out of the running.

The Rockies’ prime focus is Cuddyer. The team has expressed interest in six-time All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran, but he is considered a longshot for the Rockies, mainly because of health concerns. Beltran has dealt with serious knee issues, including arthroscopic surgeries on both of them before the 2007 season and a further surgery on the right knee in 2010. The Mets had to be careful with his playing time early last season. Beltran put up strong numbers after being traded to the Giants for their lat-season run. However, the Giants have not signed him even though they have a need in the outfield.

Cody Ross remains a possibility to be signed to work in a tandem in left field with Seth Smith. If Cuddyer is signed, expect the Rockies to attempt to trade Smith to fill other holes.

Cuddyer, Rox continue to talk

The Twitter universe says Michael Cuddyer will reach an agreement with the Rockies by the end of today. From what I’ve been told, the sides continue to negotiate but the end of today my not be feasible. Terms aren’t known, but it could be lucrative: Cuddyer was reported to have a three-year deal for around $25 million from the Twins on the table. I’m reading the Mariners and Reds also have approached Cuddyer, and the Phillies — an early suitor — are involved.

If or when it does happen, don’t be surprised if left-handed hitting Seth Smith isn’t dealt quickly. Such a deal woudl clear a crowded outfield, and it would be the best way for the Rockies to fill other holes, especially pitching. Whatever the Rockies cleared in trading pitcher Huston Street to the Padres and infielder Ian Stewart to the Cubs will be spent on Cuddyer, or another outfielder if the Rockies go in that direction (such as Carlos Beltran).

Smith ranks as the best hope for acquiring a pitcher capable of 200 innings to help the rotation along until Jorge De La Rosa completes his comeback from Tommy John left elbow surgery, which should be sometime around June. Lower-cost options such as Kevin Millwood, Jeff Francis or recently non-tendered Joe Saunders will come into play, also.

As for free-agent right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, the chances of such a signing are doubtful considering what the Rockies will spend on the outfielder.

Rox pursuing Beltran and Cuddyer; hope to sign one

The Rockies are trying to sign free-agent outfielder Carlos Beltran, two Major League sources told MLB.com on Tuesday. The Rockies’ involvement with Beltran was first reported Tuesday by CBS Sports.

A six-time All-Star, Beltran is coming off a 2011 in which he hit a combined .300 with 22 home runs and 84 RBIs for the Giants and Mets. He hit .323 with seven homers and 18 RBIs in 44 games after the Giants acquired him for a late-season stretch run.

The switch-hitting Beltran, who turns 35 on April 24, is a career .283 hitter with a .361 on-base percentage, and has 302 home runs and 1,146 RBIs. In 25 career games at Coors Field, Beltran has hit .276 with six home runs, 24 RBIs, nine doubles and a triple. He has compiled an .880 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) at Coors as well.

The Rockies’ search for an outfielder to bolster their lineup has led them to pursue free-agent Michael Cuddyer, who is considering a three-year offer with the Twins, the team with which he has spent his entire Major League career.

It is not clear when a decision from Beltran, who has fielded interest from the Cardinals and the Red Sox, or Cuddyer will come.  The Rockies are looking at signing one outfielder to bolster the lineup. Cody Ross’ name has surfaced, but the Rockies are not pursuing him at this time. They are unlikely to do so until after looking at other possibilities. <p />

That outfielder, however, will not be Josh Willingham, whose name has been connected with the Rockies in recent days. Willingham’s agent, Matt Sosnick, said Willingham’s decision is down to three teams but the Rockies are not one of them, and Rockies sources say they have not been in on Willingham.

The Rockies currently have an outfield, with Seth Smith in left, Dexter Fowler in center and Carlos Gonzalez in right. However, the Rockies have been dangling Smith, a left-handed hitter with strong numbers against righty pitching, in trade talks in attempts to shore up other areas of the club.

Rox agree to deal Street, can pursue pitching or Cuddyer

DALLAS – The Rockies agreed to trade their former closer, Huston Street, to the Padres on Wednesday and are aggressively pursuing improvements that aren’t limited to starting pitching, sources told MLB.com. The teams are completing negotiations, but the Padres are expected to pick up much of Street’s $8 million guarantee for 2012.

According to multiple sources with knowledge of the deal, some cash will go the Padres’ way, but there is enough salary relief for the Rockies that they can entertain other deals.

MLB.com has learned that the Rockies have contacted the Braves with interest in arbitration-eligible right-handed pitcher Jair Jurrjens, a talented young arm who is expected to make around $5 million through arbitration in 2012 and is under club control through 2013. CBS Sports reported Tuesday night that eight teams have approached the Braves. The Rockies also have discussed trade scenarios with the Reds involving right-hander Edinson Volquez, and they approached righty Hiroki Kuroda last week but made it clear they will to clear salary to make a deal work.

But the Rockies also have coveted free-agent outfielder Michael Cuddyer and have the dollars to pursue him. Theoretically, the Rockies can use their left-handed hitting outfielder Seth Smith as a chip to fill holes, pitching and otherwise. However, the Rockies will not include center fielder Dexter Fowler — whom they believe is in for a breakout season — in any deal.

The move also offers the Padres, who are expected to send the Rockies a player to be named, some flexibility as they replace Heath Bell as closer. Street is due $7.5 million this year with a $500,000 buyout on a 2013 option worth $9 million. If Street has a standout season – and he’s working at PETCO Park, a pitcher-friendly venue – the Padres will not have to pursue another closer on the open market before 2013.

Rafael Betancourt, who supplanted Street as closer last season, is projected for the role with the Rockies this year. The Rockies then could develop righty Chad Bettis, who struck out 184 against 45 walks at Class-A Modesto as a starter, to be the closer of the future.

Cubs’ interest in Stewart wanes

The Cubs are in a wide-ranging search for a third baseman, but they’ve backed away from trying to acquire the Rockies’ Ian Stewart, at least for now. The situation remains fluid, however, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that they’ll jump back in.

The Rockies discussed at various points acquiring infielder Blake DeWitt and outfielder-first baseman Tyler Colvin, and the Denver Post reported that the Rockies asked about infielder DJ LeMaiheu and left-handed reliever Scott Maine.

Stewart’s name has come up in talks with various teams since last summer’s non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Rockies and D-backs talked back then. But if no deal is reached, expect Stewart to compete for the starting third base job with Brandon Wood, signed to a Minor League contract, and Jordan Pacheco. Chris Nelson and Jonathan Herrera, who are in the mix for playing time at second base, also play third.

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