Over the weekend Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional reported that Carlos Gonzalez was close to signing a long-term contract extension with the Rockies worth as much as $80 million.
Initially the Colorado-based media was pretty quiet about the possibility, but Troy Renck of the Denver Post just tweeted that he “would be surprised if deal doesn’t get done” and pegged the details as $80 million for seven years.
Gonzalez won’t be eligible for arbitration until 2012, so a seven-year contract would cover his final season of pre-arbitration, all three seasons of arbitration, and his first three seasons of free agency. By comparison the six-year, $119 million extension teammate Troy Tulowitzki signed recently covers only free agent seasons, which is why Gonzalez’s deal is so much cheaper.
Acquired from the A’s in 2008 as part of the Matt Holliday package, Gonzalez won the batting title as a 24-year-old last season, hitting .336 with 34 homers, 117 RBIs, 26 steals, and a .974 OPS. Coors Field inflated his raw numbers significantly, as Gonzalez hit .289 with a .775 OPS on the road compared to .380 with a 1.161 OPS at home, but he’s an elite all-around outfielder and one of baseball’s premier young players.
Colorado now has two young superstars locked up through at least 2017, but their previous long-term commitments to Todd Helton and Mike Hampton turned sour well before the end of those massive contracts and there’s plenty of risked involved in committing $200 million to Gonzalez and Tulowitzki when they were both already under team control through 2014 anyway.
Last week Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reported that at least five teams were pursuing Jeff Francis, but the Canadian left-hander talked to the Vancouver Province and downplayed the amount of interest he’s received as a free agent.
It’s exciting for people to read because they think there’s lots of things happening, but it’s not as fast-paced as it’s all made out to be. Teams are interested, but that’s about it at this point.
Francis finished a four-year, $13.25 million contract and the Rockies declined their $7.5 million option on him for 2011 after he went 4-6 with a 5.00 ERA in 104 innings coming back from shoulder surgery.
He’ll likely have to accept an incentive-laden one-year deal at this point, as Francis hasn’t been healthy and effective since winning 17 regular season games and two more in the playoffs during the Rockies’ run to the World Series in 2007.
UPDATE: The swap is now complete, according to Astros social media director Alyson Footer. Houston will receive minor league pitchers Jonnathan Aristil and Wes Musick in return from the Rox.
Aristil, a 24-year-old right-hander, had a 5.90 ERA and 1.63 WHIP over 71.2 minor league innings in 2010. Musick, a 23-year-old lefty, posted a 4.05 ERA and 1.25 WHIP over 122.1 innings at Single-A.
5:18 PM: That was quick.
About an hour ago Buster Olney of ESPN.com tweeted that “the Astros are working hard on a possible trade of Matt Lindstrom today” and now Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports that the 31-year-old reliever has been traded to the Rockies.
Colorado has been in the market for right-handed bullpen help all offseason and dealing for Lindstrom allows the Rockies to fill that role without committing to a multi-year contract. Lindstrom is under team control for two more seasons as an arbitration eligible player and figures to earn around $3 million in 2011.
Harding notes that the Rockies first tried to acquire Lindstrom in the November trade that sent Clint Barmes to the Astros for Felipe Paulino, so they clearly like him a lot despite a rough second half that saw him post a 7.50 ERA and lose closer duties to Brandon Lyon. Lindstrom has averaged 96.3 miles per hour with his fastball over the past three seasons, which ranks third baseball, but all that velocity has never equaled great results and he has a 4.00 career ERA.
Huston Street remains the Rockies’ closer, but should he struggle with injuries again Lindstrom gives them a backup option alongside fellow setup men Rafael Betancourt and Franklin Morales.
With the Nationals and Orioles seemingly fighting over Adam LaRoche and Derrek Lee at first base the Padres have turned their attention to Brad Hawpe, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com.
After hitting at least .285 with 20-plus homers and an OPS above .875 in four straight seasons Hawpe struggled last year, getting released by the Rockies in late August and hitting .179 down the stretch after being picked up by the Rays.
His overall line of .245/.338/.419 wasn’t pretty and Hawpe is a terrible outfielder defensively, but he’s still just 31 years old with an .862 career OPS and would be far less of a liability on defense at first base. And while Coors Field obviously helped Hawpe’s raw numbers with the Rockies his home/road splits were never as extreme as most Colorado hitters.
Going from Coors Field to Petco Park would still be a huge adjustment for Hawpe, but he’s hit .273 with a .369 on-base percentage and .470 slugging percentage on the road during his career.