Rockies accomplish lefty goal in Vegas
Agreement with Embree makes Winter Meetings pay off
LAS VEGAS -- The Rockies' main attainable goal for the Winter Meetings was obtaining a left-handed late-innings relief pitcher. That'll be realized once they complete the signing of Alan Embree to a one-year package with a mutual option for 2010 that'll pay him $2.25 million.
Like most everyone in baseball, the Rockies were looking to beef up their starting pitching and came close. But a deal for the Nationals' Tim Redding, which would have required the Rockies to send center fielder Willy Taveras and pitching prospect Juan Morrillo to Washington, didn't happen. Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said Thursday it probably won't.
The Rockies are mulling over whether to tender the arbitration-eligible Taveras an offer or simply let him become a free agent. Redding also is arbitration-eligible, but he was the Nationals' No. 1 pitcher last season and it's highly unlikely he'll be non-tendered so the Rockies could have a chance at him.
The Rockies decided against the other route to improving the top of the rotation -- trading third baseman Garrett Atkins, their most-proven right-handed threat. But they've improved their depth.
Assuming Embree and the Rockies nail down the contract language, and there is no indication that won't happen, the Rockies have added three pitchers who were with the Athletics last year. Left-handed starter Greg Smith and righty reliever Huston Street came, along with outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, in the deal that sent three-time All-Star left fielder Matt Holliday to the Athletics.
Also, left-handed pitcher Glendon Rusch is looking to see if he can do better than the non-roster offer the Rockies have made, but he had a good experience with the team late last season and is believed to be leaning toward accepting.
The Rockies have discussed free-agent righty reliever Luis Ayala, who had a career-high nine saves in 19 appearances for the Mets last season after the Nationals traded him there, and have expressed interest in former Brewers closer Derrick Turnbow.
Also, the Rockies could be one of the teams that will view the upcoming workout in Florida of lefty reliever Joey Eischen, who is healthy after missing two seasons because of shoulder surgery, with an eye toward signing him to a Minor League deal. O'Dowd acknowledged looking to create more relief depth at the Triple-A level.
O'Dowd also said the Rockies have a non-roster opportunity available to outfielder Scott Podsednik, who was a reserve last season and is a free agent. Podsednik has yet to accept.
Deals done: Technically none, although Embree could be signed by the weekend and odds are high that Rusch will sign.
Rule 5 activity: The Rockies took some hits high in the Draft, with the Padres taking infielder Everth Cabrera third overall and the Reds selecting righty reliever David Patton eighth overall. The Cubs then acquired Patton for cash in a trade. The Rockies didn't select anyone.
The possible loss of Cabrera, 22, a little fellow with a big arm, stung O'Dowd. The Rockies protected several middle-infield types, such as Eric Young Jr., Chris Nelson and Hector Gomez. They did not have room for Cabrera or Corey Wimberly, a player some expected the Rockies to lose.
O'Dowd said they feared that if they protected Cabrera on the 40-man Major League roster, it would cut down on his development time. But now Cabrera, who hit .284 at Class A Asheville, will get a ready-or-not big league chance. If whatever club that owns the rights to Cabrera or Patton elects to take the player off the 25-man Major League roster at any point during the 2009 season, it would have to first offer the player back to the Rockies for $25,000.
The Rockies' roster has a number of right-handed relievers, so Patton (4-5, 3.50 ERA, four saves at Asheville) has a greater opportunity elsewhere.
Goals accomplished: Left-handed relief.
Unfinished business: The Rockies hope to add pitching depth and possibly get a starter who can compete for the rotation. Those opportunities probably will arise in January.
O'Dowd's bottom line: "We tried to do some things we didn't get done, but we've got a lot of winter left. Since the start of the offseason, we've added three Major League pitchers. We'd still like to continue to add depth there. We've still got some things we'd like to do."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.