Backstop Hundley, Rox reportedly agree to 2-year deal

Backstop Hundley, Rox reportedly agree to 2-year deal

DENVER -- The Rockies appear to be taking a step toward upgrading their pitching by upgrading their catching, with a reported two-year deal worth more than $6 million with free agent Nick Hundley.

Neither Hundley nor the Rockies would confirm the signing, which was reported Wednesday by the Baltimore Sun newspaper.

Hundley, 31, spent most of his seven-season career with the Padres before finishing last season with the Orioles, who acquired him on May 24 for left-handed pitcher Troy Patton. Hundley hit a combined .243 with five home runs and 19 RBIs and a .631 OPS last season, which is in line with his career performance --.238 average, .294 OBP, .680 OPS. Hundley's main attributes are veteran leadership and defensive ability, which would be used to help a pitching staff that posted the Majors' highest ERA last season (4.84).

The Orioles declined a $5 million option on Hundley's contract for 2015 but attempted to re-sign him. Hundley and rookie Caleb Joseph split time behind the plate last season after regular catcher Matt Wieters was injured.

The Rockies still have the 2014 catchers -- Wilin Rosario and Michael McKenry -- on their roster as arbitration-eligible players. Rosario's name came up in reports of possible trades, most notably with the Rangers, but nothing has materialized. The Rockies seek pitching, but it's not clear if Rosario -- a power hitter who struggled with injuries last year and is not highly regarded as a receiver -- will bring Major League players or prospects.

Another possibility is for the Rockies to hang onto Rosario, who turns 26 on Feb. 23. Rosario finished 2014 with a .739 OPS with a .267 average, 13 homers and 54 RBIs, but had an OPS above .800 the previous two seasons. Rosario, who missed time with the flu and had hand and wrist injuries, could catch, play first base on occasion and be a righty power bat off the bench.

McKenry, who turns 30 on March 4, has appeared in five Major League seasons with the Rockies and Pirates. The 2014 season was his best offensively, when he hit .315 with eight home runs and 22 RBIs in 57 games, with semi-regular playing time coming later in the year.

The Rockies pursued Hundley based on defense. Last season, Stat Corner's rankings put Hundley's per-game pitch-framing in a group among the better catchers in the Majors -- especially when he was with the Padres. The Stat Corner formula, which is designed to produce groupings rather than a gospel number for individual catchers (since pitchers and umpires aren't accounted for), placed Rosario's pitch-framing per game close to the bottom and McKenry not far above Rosario.

The Rockies' top priority heading for 2015 is to improve their starting pitching. The club has been exploring trade options, while keeping in contact with various free-agent pitchers.

Lefty Jorge De La Rosa is the veteran leader and righty Jhoulys Chacin, who is coming off a rotator cuff and labrum injury that limited him to 11 starts last season, brings some accomplishment. Even if the Rockies bring in an established starter or two, there is still youth. Righty Jordan Lyles already has made 94 Major League appearances, but he won't turn 25 until Oct. 19. Lyles is exactly one year older than lefty Tyler Matzek, who had a strong finish to his rookie year in 2014.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.