Catcher Hundley, Rockies agree to 2-year deal

Catcher Hundley, Rockies agree to 2-year deal

DENVER -- The Rockies upgraded their catching Monday by signing free agent Nick Hundley to a two-year, $6.25 million contract that pays $3.1 million in 2015 and $3.15 million in 2016.

"My goal is to help us win and make the pitching staff better," Hundley said. "There's no reason why the Colorado Rockies can't win the NL West. If you win the West, you'll be in the playoffs and anything can happen there, as evidenced by watching the Giants and the Royals play in the World Series."

Hundley, 31, spent most of his seven-season career with the Padres before finishing last season with the Orioles, who acquired him 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.

Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich liked Hundley's leadership with young pitchers, especially in San Diego, as well as his familiarity with the National League West. The fact Hundley tasted playoff competition with the Orioles last season made him that much more attractive to the Rockies.

"Everything we've heard about the man -- not just the player but the human being and the man -- a lot of it seemed to fit what we were looking to add to our team," Bridich said. "It really wasn't any more complicated than that."

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 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.

Hundley's 2014 receiving performance proved that a catcher could improve. Ranked in the lower half among catchers throughout his career, Hundley spent time before last season with former big league catcher A.J. Hinch, who was the Padres' vice president of pro scouting and now manages the Astros. After the trade, Orioles bench coach John Russell, another former catcher, gave him further education.

"I learned to really focus on getting guys more strikes -- coming up early in my career, I wasn't good enough at it," Hundley said. "So really the mindset changed doing that, and getting a couple little things technically that I worked on really helped a bunch."

To clear space on the 40-man Major League roster, the Rockies designated right-handed relief pitcher Chris Martin for assignment. Martin, 28, debuted in the Majors on April 26 and went 0-0 with a 6.89 ERA in 16 Major League games. He also went 1-3 with a 4.39 ERA in 25 appearances for Triple-A Colorado Springs.

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.