Fuentes is heading into his final year of arbitration. Even though he lost the closer job to Manny Corpas in the middle of the 2007 season, his figure will be a raise from his $3.5 million salary for the year. But the Rockies have budgeted to pay it and deal with having two closer-level pitchers.
"I think clubs know that there's no reason to move him unless we can make ourselves a better baseball club," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said Monday. "There are only certain clubs that would fit. And some of these clubs, quite honestly, don't have a whole lot to trade."
On a quiet first day of meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, the Rockies pondered their opening at second base, and continued to weigh their options for a starting pitcher and bullpen help. And as the Fuentes case suggests, they're operating from a position of strength.
O'Dowd acknowledged that there are four or five clubs that might have what it takes to acquire Fuentes. But he also said that Fuentes has not asked for a trade, and the club would like to have him back.
Fuentes' name has come up annually in reports of potential trades at the non-waiver deadline. But when the 2007 deadline arrived, Fuentes was out with a strained left lat muscle that cost him a little more than a month. He had blown four straight save opportunities before suffering the injury.
After he returned, however, he posted a 1.52 ERA in his final 24 appearances to lower his season ERA from 4.06 to 3.08.
At second base, O'Dowd said if the Rockies don't stay within to fill the opening, they will look at trades and free agency. One key free-agent target, Mark Loretta, has a decision to make. The Astros, his 2007 team, offered him arbitration, so he'll have to reject it before signing with another club.
If he accepts, he'll stay with the Astros and receive a raise above his $2.5 million salary for 2007. But the Astros have signed former Rockies second baseman Kazuo Matsui, so his playing time could be limited. Marcus Giles, who played for the Padres last season, has emerged as a free-agent candidate.
Veteran Jamey Carroll, former starting shortstop Clint Barmes and prospects Omar Quintanilla and Jayson Nix are in-house candidates who have experience at the position. But right-handed-hitting Jeff Baker and left-handed-hitting Ian Stewart are power-hitting corner infielders who are looking at making a transition to second.
"We've challenged Ian, we've challenged 'Bake,'" O'Dowd said. "We're not going to hold their hands through this process. There are interesting opportunities out there for them. We'll see how they show up in the spring."
But expect the Rockies to make some of the decisions quickly, simply because they need to get to a manageable number of candidates.
"You can't try six guys out at second base," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "You've got to seed this thing somehow going in. That's not fair to all the guys."
As the Rockies attempt to fill their starting rotation, they are open to re-signing free-agent pitcher Josh Fogg, who went 21-18 for them in 2006 and 2007. They met with his agent, Dan Horwits, on Monday and, although they didn't make a formal offer, gave an idea of their interest. The Rockies also have discussed re-signing left-hander Mark Redman or pursuing righty free agents Steve Trachsel and Brett Tomko.
The Rockies said they are looking to the free-agent market to fill bullpen holes with veterans -- they still are hoping to re-sign right-hander LaTroy Hawkins, but will have to wait to see which left-handers are available -- but also could trade for younger arms.
A possible free-agent target for the bullpen is right-handed reliever Kazuo Fukumori from the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan. The Rockies have been connected to Fukumori through the media, but his agent, Alan Nero, said he and O'Dowd have never actually talked about him. The name is expected to come up when the agent and the GM meet this week.
The Rockies reported that they are in good shape health-wise.
According to club spokesman Jay Alves, a recent MRI on the right shoulder of catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who had missed much of 2006 with muscle strains in the area, looked better than the one he took before last season. O'Dowd also said Torrealba, who decided before last season to take up alternative training methods of weight training, has lost 10 pounds since the end of the 2007 season.
Also, catcher Chris Iannetta is recovering nicely from surgery to remove bone spurs in his right hand, and the leg muscle injuries that hampered center fielder Willy Taveras through the season have healed. Taveras is expected in Denver soon so he can train in the Rocky Mountain altitude and deal with the hydration issues that can lead to strains.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less