DENVER -- The Rockies and right-handed pitcher Aaron Cook on Tuesday signed a new contract that will pay him $34.5 million and will keep him with the club through 2011, with a mutual option for 2012.
The Rockies picked up Cook's 2008 option worth $4.5 million last month. The new deal maintains his scheduled 2008 salary, but adds an additional $30 million, starting with $2.5 million bonus money added to his 2008 contract to bring his total for the season to $7 million. Other details of the contract were not immediately available. Cook would have been eligible for free agency after the 2008 season.
Cook, who turns 29 on Feb. 8, joins left-hander Jeff Francis as having signed long-term contracts with the club. Francis accepted a four-year, $13.25 million contract last winter.
The Rockies consider tying their top two pitchers to the club a huge forward step. As a small-to-middle market franchise that has made big-money mistakes in the past, tight payrolls are a fact of life. But Colorado has a group of young players that accomplished a National League Championship in 2007, and wants to keep as much of that nucleus together as possible.
The Rockies hope the signing of Cook, on the heels of the Francis signing, helps convince other players to trade some of their free agency for the chance at more success with the Rockies.
"I'm not big on sending messages, but I think there are times when certain things are done professionally and respectfully that add value to everything that you do," manager Clint Hurdle said recently when asked what effect signing Cook to his contract will have on the core of young players. "And I think players appreciate that and I think that would be a very good example of an organization showing the people that are in play that we value you first.
Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said he hasn't formulated his strategy for signing other young players to longterm deals, but the Rockies will be aggressive in doing so if the player is open to it.
"I don't know how this affects others, because those are individual decisions," O'Dowd said. "Obviously, we think a lot of Aaron, and he indicated that he wanted to be with the Rockies and was interested in getting something done."
"And we'll make every opportunity to make sure we get things done in a proper fashion and a timely fashion with the people that we hold high."
Cook went 8-7 with a 4.12 ERA -- lowest on the staff among starters with enough innings to qualify for the NL ERA title -- in 25 starts last season and was on a hot streak (3-1, 2.41 in six starts) before suffering a strained left oblique muscle on Aug. 10. His two complete games led the staff and his 2.78 ground-ball/fly-ball ratio ranked third among NL starters.
The injury kept Cook out until Game 4 of the World Series, when he gave up three runs in six innings and took the loss as the Red Sox completed a sweep with a 4-3 victory.
The Rockies' second-round Draft pick in 1997, Cook is 36-35 with a 4.47 ERA in 138 games, including 107 starts. Cook won the Tony Conigliaro Award from the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America after recovering from near-fatal blood clots in both lungs, which afflicted him in August 2005 and kept him out of the Majors for a year.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.