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Atkins, Rox not talking long term deal

Atkins, Rox not talking long term deal

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- The happy offshoots of the business of baseball surround Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins this spring.

On Tuesday, right fielder Brad Hawpe became the fourth member of last year's squad to sign a multiyear contract since the end of the four-game World Series sweep at the Red Sox's hands. Atkins is noticeably absent from the players who have contracts that suggest they could be the core of the club for a long time.

But Atkins insists that his teammates being happy with their contracts doesn't make him upset with his situation.

He avoided arbitration this year by signing for $4.3875 million. But he turned down a multiyear offer last winter, reportedly for four years with an option for a fifth, and there has been little if any revisiting of that offer since then.

Atkins and his agent, Jeff Blank, both said on Tuesday that they're interested in multiyear discussions. Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd, however, said he doesn't sense interest because what he called a "significant offer," financially, didn't fly last winter.

The lack of a deal raises such possibilities as two years of offseason salary discussions, or even a trade to make room for 2003 No. 1 Draft pick Ian Stewart, who must realize his potential before he becomes a factor in a decision.

"Of course, we'd listen to anything that they brought to the table, just like we did a year and a half ago or whenever it was that we last talked," Atkins said. "But if I don't fit in their plans, that's the game of baseball. I understand it's business.

"I understand they have a lot of money tied up in some pretty good players. You've got to figure at some point they're going to run out. They've obviously got some tough decisions to come up."

In the cases of Hawpe, starting pitcher Aaron Cook, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and closer Manny Corpas, the players went below market value in exchange for security and continuity.

Left fielder and potential MVP candidate Matt Holliday signed a two-year, $23 million deal that was closer to market value and preserved his free agency possibilities, although the sides could renew negotiations on a longer deal. The Rockies view Holliday as a star along the lines of first baseman Todd Helton, who belongs to the Rockies through 2011 on an eight-year, $141.5 million contract.

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So unless something changes soon, Atkins, 28, and the Rockies will have to work through the arbitration process for the next two seasons. This winter, Atkins requested $4.65 million and the team offered $4.125 million. To avoid a hearing, the sides met in the middle, and the deal allows Atkins to earn up to $92,000 in incentives.

Arbitration is fine with Atkins, who has total confidence he's a threat to hit in the .320s or higher and hit 30 home runs.

Atkins was on the cusp of such performances in 2006, when he hit .329 with 29 home runs and 120 RBIs. He seemed to step back during a bad first two months of last season, when he was at .223 and endured a two-game break from the starting lineup in early June. But he batted .338 the rest of the year to bring his final average to .301 with 25 homers and 111 RBIs.

"The way the arbitration process works, I'm not going to be overpaid, I'm not going to be underpaid for the next two years," Atkins said. "My numbers dictate what I deserve to make. When you sign a long-term contract, you might be underpaid, you might be overpaid. By going year-to-year, you get what you deserve to make and that's a good thing.

"Of course, I'd sign a deal if it's good. I obviously like my teammates a lot. I love Denver. There's not a better place to hit, better place to play. I'm a West Coast guy, so I like playing in the NL West. There are a lot of good things going on here that I'd like to be a part of."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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