LAS VEGAS -- The meet-and-greet of the Winter Meetings starts with a goodbye from free-agent closer Brian Fuentes.
Fuentes, 33, will turn down the Rockies' offer of arbitration by Sunday's 10 p.m. MT deadline, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. The Rockies, whose officials were meeting to discuss what moves they will or will not make during the four-day Meetings that begin here on Monday, did not give an official comment.
Agent Rick Thurman confirmed that his client had turned down the Rockies' offer and added that Fuentes may come to Las Vegas for face-to-face meetings.
Fuentes, the Rockies' career leader in saves with 115 since arriving as an unknown part of the trade that sent infielder Jeff Cirillo to the Mariners before the 2002 season, is free to seek a contract from another club. The Rockies will receive two choices in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft -- one from the club that signs him, plus a "sandwich pick" between the first and second rounds.
The Rockies offered arbitration just in case Fuentes determined that a rich multiyear deal was not available. Had he accepted, Fuentes would have entered the same arbitration process that saw him lose a hearing and end up with $5.05 million in salary for 2008, after he had sought $6.5 million. This time, however, projections had Fuentes possibly ending up with $10 million for one year via arbitration.
That means Fuentes joins such standout closers as Francisco Rodriguez, Trevor Hoffman and Kerry Wood in the free-agent closer market. The Mets have been mentioned prominently as a potential suitor for Fuentes.
The Rockies still have two closer possibilities.
Manuel Corpas wrested the job from Fuentes in 2007 and helped the Rockies qualify for their first World Series trip, but he pitched poorly in April 2008 and lost the job back to Fuentes.
The Rockies also obtained former Athletics closer Huston Street as part of the deal that sent outfielder Matt Holliday to Oakland last month, although speculation has centered on the Rockies relaying Street elsewhere before the season begins -- possibly during these Winter Meetings.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.