DALLAS – The Rockies claimed outfielder Jamie Hoffman off waivers from the Dodgers on Monday.
Hoffman, 27, spent most of last season at Triple-A Albuquerque, where he hit .297 with 22 home runs, 23 doubles, 84 RBIs and 14 steals in 133 games. He has hit .154 with a home run, two doubles and seven RBIs in 16 games from 2009 to 2011.
Originally signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2003 out of New Ulm (N.M.) High School, Hoffman was chosen by the Nationals in the 2009 Rule 5 Draft and traded to the Yankees before being returned to the Dodgers during 2010 Spring Training.
The move brings the Rockies’ 40-man Major League roster to 38. The roster will increase to 39 when catcher Ramon Hernandez’s two-year, $6.4 million becomes official. Hernandez’s agreement is pending a physical.
– Thomas Harding
The Rockies like Mets right-handed pitcher Mike Pelfrey, but it doesn’t look as if the parts for a trade fit.
One issue is the Mets have little starting pitching depth and are loath to part with Pelfrey, who went 7-14 with a 4.74 ERA during a difficult Mets 2011 season but was 15-9, 3.66 the previous year.
Also, while the Mets are seeking bullpen help, they’re not going to take the Rockies’ Huston Street. The Mets’ bench coach is Bob Geren, who was Street’s manager with the Athletics before the Rockies acquired him. Street and Geren feuded back then, and the Mets would prefer to stay away from that situation.
Dealing Street and outfielder Seth Smith appears to be the Rockies’ best route to improving the club quickly. Also they’ll see how much interest there is in third baseman Ian Stewart, with the Cubs mentioned prominently, and outfielder Ryan Spilborghs.
Baseball’s Winter Meetings opened Monday in Dallas.
– Thomas Harding
Major League sources tell MLB.com that talks have not reached a serious point regarding a potential trade between the Rockies and the Cubs, with the Rockies sending third baseman Ian Stewart away for versatile infielder Blake DeWitt.
But the fact such a notion exists on any level gives a clearer window into how the Rockies feel about Stewart, a former top Draft pick who has fallen on hard times the last couple of years. The earlier notion was Stewart, a classic change-of-scenery candidate, could bring a Triple-A pitcher. But the Rockies aren’t 100 percent convinced Stewart can’t turn things around. They are not afraid asking for a useful Major League player or pitcher in return.
– Thomas Harding
The Cubs are known to be interested in Rockies third baseman Ian Stewart, and the Denver Post reported Friday that the Rox have asked for versatile infielder Blake DeWitt in return. The paper says talks have quieted but could kick up again during baseball’s winter meetings in Dallas. Teams begin arriving Sunday.
DeWitt could be a nice fit. The Rockies would like a veteran presence who could start in stretches if necessary. But the organization believes former top Draft pick Chris Nelson could produce if given a clean opportunity at second base, and the team will not throw up road blocks for third base prospect Nolan Arenado, a second-round pick in 2009.
A former Dodgers prospect, DeWitt has hit .260 with a .329 on-base percentage in 404 games over four seasons with the Dodgers and the Cubs with periodic shots at everyday duty.
– Thomas Harding
The Rockies have acquired right-handed pitcher Tyler Chatwood from the Angels on Wednesday for catcher Chris Iannetta in a deal that increases Colorado’s stable of young pitchers and puts it in position to pursue another veteran catcher.
Chatwood, who turns 22 on Dec. 16, went 6-11 with a 4.75 ERA in 27 games, including 25 starts, for the Angels as a rookie last season. A second-round Draft pick of the Angels in 2008 out of Redlands (Calif.) East Valley High School, Chatwood becomes the third highly touted young pitcher the Rockies have acquired since last July.
The Rockies received left-hander Drew Pomeranz, who turned 23 on Nov. 22, and right-hander Alex White, 23, from the Indians for former staff ace Ubaldo Jimenez in July just before the non-waiver Trade Deadline.
With Iannetta gone, the Rockies are expected to pursue a veteran catcher to solidify the young pitching staff this season and work in tandem with prospect Wilin Rosario, who showed promise during a September callup. The club is close to signing veteran backstop Ramon Hernandez to a two-year deal, according to Major League sources. Hernandez spent the past three seasons with the Reds.
Hernandez, who turns 36 on May 20, hit .282 with 12 home runs and 36 RBIs last season in 91 games. A 2003 All-Star Game participant with the Athletics, Hernandez is a .266 hitter with 161 homers and 723 RBIs in 13 seasons with the Athletics, Padres, Orioles and Reds.
Chatwood is often compared to veteran standout pitcher Roy Oswalt because he is an undersized (listed at 6-foot) righty with a strong arm. He entered last season ranked by MLB.com as the No. 5 prospect in the Angels’ system. Early-season injuries to Joel Piniero and Scott Kazmir forced the club to call him up in early April after just 6 2/3 Triple-A innings.
Chatwood had typical big league growing pains last season, when he finished with 74 strikeouts to 71 walks and gave up 14 home runs. He endured two demotions to Triple-A Salt Lake. But Chatwood possesses a fastball that can reach 96 mph and curveball, and he is developing a cut fastball and a changeup. He could make a major forward step if he improves his command.
Iannetta, who turns 29 on April 8, has batted .235 with 63 home runs and 236 RBIs in 458 games over six seasons. A fourth-round pick out of the University of North Carolina in 2004, Iannetta hit .264 in 104 games in 2008, but he struggled the following two years and was demoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs each season. Last year, Iannetta regained his big league footing, playing in 112 games and finished with a .238 batting average and .370 on-base percentage, with 14 home runs and 55 RBIs.
– Two free agent targets appear headed elsewhere, with outfielder Grady Sizemore reportedly having reached an agreement with the Indians and onetime Rockies infielder Clint Barmes reportedly headed to Pittsburgh to rejoin his old Rox manager, Clint Hurdle.
The Sizemore situation was a race against time. Signing him was somewhat predicated on trading left fielder Seth Smith. The plan to trade Smith was to fill the second base hole or one of the starting pitching holes. Although there have been stories about talks with the Braves about infielder Martin Prado and the Rockies have been debating trying to pry former Gold Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson from the Padres, not much in the way of real negotiation had materialized.
But with all the health reports on Sizemore positive after a postseason knee surgery (he had surgery on the other knee in 2009), teams decided to move quickly. The team that knows him the best, the Indians, figured the price was right and made the move.
The Rockies see Smith as an asset, so it’s not as if they’re dying to trade him. They’d deal him, but not in a trade that they aren’t totally comfortable making. To trade Smith now, the Rockies need a viable alternative in left, whether that player comes in the same trade or the Rockies end up with a left fielder through other means. Or they can just keep Smith.
“We like Seth Smith — he’s a good player for us,” Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd told me the other day.
Barmes would have made a lot of sense. He played shortstop last year for the Astros, and will do so for the Pirates. If the Rockies could have signed him, he would have offered a high-quality replacement if Troy Tulowitzki were to be injured.
If the Rox don’t find a second baseman, some combination of Jonathan Herrera, Chris Nelson and Eric Young Jr. would have to suffice at second. Both have experience at short, and can move over in case of injury to Tulowitzki.
Since Tulowitzki is a big shortstop who never takes it easy, it would be nice to have someone of Barmes’ ability to plug into the position. It would give manager Jim Tracy peace of mind when he wants to rest Tulowitzki during the season.
It’s a concern, but the Rockies aren’t going to build their offseason strategy around protecting themselves from a longterm injury to Tulowitzki. Replacing him for a few days for a nagging injury is one thing. A long absence is something else.
“If we lost Tulowitzki for a long period of time, we’re in trouble,” O’Dowd said. “I don’t know of many teams that can withstand losing their best player for a long period of time.”
– The Rockies dealt veteran utility man Ty Wigginton to the Phillies on Sunday for a player to be named.
While it’s nice to have a vet to come off the bench, the Rockies might be covered with a younger player. They liked the offensive work of late-season call-up Jordan Pacheco, and Tracy used Pacheco at first base and third base — essentially the same way he used Wigginton.
This is the time of year when teams extend chances to once-touted players who have struggled, hoping the change of scenery helps. Under that plan, the Rockies welcome infielder Brandon Wood, once a prized Angels prospect who hit .216 in a combined 105 games with the Angels and the Pirates last season.
Under a Minor League contract, Wood will compete at third base, where the Rockies’ own touted prospect, Ian Stewart, slumped and battled injuries last season. Stewart hit .156 with no homers and six RBIs in a year spent more at Triple-A than in the Majors.
– Thomas Harding
As MLB.com reported last week and as the Denver Post reported last night, the Rockies’ wide-ranging search for an innings-eating starting pitcher, or two, includes standout free-agent right-hander Roy Oswalt (4-0, 2.25 ERA in five career starts at Coors Field).
The Post reported that the Rockies won’t trade for the Astros’ Wandy Rodriguez, who want quite a bit in return. But just about any young, accomplished starter is on the radar — the Marlins’ Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez, and the Rays’ Jeff Neimann and Wade Davis. All have been Rockies targets before. The Rockies are interested in their one-time No. 1 pitcher Jeff Francis and Kevin Millwood, who finished last season in purple pinstripes, as well as, according to the Post, Paul Maholm.
The Rockies are dangling left fielder Seth Smith in trade talks for either a pitcher or a second baseman, or both. That helps explain the pursuit of Grady Sizemore, who is recovering from right knee surgery but, according to his agent, will be ready to start Spring Training and to start the season.
If they don’t make a trade at the keystone position, they could look to the past and pursue Clint Barmes, who played for the Astros last season but had spent all is previous seasons with the Rockies. Barry Meister, Barmes’ agent, will arrive at the MLB General Managers meetings in Milwaukee today. Although there have been internal discussions about Barmes — who is attractive to the Rockies because he can move to shortstop if Troy Tulowitzki needs a break or is banged up — there had not been negotiations as of yesterday. Barmes is receiving interest at a shortstop and a second baseman, and is open to playing each spot.
Potential trade targets are the Braves’ Martin Prado and the Padres’ Orlando Hudson, with the Rockies already having had discussions with the Braves.
In the coming weeks, watch for the Rockies to seriously explore dealing right-handed reliever Huston Street, who is guaranteed $8 million next year. Rafael Betancourt ended up supplanting Street as closer late in the regular season.
– Thomas Harding
SAN DIEGO — The Rockies have traded ace pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, who has thrown the only no-hitter in club history and was the first pitcher to start an All-Star Game, to the Cleveland Indians for four prospects, although one — pitching prospect Drew Pomeranz — can not become official until next month.
The Rockies will immediately receive pitchers Alex White and Joe Gardner, and first baseman-outfielder Matt McBride. Pomeranz cannot be traded until next month because he was drafted last year, and Major League Baseball rules say a player cannot be traded until one year into his professional career.
The retooling Rockies would be receiving the Indians’ top picks in 2009 in White and 2010 in Pomeranz.
Word of the deal filtered into the public just before Jimenez started on Saturday against the Padres at PETCO Park. It did not go well. Taking the mound with right-hander Esmil Rogers warming up in the bullpen, Jimenez gave up four runs on two hits and four walks. He struck out two in a distracted, 45-pitch inning.
After a slow start during which he dealt with a torn thumb cuticle and hip flexor and groin issues, Jimenez has pitched well for 10 of his last 11 starts. Jimenez is 6-9 with the result of Saturday’s game pending, and with a 4.46 ERA. Last year, Jimenez threw a no-hitter on April 17 against the Braves, started the All-Star Game for the National League and finished 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA and set numerous club records.
The deal is considered a game-changer in the American League Central, where the Indians are battling the Tigers, who also were in the running for Jimenez. The Reds, Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays also were involved in talks with the Rockies.
Pomeranz, the fifth overall pick in 2010, was was 3-3 with a 1.98 ERA in 18 starts this season between Class A Kinston and Double-A Akron. Over 91 innings, the lefty struck out 112 and walked 38.
White, who was the Tribe’s top pick in the ’09 Draft, has been on the 60-day disabled list with a right middle finger injury. In three starts for Cleveland this year, he went 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA.
As the deal was nearing fruition, Pomeranz was scheduled to start for Arkon, and White was slated as the starter on Sunday for his first rehab assignment. Both were pulled before Saturday’s game started.
Gardner, a third-round pick in 2009, is 7-8 with a 4.99 ERA in 19 starts at Akron. Last year, Gardner went 12-6 with a 2.65 ERA at Class A Kinston and was a postseason Carolina League All-Star.
McBride, a supplemental pick in 2006, has hit .297 with 14 home runs and 53 RBIs at Akron, and hit .156 with one home run in 45 at-bats at Triple-A Columbus. Before moving to first base and outfield this year, McBride caught for much of his professional career.
SAN DIEGO — The willingness of the Tigers and Indians to discuss their most prized pitching prospects makes them the prime contenders to meet the Rockies’ price and pry right-handed pitching ace Ubaldo Jimenez from the Rockies.
According to reports, the Yankees also are making a big push, but those same reports also indicate the Yankees believe the Rockies will lower their asking price. But the Rockies themselves have not indicated to anyone that they will ask for less for Jimenez, their ace and a pitcher with a club-friendly contract. The names that are in play with the American League Central-leading Tigers and the Indians, second in the Central, suggest that they do not have to take less from the Yankees.
The Rockies appear to be asking for one of two members of the Tigers’ current starting rotation, either Rick Porcello or Max Scherzer, top pitching prospect Jacob Turner (called up for a spot-start Saturday against the Angels), and CBSSports.com reported Saturday that the Rockies also have inquired about the No. 2 hitter in the Tigers order, outfielder Brennan Boesch.
The Tigers were known to be looking for rotation help, and they acquired Mariners right-hander Doug Fister on Saturday morning for the back of the rotation. That would give them five starters, but if they put together a package for Jimenez they could theoretically send the Rockies Porcello or Scherzer and still have five.
The Indians emerged as a player during the week, and the Rockies have asked for their top pitching prospects, Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, or at least some combination involving one of the two. The phone lines are still open.
The latest reports seem to indicate the Red Sox are not prime players for Jimenez, although they did make calls to Colorado during the week.
Jimenez pitches against the Padres tonight at PETCO Park.
Jimenez is the talk of the deadline, but the Rockies appear to be more likely to move right-handed setup man Rafael Betancourt, who has shaken off a slump and is pitching well. The Angels, Twins, Rangers and Cardinals are among those who could be looking to the Rockies for relief help, according to the Denver Post. The Rockies have long coveted Twins right-handed pitcher Kevin Slowey.
The Rockies are more likely to move Betancourt than two younger relievers they like who have been mentioned in reports — Matt Lindstrom and Matt Belisle. Indications throughout the last couple of weeks have been that the Rockies definitely do not want to move Linstrom.
– Thomas Harding