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Cubs’ interest in Rox’s Stewart wanes

The Cubs are in a wide-ranging search for a third baseman, but they’ve backed away from trying to acquire the Rockies’ Ian Stewart, at least for now. The situation remains fluid, however, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that they’ll jump back in.

The Rockies discussed at various points acquiring infielder Blake DeWitt and outfielder-first baseman Tyler Colvin, and the Denver Post reported that the Rockies asked about infielder DJ LeMaiheu and left-handed reliever Scott Maine.

Stewart’s name has come up in talks with various teams since last summer’s non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Rockies and D-backs talked back then. But if no deal is reached, expect Stewart to compete for the starting third base job with Brandon Wood, signed to a Minor League contract, and Jordan Pacheco. Chris Nelson and Jonathan Herrera, who are in the mix for playing time at second base, also play third.

Thomas Harding

Rockies agree to acquire Slowey from Twins

DALLAS — The Rockies have agreed to acquire right-handed pitcher Kevin Slowey from the Twins for a player to be named.

Slowey, 27, is coming off a difficult 2011 in which he struggled a switch to the bullpen early, battled forearm and abdominal injuries, and finished the year 0-6 with a 6.67 ERA in 14 appearances, including eight starts.

Slowey went 13-6 with a 4.45 ERA in 30 games, 28 starts, in 2010.

– Thomas Harding

Rox like Polanco, but salary issues could hamper pursuit of trade

If the Phillies look to move veteran infielder and No. 2 hitter Placido Polanco, the Rockies would have interest. However, making a $7.25 million guarantee for 2012 into a payroll that might not be any higher than last year’s would prove difficult.

The Rockies need a professional hitter such as Polanco, 36, a seasoned postseason performer who could add a measure of toughness to a Rockies team that lacked it last season while going 73-89. On the field, the Rockies would have to determine whether Polanco can play second base as well as third, or if he is strictly a third baseman. And the team would have to get a handle on where he stands health-wise. He is recovering from offseason sports hernia surgery. The Phillies haven’t decided whether to move Polanco. Much depends on whether the Phillies sign Jimmy Rollins. If the Phillies don’t sign him, they may look for a third baseman such as Aramis Ramirez and deal Polanco.

However, the Rockies would have to move some salary, and that’s not easy.

Thomas Harding

Rockies claim OF Hoffman from Dodgers

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

Rox and Mets an unlikely trade fit

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

Cubs-Rockies talks not serious

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

Paper: Rox ask Cubs for DeWitt in exchange for Stewart

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

Rockies acquire P Chatwood from Angels, close to signing C Ramon Hernandez

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.

A busy Rox weekend

– 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.

Rockies take flyer on Brandon Wood

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

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