Holliday, Rockies agree to new contract
Two-year deal worth $23 million; Taveras back on for one year
DENVER -- At the end of his workout on Thursday, Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday said he had no worries about his much-speculated-about contract status. By Friday morning, he had fewer worries.
Holliday and the Rockies agreed on a two-year, $23 million contract to cover his final two seasons of arbitration on Friday, the deadline for players and teams to exchange 2008 salary figures as part of the arbitration process.
While much discussion has centered on whether the Rockies could sign him to a longer deal, the fact is Holliday isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2009 season. Holliday, who developed into a two-time All-Star and nearly won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 2007 by clinging to a day-by-day philosophy, doesn't have to think about salary for two years. He gets $9.5 million in 2008 and $13.5 million in '09.
"For me, there's really no decision to be made at this point," Holliday said. "I'm under contract for two more years. Until something changes, I play for the Rockies. I love playing here, we live here and I'd like to play here a long time."
Also, center fielder Willy Taveras avoided arbitration with a one-year, $1,975,000 deal with a possible $150,000 more in performance bonuses based on plate appearances -- $50,000 each for 500, 550 and 600. It's Taveras' first year of arbitration eligibility. Taveras hit .320 last season as the Rockies' primary leadoff man.
Meanwhile, the club and representatives of relief pitcher Brian Fuentes, third baseman Garrett Atkins and right fielder Brad Hawpe exchanged figures Friday. The sides have until an arbitration hearing -- scheduled during Spring Training -- to reach an agreement, or else a three-judge panel will determine whether the player receives the salary he requests or the club's offer. Fuentes filed at $6.05 million, while the club offered $5.05 million, Atkins filed at $4.65 million and was offered $4.125 million, and Hawpe filed at $4.35 million and was offered $3.575 million.
The occasion of arbitration leads to speculation, with many fans and media members already counting the days to when Holliday can become a free agent. But all along, the Rockies haven't wavered in their desire to sign him through his arbitration time.
Early speculation had the Rockies looking to sign Holliday to a four-year, $60 million deal, but the club backed off from that. If Holliday continues to produce, his salary could skyrocket once other teams can bid for him. Also, the Rockies have until he is eligible for free agency to reach a deal with him before other clubs can become involved.
Holliday, represented by high-profile agent Scott Boras, has clearly chosen not to become involved in any salary disputes while under the Rockies' control. He and the club agreed to a $4.4 million deal last year.
Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said he and Boras are continuing discussions.
"We're both open to continuing to talk, and I hope this is a bridge to a longer-term deal," O'Dowd said.
By signing, Holliday and Taveras avoided the possibility of a hearing. Players and clubs like to avoid such proceedings, since the player is present while the sides present often-contentious arguments to the panel.
Such a step has been rare for the Rockies. In their history, they've had just two hearings -- they lost to pitcher Dennys Reyes in 2002 and won a hearing with pitcher Sun-Woo Kim in 2006.
The biggest disparity in requested salary versus what the Rockies are offering is with Fuentes, who lost his job as closer to Manny Corpas in the middle of last season. O'Dowd acknowledged that there is a "difference of opinion over role." O'Dowd declined to discuss whether the club is negotiating multiyear deals with Atkins and Hawpe, although the club used the strategy with Holliday and has done so with other arbitration-eligible players.
O'Dowd also said the club will have a better indication early next week of the progress of multiyear contract talks with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, one of baseball's top rookies in 2007.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.