Rockies still evaluating Martin for backup role
GM O'Dowd says club is also looking at Harden for bullpen
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Rockies' negotiations for a backup catcher took a turn on Tuesday night when Ronny Paulino agreed to a one-year, $1.3 million deal with the Mets.
Meanwhile, the Rockies are studying the medical reports of catcher Russell Martin, who injured his hip last season.
The Rockies want a backup for Chris Iannetta, who has been designated as the starter as he begins the second year of a three-year, $8.35 million contract. Paulino is more of a true backup than Martin, a two-time All-Star.
Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said the club was still evaluating the medical reports on Martin, who underwent surgery on his right hip for a fracture and a torn labrum. O'Dowd said Martin has not started running as part of his injury rehab.
After reaching a reported two-year, $7.5 million contract with utility man Ty Wigginton, a right-handed hitter who can play first base, early Tuesday, the Rockies are down to two major shopping items -- backup catcher and proven relief help.
The Rockies have done their due diligence on Martin. Matt Colleran, Martin's agent, said the Rockies were one of "more than a half-dozen teams" that requested the catcher's medical reports. Colleran said he provided those reports to the Rockies before the Winter Meetings began.
Bengie Molina, who was considering retirement at the end of the 2010 season but began surfacing as a possibility for several teams around the start of the meetings, has not reached out to the Rockies, O'Dowd said. The Rockies' interest in Molina was tempered because they aren't sure if he wants to continue playing, and they don't know if he'll accept a backup role.
O'Dowd also said the relief market continues to be out of whack. A three-year, $16.5 million deal that Joaquin Benoit signed with the Tigers before the meetings drove the demands of several relief pitchers higher. The Rockies are identified as being interested in right-handers Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch, Matt Guerrier and Kevin Gregg, and left-hander Pedro Feliciano.
O'Dowd confirmed the team's interest in veteran right-hander Rich Harden, a starter the Rockies believe could be an effective reliever.
The Rays also are looking at Harden, 29, as a reliever. When healthy, Harden is capable of compiling a high number of strikeouts, but he has not exceeded 150 innings in a season since 2004. Harden struggled last season with the Rangers, going 5-5 with a 5.58 ERA in 20 games, including 18 starts.
"Health has been his biggest issue," O'Dowd said. Former big league manager Marcel Lachemann, a special front-office assistant who is a key advisor in the Rockies' pitching efforts, has been a backer of Harden in organizational talks.
In other developments:
The Rockies increased their potential for right-handed power production by acquiring Jose Lopez from the Mariners on Dec. 2 and reaching an agreement with Wigginton. They increased their pitching depth by trading with the Astros in November for righty Felipe Paulino, who could challenge for a spot in the rotation or pitch in relief. But O'Dowd won't go beyond cautious optimism when discussing his offseason moves.
"You don't win games on paper," O'Dowd said. "We're not trying to find the best player. We're trying to find the right player.
"Until it starts rolling out on the field, you really don't know."
Finding a right-handed complement to Todd Helton, who has battled injuries in recent years, in Wigginton was a major priority for the Rockies, but they're still looking for Helton to produce a .300-plus average the way he has two of the last four seasons. A key component in having him reach that goal will be controlling his playing time.
Asked about the plan for Helton, O'Dowd said he and manager Jim Tracy have "talked about it -- we're not going to share it."
O'Dowd said any effort to sign right-handed ace Ubaldo Jimenez to a long-term contract for more money after the four-year, $10 million deal he signed before 2009 is "probably more of a next offseason-type discussion."
The Rockies are considering signing veteran shortstop Adam Everett for Triple-A Colorado Springs to give them an experienced alternative should they once again deal with an injury to Troy Tulowitzki. Last season, Tulowitzki missed 31 games with a fractured left wrist.
Jonathan Herrera, who played in 76 games for the Rockies last season after spending most of his career in the Minors, is a possibility, as is Chris Nelson, who broke in last year as a utility player.
"You don't win with 25 players; you've got to build a roster of 40-45," O'Dowd said.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.