11/30/10 7:26 PM EST
Rockies lock up Tulo with long-term extension
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
Tulowitzki, 26, and the club officially announced Tuesday that they've reached a seven-year contract extension worth $134 million, which will keep him with the club through 2020.
After the season, Tulowitzki visited with general manager Dan O'Dowd in his Coors Field office. The conversation began with baseball, which wasn't unusual. Tulowitzki is always talking baseball and wondering where the Rockies are headed with various decisions.
There was quite a bit of baseball to discuss. Tulowitzki earned his first All-Star Game invitation, and as the weeks went on, he would be chosen for his first Rawlings Gold Glove and Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger awards. There also was a season that ended with a collapse that left the Rockies out of the playoffs.
However, this talk went beyond the diamond.
"I can have a normal conversation," Tulowitzki said at Coors Field during a press conference that employees throughout the organization attended. "They're not people that I need to talk different to. I can be myself, sit down, chat with them. If I don't like something they say, I can tell them."
There was nothing not to like. Tulowitzki asked questions about life, such as raising a family and what's important in life.
It had such an effect on O'Dowd that he suggested a follow-up conversation, only with owner Dick Monfort involved.
"I thought it would be a good idea if our owner got to know Tulo in a different way," O'Dowd said.
The talks led Tulowitzki to consider his happiness.
In 2007, Tulowitzki was part of a magical Rockies season that saw them shed their also-ran label and participate in their first World Series. One of Tulowitzki's mentors then was outfielder Matt Holliday, who emerged as one of the leaders of the Rockies' fun run -- wins in 21 of 22 games before the team was swept by the Red Sox in the World Series.
But not long afterward, contract issues crept into Holliday's world. Talks with the Rockies on a long-term deal failed and turned bitter. Tulowitzki felt that a rough 2008 for the club and the stress of not being able to secure the future took a toll on Holliday, who was traded to the Athletics after the season.
Holliday seemed out of place on a struggling squad. However, the story had a happy ending. The Cardinals acquired him in a 2009 trade and then signed him to a long-term deal last winter.
Tulowitzki decided he didn't want to risk his contentment in Colorado.
In a sense, it all could have waited. Tulowitzki still had three years left on the deal he signed after the 2007 season. But he decided now was the time to ensure his bliss.
"The Holliday thing taught me so much -- what he went through," Tulowitzki said. "Not saying it was bad, just throwing it out there that it came down to the end, where they ran out of time. If we wanted something to happen, we needed to get on it as quickly as possible.
"It took both sides. It kind of took off from there. They wanted me. I wanted to be here."
O'Dowd and Paul Cohen, Tulowitzki's agent, hammered out an unexpected extension.
"I just found out in a deeper way what was important to him in his life," O'Dowd said. "The byproduct of that was the conversation I had with Dick, saying, 'We have to deal with this situation eventually. We may want to think about sitting down with him and talking about this.'"
Tulowitzki will play out the final three years and $23.75 million of his current deal. He'll receive $16 million in 2014, as the club picks up his $15 million option and adds $1 million. The deal calls for $20 million salaries in 2015 through 2019, a $14 million salary in 2020 and a club option for 2021 at either $14 million or a $2 million buyout.
Part of Tulowitzki's motivation is his admiration for role-model shortstops Cal Ripken Jr. and Derek Jeter, who have spent their careers in one place.
"I hope to follow those footsteps," Tulowitzki said. "I hope that Derek stays in New York because I really look up to him, and I think he knows that's special. I kind of wanted to do that same thing, to give the fans around here someone they can fall in love with, and ... get to watch him for his entire career. That's special, and not too many people can do that."
O'Dowd also said the club discussed a contract beyond this one, which will end with Tulowitzki at age 35. The $134 million on the extension marks the second-largest contract in club history, behind the nine-year, $141.5 million extension that first baseman Todd Helton began receiving in 2003.
The Rockies have built mainly with homegrown players such as Tulowitzki, the team's No. 1 pick out of Long Beach State in 2005. Although the club has been criticized for not spending big on the free-agent market -- after watching $172.5 million deals for pitchers Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle after the 2000 season result in heartache -- it has shown a willingness to lock up key young players.
"There's no doubt in my mind that we are committed to winning," he said. "Anyone who says we aren't, that's false."
Toward that end, O'Dowd said he reached out Monday night to ace pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, whose current deal has club options that should keep him in purple pinstripes through 2014. He also texted 2010 National League batting champion Carlos Gonzalez, who could be eligible for arbitration as early as next year, letting them both know the club would like to explore long-term deals with them in the future.
Tulowitzki's signing is part of a happy Rockies negotiating double play.
The Rockies are close to completing a two-year, $21.5 million guarantee to retain free-agent left-handed pitcher Jorge De La Rosa. A player option for 2013 could bring his earnings to $32 million, and a club option for 2014 could take it to $43 million.
Cohen represents De La Rosa, as well as Tulowitzki.
De La Rosa's contract will become official once he passes a physical. He is currently in Mexico trying to arrange a visa to come to Colorado this week.
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.