12/12/11 9:06 PM EST
Rockies make Spilborghs a free agent
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
The Rockies also non-tendered outfielder Cole Garner, who hit .222 with three RBIs in a four-game Major League debut last season. By removing Spilborghs and Garner, the team's Major League roster rests at 37 players, three below the limit.
The Rockies tendered 2012 contracts Monday -- the deadline for doing so -- to outfielder Seth Smith, the projected regular left fielder, and center fielder Dexter Fowler. They also announced that they have avoided arbitration with newly acquired right-handed pitcher Kevin Slowey by signing him to a one-year contact. Terms were not immediately disclosed.
Spilborghs, 32, was an on-again, off-again starter at all three positions and a right-handed pinch-hitter who became popular with Denver fans with his hustle on the field and wit in interviews, commercials and appearances off it. He struggled through plantar fasciitis in 2011 and ended the year with a .210 batting average, three home runs and 22 RBIs. Spilborghs has been playing in Mexico this winter for at-bats and to regain health.
Over seven seasons, Spilborghs hit .272 with 42 home runs and 218 RBIs. His career .305 average as a pinch-hitter is second in club history to the .341 owned by Smith.
The biggest moment for which Spilborghs will be remembered occurred on Aug. 25, 2009, when he delivered a 14th-inning grand slam off Giants pitcher Merkin Valdez to give the Rockies a 6-4 victory. It was the first game-ending grand slam in Rockies history. The Rockies would finish the year as the National League Wild Card club.
As the Rockies went to the World Series in 2007, Spilborghs established himself as a Major Leaguer by playing in 97 games and hitting. .299. He hit a career-best .313 in 89 games in 2008.
The Rockies' decision comes after Spilborghs completed a two-year contract that earned him $3.25 million. Last week, the Rockies obtained a utility outfielder, left-handed-hitting outfielder-first baseman Tyler Colvin from the Cubs, as part of a four-player deal. Colvin also can play first base and has not reached his arbitration years, and therefore comes in at a much lower salary. The Rockies also are high on Jordan Pacheco, a right-handed-hitting utility man who showed a strong hitting approach during a late-season callup last year. That doesn't mean the Rockies don't like Spilborghs. They could potentially bring him back at a lower salary or on a Minor League deal.
The Rockies traded their other arbitration-eligible player, third baseman Ian Stewart, in the deal that landed Colvin and infielder DJ LeMahieu, who will compete for the second-base job. The Rockies also sent relief pitcher Casey Weathers, their No. 1 Draft pick in 2007, to the Cubs.
The Rockies are pursuing pitching, with free agents Hiroki Kuroda, Kevin Millwood and Jeff Francis among the possibilities, and also are pursuing right-handed outfielder Michael Cuddyer, who also plays third and first and has long been one of the club's targets. Oufielders Josh Willingham and Cody Ross also are on the Rockies' radar.
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.