Rockies, most other teams deal with economics in free-agency market |

Rockies, most other teams deal with economics in free-agency market

Patrick Saunders
The Denver Post

A year ago, baseball’s general managers gathered at the cushy St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, Calif. This year’s GM meetings, running today through Wednesday, are at a hotel near Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

The message is obvious: The World Series champion Yankees’ $201.5 million payroll notwithstanding, tough economic times have hit major-league clubs hard.

A conservative, watch-your-dollars mentality permeates baseball. That’s just fine with Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd, who will approach free agency with the same skeptical eye he has for the past decade. The last time the Rockies made a big free-agent splash was the winter before the 2001 season, when they spent $175.3 million on pitchers Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton.

“I think we are going to have a fairly quiet winter, but we will have to see what’s out there to fill our needs,” O’Dowd said. “But we will be sensible and balance what’s out there with the players we have in our own system.”

The club’s needs include some economical arms to restock the bullpen, perhaps a veteran starting pitcher and right-handed bat off the bench.

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Of course, whom the Rockies pursue depends on whom they lose. They declined the option on catcher Yorvit Torrealba and exercised his $500,000 buyout, making him a free agent. Setup man Rafael Betancourt ($5.4 million, no buyout) has thus far turned down a two-year offer for roughly $7 million. The Rockies could turn down his club option and offer him salary arbitration to keep him for one more year.

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