10/15/2003 7:25 PM ET Rockies decline option on Reed Team wants reliever to return but at lower cost By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
Rockies fans have grown accustomed to Steve Reed's submarine style. (Ed Andrieski/AP)
The Colorado Rockies want to keep veteran right-handed reliever Steve Reed, but at a lower price. The Rockies announced on Wednesday that they had declined the 2004 option on Reed's contract, which would have guaranteed the reliever $1.125 million. But general manager Dan O'Dowd and manager Clint Hurdle each said they would like to retain Reed, an original Rockies player who holds franchise records for appearances (396) and ERA (3.27) during two stints with Colorado (1993-98, 2003).
Reed, 37, went 5-3 with a 3.27 ERA in 65 appearances in 2003, while playing under a one-year contract with a salary of $600,000.
The Rockies elected to buy out Reed, an original Rockies player who has appeared in 396 games and posted a 3.27 ERA in two stints with the club, for $300,000.
The club hopes that once the free agent market is established, it can re-sign Reed, who not only was the team's best troubleshooter but a mentor to a number of young relievers.
"Our decision not to pick up his option relates to what our fiscal situation is, and it is not in any shape or form an indication that we do not want Steve back," O'Dowd said. "I've had a conversation with his agent, Pat Rooney, and he knows that we're looking to have him back."
Don't expect an answer on that soon.
The Rockies have set a payroll not much higher than in 2003, and they have more than $51 million committed to five players -- Todd Helton, Larry Walker, Denny Neagle, Preston Wilson, Charles Johnson and former ace pitcher Mike Hampton, now with Atlanta. O'Dowd said the Rockies will take their time making decisions.
Reed and Rooney could not be reached as of Wednesday afternoon.
Colorado has thus far outrighted pitchers Jose Jimenez, who was due a raise from $3.6 million in 2003 through arbitration, Jesus Sanchez, outfielder-first baseman Chris Richard and catcher Bobby Estalella since the end of the regular season. The Rockies have expressed the strongest interest in retaining Reed. During the regular season, young right-handers Aaron Cook and Adam Bernero leaned on Reed when they were moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen. Also, Reed stranded 39 of the 47 runners he inherited, and induced 10 double plays in 63 1/3 innings.
Hurdle said such an experienced reliever, especially one that has succeeded at Coors, would be important to the staff, but only if the Rockies can afford him.
"He'll have a chance to see what type of interest there is for him -- we think enough of him to afford him that opportunity," Hurdle said. "Hopefully, down the road we'll be able to revisit this."
"It would be nice to have a veteran like him. We will do everything to make it happen. If the option is not there and it does not present itself, we'll have to move on."
The Rockies have several other decisions to make, such as whether or not they will pick up an option worth $1.25 million or a $200,000 buyout on infielder Chris Stynes, and the degree to which they'd go to retain a couple of free agents -- pinch-hit specialist Greg Norton and left-handed pitcher Darren Oliver.
Hurdle said he expects Oliver, who revived his career, going 13-11 with a 5.04 ERA, to test the market before getting back to the Rockies. He also said he has let Stynes and Norton, who led all pinch-hitters with 23 hits, four home runs and 17 RBIs, know how the Rockies feel. Also looming are arbitration situations for left fielder Jay Payton, who had a career year (.302, 28 HR, 89 RBIs) while making $1.85 million, and right-handed reliever Justin Speier, who made $850,000 last season and became the closer just before midseason.
Figuring the final budget and who will fit it will take time and effort.
Asked about the wisdom of projecting much of the Rockies' lineup, O'Dowd laughed.
"I would say wait until Feb. 15 [the start of Spring Training] to do that," O'Dowd said.