Rumors swirl over Fuentes' future
Left-hander confident in his ability to close in any environment
NEW YORK -- Rockies closer Brian Fuentes sparked a jarring headline in the New York Post on Saturday: "Fuentes prefers Yankees." Addressing reports that the Yankees or Mets may trade for him, he said Yankee pinstripes "would be something special by itself." But, when he actually has a choice, it's likely to be neither.
For now, Fuentes has no say. Analysts believe the Rockies, who are increasingly confident that Manuel Corpas is on the rebound from early-season problems, are more likely than not to deal Fuentes before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline. The Cardinals, Marlins, Phillies, Rays and Red Sox all are reported to have interest.
Fuentes, 32, chosen for the All-Star Game from 2005-07 based on his work as a closer, has concluded that if he's dealt, he'll be a rent-a-reliever.
Fuentes, making $5.05 million this season, will be a free agent after the year. The teams that want him already have closers and want him as either a late-game left-on-left specialist or a setup man.
Fuentes, however, said he will seek a chance to be a closer, and the huge, multi-year contract that comes with it, this offseason. It would take something unforeseen for that opportunity to arise in the Big Apple.
"I'm sure Mariano [Rivera] is going to be there for a little bit and Billy [Wagner] is going to be there for awhile," Fuentes said, addressing the Yankees and Mets, respectively.
"I believe I can close. I've shown I can do it. It's what I think my niche is."
Reports that Fuentes could be dealt have been annual. They came up when he starred while the team struggled, and arose last year when he lost his job to Corpas and suffered an injury at midseason.
There is almost no chance Fuentes will be in purple pinstripes next year. Even if the Rockies don't deal him, they're in line for two Draft picks if he leaves as a free agent. So manager Clint Hurdle is giving an "Oh no, not again" reaction to the latest reports.
"For three summers, we have talked about Brian Fuentes being moved from this club," Hurdle said. "Brian Fuentes is still on this club. We are not just going to move people just to move them because people think it's appropriate for us to move them."
Fuentes has 14 saves this season, and his 99 with the Rockies are three shy of Jose Jimenez's club record. From regaining the closer role on April 24 through his most recent save, he is 14-for-16 in save chances.
Additionally, he has been a mentor in the clubhouse and in the bullpen. He hasn't taken the Rockies' stance as an affront, and therefore has avoided the selfish mentality that can creep in when a player knows he'll be elsewhere the following season.
"Early on in my career, I didn't really understand that aspect, and when I first got traded, I took it personal against Seattle," said Fuentes, acquired in December 2001 as the unheralded piece of the deal that sent highly paid third baseman Jeff Cirillo to the Mariners.
"I understand now it's a business. Just because they trade you doesn't mean they don't like you as a person or don't like you as a player. They've got to look at what's best for an organization, not so much what's best for me or what makes them feel good."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.