Fuentes would like to stay with Rox
But closer also understands business aspect of baseball
DENVER -- The Rockies' final 2008 home game Sunday against the D-backs was most likely a last chance for Brian Fuentes to make a good final impression on the Coors Field fans.
Fuentes gave up a Stephen Drew two-run homer in the ninth inning in Saturday night's 5-3 loss to the D-backs. He still has intact a streak of 16 consecutive save conversions, and holds the club career saves record with 114. But Fuentes will become one of the most attractive free agents on the market after the season.
Before this winter, the Rockies won their arbitration case against Fuentes and paid him $5.05 million. Believing Manuel Corpas was the closer of the future, they didn't attempt to sign Fuentes beyond this year -- and signed Corpas for four years and $8.025 million, with various escalator clauses.
But Fuentes, who earned three All-Star berths as the Rockies' closer, regained his job when Corpas struggled in April. By the second half of the year, manager Clint Hurdle was saying regularly that Fuentes was pitching the best he ever has. Now, the Rockies are faced with decisions about what to do with the escalating salaries of outfielder Matt Holliday and third baseman Garrett Atkins, and there are indications that the club could free up money to retain Fuentes if it makes the right moves in other areas.
Fuentes said the Rockies' next attempt to keep him from escaping would be their first, and he knows the team's payroll structure and his own marketability makes the odds low. But he would welcome an attempt.
"I would like to stay here. I enjoy the team. I enjoy the organization," Fuentes said. "And, bottom line is I know I've been successful here, at least for a few years. But I also understand the business aspect of it. If you only have $100 to spend on groceries, you can't go out and spend $200. That's just the way it is."
The bullpen didn't work out as planned, as Corpas had command issues at the start of the year, free-agent signee Luis Vizcaino suffered through shoulder pain and inconsistency for much of the year, and Matt Herges lost command of his fastball. Fuentes regained the closer spot and pitched well, Jason Grilli was a solid performer, Corpas finished strong and Ryan Speier showed he can handle a Major League role.
Fuentes wonders what the bullpen would be like with him in it, to a point.
"It's nice to have those options to go to," Fuentes said. "So we'll see. I know that they get two Draft picks [as compensation] for me [should he leave as a free agent]. I'm sure with any team, two first-rounders is pretty good. So any direction they decide to go, it's good by me."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.