Hawpe, Marquis face uncertain futures
Rockies veterans faded after All-Star selections
DENVER -- Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe wasn't ready to shift his mind from the here-and-now to his just-completed 2009 season.
"That's not a question I can necessarily answer right now, because that's not what I'm thinking about," Hawpe said. "I'm thinking about winning ballgames. That's something you reflect on over the winter. You continue to try to improve upon the faults that you had through the season and build on the strengths. "
The coldest time of the year, however, started Monday night, after the Phillies broke the Rockies' hearts, 5-4, and eliminated them from the playoffs. For Hawpe and right-handed pitcher Jason Marquis, who represented the Rockies in the All-Star Game, even the heady days of the run-up to the playoffs and the National League Division Series against the Phillies were cold ones. For different reasons, their uncertain futures in purple pinstripes will be part of the fuel for baseball's hot stove.
Hawpe and Marquis are not alone. The Rockies have a tough decision with arbitration-eligible third baseman Garrett Atkins, who lost his job to Ian Stewart during the regular season, but gave a good accounting of himself in the playoffs. Three late-season acquisitions -- right-handed reliever Rafael Betancourt, who shone during the Phillies series, lefty Joe Beimel and pinch-hitter Jason Giambi -- also could be listening to offers from the Rockies (although Giambi's future might be in the American League as a designated hitter). The club also has an option on catcher Yorvit Torrealba, a clutch performer late in the regular year and in the postseason.
But Hawpe, 30, and Marquis, 31, are particularly vexing situations, because of their highs and lows in 2009.
Hawpe, who hit .340 before the All-Star break but .240 afterward, started Game 1 and went 0-for-3 in a 5-1 loss. He had one more at-bat the rest of the series. Marquis went 11-6 with a 3.65 ERA during the first half of the season but 4-7 with a 4.56 ERA after the break. After making 33 regular-season starts, he pitched one inning of relief during the NLDS.
Hawpe's future is in the hands of the Rockies, who have Hawpe under contract for next season at $7.5 million with a $10 million option for 2011. Marquis, who fulfilled his assignment as the veteran leader of the young staff until faltering in six of his final seven regular-season starts, is eligible for free agency. So the question will be were Hawpe and Marquis merely expendable due to their own slumps and the special circumstances of the playoffs, or are they merely expendable?
Hawpe became the primary right fielder in 2005. Now, however, Hawpe has competition from within. Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler and Seth Smith -- recent organization products who are low on the salary scale -- all started a significant number of games in 2009. Gonzalez, who turned hot during the second half and was the most productive offensive player in the playoffs, can play right field. The production Hawpe has shown over five years offensively and defensively could either enhance the Rockies' talent level in the outfield, or help the Rockies acquire a player to fill another need.
After Jim Tracy took over for Clint Hurdle in May, he held Hawpe and first basemen Todd Helton as examples of how the Rockies could overcome their early season hitting woes. Hawpe was hitting to all fields and showing effortless power. But after spending the previous three years demonstrating that he could hit right-handed and left-handed pitching, the left-swinging Hawpe fell to .243 against lefties -- a sign that his swing was off-kilter. At times in September, Tracy sat Hawpe, believing that everyday play while he was leading the Rockies out of their early season hole had taken its toll.
But after Hawpe struggled with Phillies starter Cliff Lee in Game 1, Tracy looked at the matchups for the rest of the series and kept Hawpe out of the lineup.
"There were some big hits, some big plays I had through the season, and there were some moments where I wish I would have come through more," said Hawpe, who finished the regular season with a .283 batting average, 23 home runs and 86 RBIs.
Hawpe declined to discuss his limited playoff role. He chose to focus on the overall turnaround of the Rockies.
"We had to have an unbelievable record just to be in the position we're in," Hawpe said. "That's just a testament to the men in this room."
Marquis, who accepted the demotion from the rotation in the postseason by saying there was no room for ego, also focused on the positive of his overall season. He isn't letting the ending -- 1-4, 6.28 ERA in his last seven starts -- spoil his view.
The Rockies obtained Marquis and cash considerations for righty reliever Luis Vizcaino during the winter in an under-the-radar deal. Considering what Marquis brought, and that Vizcaino had little Major League impact this year, the trade was viewed positively even with the sub-par ending to Marquis' season.
Even before the season ended, speculation grew that Marquis, a New York metro native, would like to play at home for the Mets. Marquis said he isn't anywhere near a decision, and the door is open to a return to the Rockies.
"I've enjoyed my time here," Marquis said. "I would love to come back here. Obviously, they've seen how I can pitch in these conditions in this ballpark. The ball's in their court. Every player has a decision he needs to process, but the team has to want you back. Hopefully, I've done enough good things around here to warrant that."
Still, an All-Star appearance and double-digit wins in the last six years is a resume that could bring him a big deal elsewhere.
"I can talk with the Rockies until I file for free agency," Marquis said. "We'll see if something can be worked out. Time will tell."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.