Betancourt accepts arbitration from Rockies
Reliever will return to serve as primary right-handed setup man
INDIANAPOLIS -- Rafael Betancourt accepted the Rockies' offer of arbitration before Monday's 10 p.m. MT deadline and will return as the team's primary right-handed setup man.
Betancourt fielded offers from "four or five teams," according to Alan Nero, one of his representatives, with the Brewers' pursuit believed to have been the most serious. However, any team that signed him would have had to grant the Rockies an early pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. That ultimately played a role in forcing him back to the Rockies.
Betancourt took almost off of the time allotted until Monday's deadline, but his acceptance of the offer was no surprise.
Also as expected, right-hander Jason Marquis -- hoping to parlay his first career All-Star appearance into a multiyear deal -- turned down the Rockies' arbitration offer. The Rockies will receive a Draft choice between the first and second rounds in 2010 as compensation, but the team that signs Marquis will not have to relinquish a pick.
The Rockies declined a $5 million option for 2010 on Betancourt's contract. He turned down a one-year deal with an option for a second year and a two-year offer with an option for a third earlier in the process. Now that he is under the Rockies' control, either the sides will negotiate a deal -- and a multiyear deal is still possible -- or his salary will be set at an arbitration hearing.
Betancourt, who turns 35 on April 29, pitched for the Indians from 2003 until July 23 of this year, when the Rockies acquired him for Minor League pitcher Connor Graham. Betancourt struggled with the Indians (1-2, 3.52 ERA in 29 games), partly because of a groin injury. But he was regaining his health at the time of the trade, and he went 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA in 32 games for Colorado.
"His first choice was to come back here," general manager Dan O'Dowd said as he awaited the decision.
With Betancourt, the Rockies have the potential for an accomplished back of the bullpen if right-handers Manuel Corpas and Taylor Buchholz return effectively from injury.
Corpas, the closer during the Rockies' second-half run to the World Series in 2007, struggled in 2008 and for much of 2009 until undergoing surgery to remove a bone chip from his throwing elbow. He needed another operation to clear an infection, but he is ready to begin throwing in winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
Buchholz missed the 2009 season after undergoing Tommy John ligament-transplant surgery. He went 6-6 with a 2.17 ERA in 63 appearances in 2008. He is in line to return sometime in 2010, but not at the beginning of the season. The Rockies are seeking one more experienced reliever.
Had Betancourt departed, the Rockies would have gone after LaTroy Hawkins, who handled the setup role in 2007 and pitched well with the Astros last season.
The righties will be depended upon to set up closer Huston Street, who is discussing a three-year deal with the Rockies to avoid arbitration.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.