01/06/2009 7:54 PM ET
Rockies complete deal for Marquis
Acquisition of right-hander leaves one rotation spot available
DENVER -- The Rockies' acquisition of right-hander Jason Marquis from the Cubs, which became official Tuesday, put their starting rotation ahead of where it was this time last year, when they were coming off a World Series appearance.
The Rockies went into last spring with just two starters they were sure of -- left-hander Jeff Francis and righty Aaron Cook. Ubaldo Jimenez, who had not pitched a full season, started slowly; rookie Franklin Morales washed out in the season's first month; and veteran reclamation projects Mark Redman and Kip Wells did not produce. Add the slow starts of Francis and Jimenez, and the Rockies fell below .500 early.
But by sending right-handed reliever Luis Vizcaino to the Cubs, the Rockies received Marquis, 30, a four-time postseason participant who went 11-9 with a 4.53 ERA for a team that won the National League Central last season. The trade had been awaiting approval for several days. The Rockies will receive $875,000 from the Cubs. With Vizcaino due $4 million for 2009 and Marquis receiving $9.875 million, the Rockies' payroll will grow by $5 million.
Marquis has finished in double figures in the win column each of the past five years. He'll fit behind Cook, who won a career-best 16 games in 2008; Francis, who hopes to rebound from shoulder problems and regain the form that netted 19 wins (including the playoffs) in 2007; and Jimenez, who rebounded to go 12-12 with a 3.99 ERA.
"We like [Marquis'] athleticism, age and durability," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said. "I don't know about increasing wins and losses because there are so many variables, but we have some definite things we can work with him on to try to get some more consistency."
The Cubs, looking to reshape their roster and payroll, decided during postseason organizational meetings to trade Marquis. The Rockies explored a trade during last month's Winter Meetings and never dropped the idea.
"Jason did do a solid job for us in two years and certainly ate up a lot of innings and we won two division titles with him here," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "He was solid."
Marquis' acquisition would leave one rotation spot up for competition among Greg Smith, a left-hander who had a solid rookie season with the Athletics in 2008; Jorge De La Rosa, a lefty who went 5-2 in August and September with the Rockies last season; Morales, who regained some of his form in Winter Ball in Venezuela; and righty Jason Hirsh, whose big league education has been delayed by a broken right leg in 2007 and a shoulder injury last season. The group could also be faced with another seasoned competitor, righty Tim Redding, who won 10 games for the Nationals last season and is a free agent in whom the Rockies are interested.
O'Dowd noted that the Rockies aren't in position to say they have enough pitching. He said Francis is too early in his season preparations to know how healthy his shoulder is. Smith underwent arthroscopic surgery after last season to remove "loose bodies" from his elbow, and Hirsh appears in good shape but the club won't know for sure until he is further along in his throwing program.
Marquis is 79-70 with a 4.55 ERA in the Majors. He also has been solid at Coors Field (3-0, 2.51 ERA in five games, four starts). Marquis, however, had a difficult moment at Coors. Pitching for the Cubs on Aug. 10, 2007, Marquis hit the Rockies' Jeff Baker in the batting helmet and face, leaving Baker with a concussion. Marquis sought out Baker and explained the pitch was an accident, and there were no hard feelings between the two.
The Rockies also can benefit from Marquis' bat. He has a .206 average, respectable for a pitcher, with five home runs and 40 RBIs in 441 at-bats. While leading the Cubs to a 9-5 victory over the Mets last Sept. 22 to clinch home-field advantage in the playoffs, Marquis hit a grand slam and drove in five runs.
Rockies manager Clint Hurdle is not shy about using a pitcher as a pinch-hitter -- he did it several times with Cook last season. Marquis brings a .231 pinch-hit average to the Rockies.