01/23/08 7:40 PM EST
Tulowitzki signs big deal with Rockies
Colorado gives young shortstop unprecedented extension
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
"I see the talent in the locker room," Tulowitzki, voted by MLB.com visitors as the Major League Rookie of the Year in the 2007 This Year In Baseball Awards, said during the announcement at Coors Field. "Obviously, everybody knows the guys on this team are great baseball players, but more than that they're great guys, great people. That's what makes it special.
"I took that into consideration and said, 'Wow, if we can really keep these core guys together, we have the makings to be something special.' Now, the next step is keeping these guys together. I believe that's going to happen."
It's the largest contract ever for a player with fewer than two seasons in the Majors, surpassing the Indians' Grady Sizemore's six-year, $23.45 contract in 2006. Tulowitzki is guaranteed annual salaries of $750,000 in 2008 and 2009, $3.5 million in 2010, $5.5 million in 2011, $8.5 million in 2012, and $10 million in 2013 and a $2 million buyout on the club option for 2014, which would pay him $15 million if exercised.
In addition, Tulowitzki will be making annual donations to the Rockies' charity programs and plans on direct, personal community investments in the Denver area, according to his agent, Paul Cohen. Tulowitzki, from Sunnyvale, Calif., also said during his press conference he will be looking to establish a residence in the Denver area -- something his teammates, most of whom live here, have suggested he do. He was was the team's No. 1 Draft pick out of Long Beach State in 2005.
The signing of Tulowtizki, 23, is part of the Rockies' strategy of locking up their homegrown core on multi-year contracts.
Those players include first baseman Todd Helton, signed through 2011, and the top two pitchers, Jeff Francis, locked through 2010, and Aaron Cook, signed through 2011. All have option years at the end of those deals. In addition, left fielder Matt Holliday is locked for his final two years of arbitration, at a total of $23 million, and he and the club are open to a long-term deal before he becomes a free agent after 2009.
Tulowtizki batted .291 with 24 home runs and 99 RBIs, and led Major League shortstops in most fielding categories. Tulowitzki's 177 hits, 57 walks and his RBI total were Rockies rookie records. The homers set an NL record for rookie shortstops, and his RBIs topped those of any NL rookie shortstop in the past 50 years.
His display of natural leadership qualities was often cited as the reason for the club's turnaround, which began in May and finished with the team winning 21-of-22 games before falling to the Red Sox in a four-game sweep in the World Series.
"Baseball more than any sport is played everyday. It's so darn long, it's grinding and you need somebody like that to take out the highs, take out the lows and try to keep the course," said Rockies chairman and CEO Charlie Monfort. "You're going to have your ups and downs, and it's the special guys that can pull you through those down times to make them shorter than longer.
"[Derek] Jeter has done that in New York. [Craig] Biggio did it for a long time in Houston. If we can get somebody like that, that not only has the ability on the field but the intangibles off the field, you need those guys."
Tulowitzki quickly rose to fan favorite status, with hand claps and a "Tulo" chant becoming one of the rallying cries of last year's late-season run.
"I talked to some guys that played here right when the stadium opened up, and this stadium was rocking, and Denver was a great sports town, but [the current Rockies] weren't there yet," Tulowitzki said. "That was my goal. It would be awesome.
"Sure enough, at the end of the season, fans were there, they were awesome, they were supportive. behind us. This upcoming year, I'm definitely expecting that chant. I'm expecting it to be loud."
Monfort said, "His jersey sales are huge. The Matt Holliday signing was huge. It shows that we're going to work together on that. But the Tulowitzki thing, that's the one I keep hearing all about. Everywhere I go, everyone's excited about the 'Tulo' signing."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.