Rox, Cook move closer to extension
Deal for righty would be for three years and in $30 million range
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Rockies and the agent for right-handed pitcher Aaron Cook moved close to a three-year, $30 million contract extension during meetings on Wednesday at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center during the Winter Meetings.
"We're still working on that," agent Joe Bick said. "We're getting close, but we're not done."
Just after the World Series, the Rockies picked up Cook's $4.5 million option for 2008 after Cook had completed a two-year, $4.55 million deal. But both sides had been viewing an extension long before the Rockies exercised the option.
The extension would cover 2009-11, but most likely, the Rockies will grant Cook an additional signing bonus for 2008. Among the issues still to be negotiated is the structure of an option for 2012.
General manager Dan O'Dowd, who said that Jeff Bridich, the team's baseball operations director, is heading the Rockies' end of the negotiations, also acknowledged that language was being discussed, and that Cook would have to complete a physical before a deal is completed.
The Rockies also plan to offer a multi-year deal to left fielder Matt Holliday, who is in his second year of arbitration, but they are less optimistic about that. Even if they don't get the extension, the Rockies control Holliday's rights through 2009.
But signing Cook would send a message that the Rockies want to hold on to their successful players. It definitely would put the Rockies in strong shape on the mound.
"If you look at our rotation, and so much of it depends on health, our rotation has a chance to be the strength of our club as we go through the next three or four years," O'Dowd said.
But an extension would mean that both Cook and left-hander Jeff Francis potentially would be locked up through 2011, the year the Rockies have a club option on the four-year, $13.5 million contract Francis signed before the 2007 season. It could make for a bright pitching future.
The Rockies also have three highly regarded young starters -- Jason Hirsh, a rookie in 2007, and Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales, two late-season callups who were keys during the late-season march and the playoffs as the Rockies won the National League championship.
In addition, Greg Reynolds -- the No. 1 pick in 2006 who might have made the Majors in 2007 if not for shoulder problems that shut him down just after midseason -- figures to play a huge role for the Rockies as early as 2008 if his recovery from surgery goes properly. O'Dowd also mentioned two righty prospects who made strides at Class A Modesto -- Brandon Hynick (16-5, 2.52 ERA) and Chaz Roe (7-11 with a 4.33 ERA, but 4-0, 2.15 in his last eight starts).
Cook, who turns 29 on Feb. 8, has shown flashes of stardom, but injuries and other misfortunes have held him back.
He was a combined 13-6 in 2004 and 2005, but between the two seasons underwent surgery to alleviate life-threatening blood clots in both lungs. In 2006, his first full and healthy season in the Majors, he went 9-15 with a 4.23 ERA -- respectable at Coors Field -- but suffered the seventh-lowest run support among National League pitchers.
In 2007, Cook earned the Opening Day start after a strong spring, but he struggled during the first half as Francis -- who would lead the Rockies in victories for the third straight season -- assumed the No. 1 starter label.
However, Cook rebounded after the All-Star break and was 8-7 with a 4.12 ERA in 25 starts before straining an oblique muscle, an injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the regular season and both NL playoff rounds.
But he started Game 4 of the World Series and turned in the Rockies' best performance, though the team was swept by the Red Sox. Cook gave up three runs in six innings and dropped a bunt single in the 4-3 loss.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.