Rockies: Big-market teams didn’t deal for Holliday |

Rockies: Big-market teams didn’t deal for Holliday

Arnie Stapleton
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
** In this March 22, 2008 file photo, Oakland Athletics pitcher Huston Street pitches against the Yomiuri Giants in the eighth inning of their exhibition baseball game at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo. The Oakland Athletics completed their trade for star outfielder Matt Holliday from the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday Nov. 12, 2008. The Rockies receive right-handed reliever Huston Street, lefty starter Greg Smith and promising outfielder Carlos Gonzalez from the A's. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara, File)

DENVER ” Colorado Rockies general manger Dan O’Dowd said Wednesday he traded Matt Holliday to Oakland because the ballclubs in larger markets weren’t interested in giving up prospects for the slugger.

“The big market teams said, ‘Dan wants good players for Matt, we’ll just wait until he becomes a free agent in a year,'” O’Dowd told The Associated Press. “So, our options were really limited, and Oakland was the most aggressive, offering us three major league players of varying abilities. It was just a good fit.”

In exchange for their best player, the Rockies received right-handed reliever Huston Street, lefty starter Greg Smith and promising outfielder Carlos Gonzalez from the A’s.

Philadelphia expressed some interest in Holliday early on and talks broke down with St. Louis last week.

O’Dowd said keeping Holliday in a Rockies uniform through next season or even through the July 31 trading deadline wasn’t an option.

“This wasn’t going to go away. It was going to be a distraction,” O’Dowd said. “And that’s nothing against Mattie. He’s earned the right to be a free agent after next season and he’s earned the right to pick where he plays after next season. There’s no hard feelings, no animosity.”

Except maybe from Rockies fans who are bombarding the blogs and airwaves, furious over losing their beloved slugger for three young players many of them have never even heard of.

O’Dowd, breaking from his policy of not discussing financial figures, said the fans should know that the Rockies offered Holliday a deal worth $107.5 million over five years, the best Colorado could do, during spring training last season.

“We weren’t going to sign Mattie at all costs. Otherwise, those same fans would have been upset at the other deals we couldn’t do around him,” O’Dowd said. “We have to do what’s in the best interest of the team, and hopefully fans will fall in love with our next left fielder, which will probably be one of our own kids.”

O’Dowd said he saw this day coming from the moment agent Scott Boras rejected the Rockies’ contract offer in March. Still, he acknowledged it was difficult seeing Holliday leave after 11 years in Colorado’s organization.

“Watching this kid grow up and get married and then have kids of his own and watch him play catch with him in the clubhouse, Mattie brought us a lot of excitement,” O’Dowd said. “Then his slide home that put us in the playoffs last year, he was an integral part of the Rockies, and who knows, maybe a part of the future here again.”

Holliday dribbled his chin through the batter’s box with the winning run in Colorado’s 13-inning win over San Diego that sent the Rockies to the playoffs in 2007. They advanced to their first World Series but lost to Boston in four games.

Co-owner Charlie Monfort said recently that the inability to sign Holliday to a long-term deal during spring training cast a cloud over the team and contributed to its slow start.

O’Dowd didn’t deny speculation that Street could be used as trade bait. With closer Brian Fuentes set to leave via free agency, they would then turn to Manny Corpas to bounce back and return to the form that helped the Rockies win their first pennant.

“We are open for business between now and Opening Day,” O’Dowd said. “I told Huston this, too. We didn’t get Huston to trade him, but if an offer comes along, we’ll listen. But I’m not picking up the phone and calling anybody.”

The 25-year-old Street was demoted from his closer role this season and finished 7-5 with a 3.73 ERA and 18 saves in 25 chances.

O’Dowd sees Smith, 24, as the team’s fourth starter behind Aaron Cook, Jeff Francis and Ubaldo Jimenez: “If he can give us 190-200 innings and 30 starts, we’ll be very happy with that,” O’Dowd said.

Smith had elbow surgery last month. He went 7-16 with a 4.16 ERA in 32 starts and 190 2-3 innings during his first major league season, when he received very poor run support.

“They all did,” O’Dowd said of Oakland’s pitching staff, nothing the Athletics were last in the major leagues with a .242 batting average and last in the AL with 646 runs.

“I’m sure that’s why (Oakland GM) Billy Beane wanted to get Matt,” O’Dowd said.

Like Smith, the 23-year-old Gonzalez just finished his first big league season. He hit .242 with four homers and 26 RBIs in 302 at-bats. The Rockies believe that while he’s ready defensively to be an everyday major league outfielder, his hitting needs a lot of work.

“He definitely has to work his way through some offensive issues,” O’Dowd said. “But if he had worked his way through those this season, he wouldn’t have been available in this trade. He’s got a ways to go but he’s got a good swing.”

The Rockies also are willing to listen to offers for third baseman Garrett Atkins this winter.

“But there’s not going to be a Garrett Atkins watch like there was with Matt Holliday,” O’Dowd said. “We’ve got him for two years and there’s no sense of urgency.”

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