Rox sign Hawkins, deny Hawpe rumors

Rox sign Hawkins, deny Hawpe rumors

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Rockies interrupted their shopping session on Tuesday to try to let right fielder Brad Hawpe know that he's not being shopped. But shopping was not on Hawpe's mind.

The Rockies shouted down a trade rumor and said they would get in touch with Hawpe to tell him they had no intention of sending him to the Pirates, as had been widely reported as a possibility in a three-way deal involving the Cubs. They didn't need to worry.

Hawpe spent the day near the Centerville, Iowa, home of Rockies bench coach Rick Matthews hunting for deer, along with former Rockies catcher Danny Ardoin. Rumors may fill the World Wide Web, airwaves and newsprint, but until animals begin to talk, specifically about fantasy baseball, trade talk is not a distraction in the forest.

"This is the first I've heard of it," Hawpe said via cell phone from his truck. "I've been up in the woods."

Little did Hawpe know that he was in the sights of baseball's rumor mill.

According to several reports, the Rockies were considering a three-team deal in which they'd send right-handed pitcher Jason Jennings to the Cubs for center fielder Jacque Jones and young pitching, and send Hawpe to the Pirates for more young pitching.

But by day's end, the Rockies and Pirates were dismissing the whole thing, and manager Clint Hurdle said he would call Hawpe.

"I don't like to give credibility to situations and things that are said that have no credibility," Hurdle said. "But at the same time, there are emotions involved and you need to be cognizant of those. I thought people were kidding around.

"So now, it might be time for me to get involved and reassure some guys. We are not peddling flesh."

General manager Dan O'Dowd said nothing has changed since last week, when he talked to Hawpe's agent. To deal Hawpe -- who hit .295 with 22 home runs last season, finished second in baseball with 16 outfield assists, and is a year away from first-time arbitration -- the Rockies would have to receive the type of young pitching that could make them a championship club.

"We would have to be blown away for this guy to go anywhere," O'Dowd said.

Of course, the Pirates' young pitchers, such as Paul Maholm, a left-handed starter and No. 1 pick in 2003 who surfaced in some trade reports, could blow folks away -- if the Pirates had any interest in dealing them. Pirates GM Dave Littlefield isn't interested.

"We like our starters, but we've only got four starters," said Littlefield. "If you trade a starter, now you're down to three starters. That doesn't add up very well over the course of the season."

Add that to the Rockies' thought that they'd acquire Jones from the Cubs only to send him elsewhere, only to have that deal fall apart.

Hurdle insisted that Hawpe, who at times was criticized for strikeouts and slumps but wound up with a solid season, will get every chance to show he is an everyday player. The left-handed-hitting Hawpe can avoid a platoon situation if he hits better than the .232 he did against left-handed pitching in 2006, but it should be noted that he rarely faced a lefty starter and most of the at-bats came against lefty specialist relievers.

The Rockies have right-handed-hitting prospect Jeff Baker, who pushed Hawpe with a strong September. But Baker can get at-bats at right field, left field, third base and first base, which means Hawpe can stamp right field as his spot if he takes the next step.

"I think last year, we saw what it takes to be able to compete and win, and we're going to go back and try to improve," Hawpe said. "It feels good to know that they think a lot of me, and they want me to be a part of that."

O'Dowd also said that Jennings, with whom the Rockies are still open to signing to an extension beyond 2007, is unlikely to be dealt before the Meetings adjourn on Thursday. Teams in search of pitching might still be weighing free-agent options, he said.

In another non-development, the Rockies discovered that free-agent center fielder Kenny Lofton received an offer far above what the Rockies thought he'd command. For that matter, outfielder Jay Payton also is commanding more than the Rockies are willing to pay.

Darin Erstad remains a free-agent option, but the Rockies won't commit to an offer until Erstad is able to demonstrate how well his recovery from right ankle surgery has gone. In the meantime, however, the Devil Rays could beat the Rockies to the punch by signing him as a first baseman and designated hitter.

"That's his call," said O'Dowd, who said Erstad is best of friends with Rockies front-office official Marcel Lachemann. "But he's from the Rocky Mountain region, he wants to live back in Nebraska, so we are aware of the situation.

"Tampa could be a great fit for him, too, but my feeling is that center field would be a greater option for him."

Free-agent right-hander LaTroy Hawkins passed his Rockies physical, making the one-year, $3.5 million contract he signed with the Rockies official. He has a $3.25 million base salary and there is a mutual 2008 option -- a $250,000 buyout or a $3.75 million salary.

The Rockies also met with the agent for left-hander Tom Martin, whom the club would like to bring back in 2007.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.