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Rox quiet, but gain ground in negotiations

Rox quiet, but gain ground in negotiations

INDIANAPOLIS -- The end of the MLB Winter Meetings is in many ways a beginning for Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd.

The Rockies didn't have many holes coming into the event. But other than solidifying the bullpen by offering arbitration to right-handed setup reliever Rafael Betancourt, the other priorities remain unresolved.

O'Dowd planned to make contact with the representatives of catcher Yorvit Torrealba. The team has a two-year offer on the table and both sides are favorable to Torrealba returning, but the backstop is still looking at the market.

The Rockies met with the agent for Jose Contreras, who had an impact in the bullpen after the team acquired him from the White Sox. Not much progress was made with Contreras, who has also been examining interest from Japanese teams, but O'Dowd said the process could take some time.

One question is whether the right-hander is still looking to compete for a starting rotation job.

Contreras struggled in 21 starts with the White Sox (5-13, 5.42 ERA). With the Rockies, he won his first start and was pitching well in his second start when he suffered a right quadriceps strain.

Contreras became a reliever upon returnning, showed greater fastball velocity and posted a 1.23 ERA in five relief appearances, with seven strikeouts and four walks in 7 1/3 innings. He gave up one run and three hits in two innings over two appearances against the Phillies in the National League Division Series.

The team also is looking at right-handed hitting backup types such as Jamey Carroll, Nick Green, Melvin Mora and Robb Quinlan. But the Rockies also are considering bringing back left-handed hitting Jason Giambi as a pinch-hitter even though he hits left-handed. That's because of the lift Giambi provided in the September run to the playoffs.

Saturday's deadline to offer contracts to arbitration-eligible players will better define the bench and pitching markets, so the Rockies will be patient.

O'Dowd also said the team will keep its eyes open for players who fall through the market. For example, the Rockies made early contact with four-time Rawlings Gold Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson and could be in position to grab him and creatively remake the roster if he doesn't find the money he seeks elsewhere.

Rule 5 activity: None.

Goals accomplished: The Rockies' plan coming in was to hope Betancourt would accept arbitration. LaTroy Hawkins was the backup plan. After Betancourt accepted, Hawkins, who would have been prepared to accept the Rockies deal, signed with the Brewers.

Unfinished business: Torrealba is the priority at catcher, but if he goes elsewhere the Rockies are prepared to offer two years to Miguel Olivo or one year and an optional second year to Josh Bard.

The Rockies also are looking at multi-year deals for several of their arbitration-eligible players. A two-year offer was on the table for Betancourt before he entered the arbitration process. The team has been talking about a three-year contract with closer Huston Street, and several multi-year structures with catcher Chris Iannetta and second baseman Clint Barmes.

GM's bottom line: "We've still got a lot of work to do. I don't think there's one priority. They're all pretty important." -- O'Dowd

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

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