The Colorado Rockies already have their replacement for Dexter Fowler, who patrolled center field at cavernous center field for the last six seasons: Gold Glove left fielder Carlos Gonzalez.
”CarGo has played all three spots in the past and that’s the plan right now, to move him over to center,” general manager Bill Geivett said Wednesday.
The Rockies traded Fowler to the Houston Astros on Tuesday for two unproven players, 23-year-old right-handed pitcher Jordan Lyles and 27-year-old outfielder Brandon Barnes.
Geivett said the Rockies traded Fowler to get another young starting pitcher and to free up his $7.25 million salary for next season.
”It’s not like we’re just keeping that money. It’s going toward the 2014 payroll,” Geivett said.
Ostensibly, that money will go toward free agent first baseman Justin Morneau, whom reports indicated had agreed to a two-year, roughly $13 million deal pending a physical. Morneau’s agent didn’t return phone calls from The Associated Press on Wednesday and Geivett didn’t comment on a possible deal.
Along with bolstering their bullpen and solidifying their starting rotation, the Rockies’ priorities this offseason include filling the big void left by the retirement of first baseman Todd Helton, and the addition of Morneau could fit that bill.
”The loss of Todd is something that we’re going to feel always no matter what we do,” Geivett said. ”But pitching is always a big issue, for us and everybody else. It’s difficult to acquire and we’re still working on that.”
Lyles acknowledged pitching at Coors Field will be challenging because he isn’t known for having a particularly good fastball or sinker.
Nevertheless, Geivett said Rockies scouts liked Lyles’ ”ground-ball ability” and the fact he had several seasons of major league experience at such a young age.
Lyles reached the majors by the time he was 20 and has gone 14-29 with a 5.35 ERA in 65 career starts for the Astros.
Geivett said it was difficult to part with Fowler, one of the most popular players on the roster.
Fowler had spent six seasons in Colorado, where he hit .263 last season with 18 doubles, 12 homers, 42 RBIs, 71 runs and a .369 on-base percentage despite missing significant time with a slew of injuries.