No one can accuse the Colorado Rockies of ageism.
Looking for a closer to fill the gap left after right-hander Rafael Betancourt underwent Tommy John surgery in September, the Rockies signed free agent right-hander LaTroy Hawkins on Nov. 22.
Hawkins received a one-year, $2.5 million deal, and he will receive the get to earn the closer role in camp. The Rockies hold a contract option for 2015.
Hawkins will turn 41 years old in December.
Colorado was the fifth stop on Hawkins' tour of the major leagues. He pitched for the Rockies in 2007, helping them reach the World Series -- his only appearance in the Fall Classic during a 19-season career. Hawkins allowed one run in five innings over five postseason appearances that year.
He subsequently played for five additional teams, including the New York Mets in 2013. Hawkins went 3-2 with 13 saves and a 2.93 ERA in 72 games this year.
The Rockies are in need of a closer after right-hander Rafael Betancourt underwent Tommy John surgery in September, an operation that will cost him the entire 2014 season.
Hawkins' save total this year was his highest since he had 25 saves for the Chicago Cubs in 2004. He only other season with 15 or more saves was 2001, when he had 28 saves for the Minnesota Twins.
With the retirement of New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, Hawkins is the active leader among pitchers with 943 career appearances (93 of them starts from 1995-99). He ranks 20th in major league history in appearances. Overall, he has a 68-99 record with 101 saves and a 4.37 ERA.
2013: 74-88, fifth place in NL West
TEAM MVP: RF Michael Cuddyer, who had never hit higher than .284 and who entered the season with a .271 career average, won the National League batting title with a .331 average at age 34. His output in 130 games also included 31 doubles, 20 homers and a team-leading 84 RBIs. Cuddyer set a franchise record with a 27-game hitting streak from May 28 through June 30 and was selected to the All-Star team. He was extremely consistent and productive both at Coors Field, where he hit .356 with 11 homers and 45 RBIs, and on the road (.311-9-39). Cuddyer hit .385 (30-for-78) in September to pull away in the batting race.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: RHP Wilton Lopez was the Rockies' major acquisition in the offseason, a reliever they coveted for his ability to get ground balls. The Rockies envisioned the durable Lopez as part of their setup corps capable of pitching in high-leveraged innings. But the season was a struggle for Lopez, who got off to a miserable start -- 0-1 with two blown saves and a 9.00 ERA after nine saves. He allowed 88 hits in 75 1/3 innings, finished with a 4.06 ERA in 75 games and pitched his way from the back end of the bullpen into middle relief.
TOP PROSPECT: RHP Jonathan Gray, the third pick overall in the 2013 draft, received a franchise-record $4.8 million bonus. He dipped his toes in the professional waters with four starts at rookie-level Grand Junction and then moved up to Class A Modesto, where he made five dominant starts and went 4-0 with a 0.75 ERA. In 24 innings, Gray walked six, struck out 36, allowed 10 hits, none of them home runs, and held opposing hitters to a .128 average. Gray, who turns 22 in November, figures to reach the majors in 2015 and possibly as soon as 2014.
--RHP Mitchell Boggs was non-tendered by the Rockies on Dec. 2, making him a free agent. Boggs, 29, showed a power arm but spotty command in nine games after being acquired from St. Louis. He finished a combined 0-3 with a 8.10 ERA in 27 games for the two teams this year.
--RHP Matt Belisle had his $4.25 million mutual option picked up by the Rockies on Nov. 4. Belisle turns 34 in June, and his age and workload (302 appearances since 2010, more than any other major league pitcher), are starting to show. However, the Rockies are bringing him back because he still can be effective and will provide leadership in the bullpen.
--RHP Manny Corpas cleared waivers and elected to become a free agent. Corpas, 30, could be back in Colorado in a middle-relief role, but he easily could be deemed expendable as the Rockies reconstruct their bullpen. He went 1-2 with a 4.54 ERA in 31 relief appearances for the Rockies this year.
--RHP Jeff Manship was outrighted to Triple-A Colorado Springs as the Rockies removed him from their 40-man roster. Manship, 28, went 0-5 with a 7.04 ERA in 11 games (four starts) for the Rockies this year.
--LHP Edwar Cabrera, who sat out the entire 2013 season due to a left shoulder injury that required surgery in July, was claimed off waivers by the Rangers from the Rockies on Oct. 16. Cabrera, 25, made his major league debut for Colorado in 2012, going 0-2 with an 11.12 ERA in two starts. He is 26-21 with a 3.13 ERA in five minor league seasons.
--OF Carlos Gonzalez, pleased with the way his sprained right middle finger responded to a test in the Rockies' instructional league program, decided not to undergo surgery. He last batted in a game for Colorado on Aug. 4, finishing the season as merely a defensive replacement. He expects to be ready for spring training.
--RF Michael Cuddyer led the National League in batting with a .331 average. He became the sixth Rockies player to win a batting title in the club's 21 seasons. The other five players are Andres Galarraga (who hit .370 in 1993), Larry Walker (.363 in 1998, .379 in 1999 and .350 in 2001), Todd Helton (.372 in 2000), Matt Holliday (.340 in 2007) and Carlos Gonzalez (.336 in 2010). Cuddyer is Colorado's third right-handed hitter to win a batting crown, joining Galarraga and Holliday.
--RHP Tyler Chatwood (3.15 ERA, 20 starts), RHP Jhoulys Chacin (3.47 ERA, 31 starts) and LHP Jorge De La Rosa (3.49 ERA, 30 starts) collectively made franchise history as the Rockies, for the first time in their 21 seasons, had three pitchers make at least 20 starts with a sub-4.00 ERA.
--3B Nolan Arenado had 52 RBIs in his rookie season, and 26 came with two out. He batted .295 (43-for-146) with two out compared with .253 and seven RBIs in 162 at-bats with no out and .258 and 19 RBIs in 178 at-bats with one out.
--CF Dexter Fowler, a switch-hitter who started just three games after Aug. 26 due to left knee soreness, regressed batting left-handed. In 2012, Fowler hit .293 in 311 at-bats left-handed with a .387 on-base percentage and a .479 slugging percentage. This season, Fowler hit .237 with a .349 on-base percentage and a .392 slugging percentage in 291 at-bats left-handed.
--LHP Rex Brothers allowed an earned run in just 11 of 72 outings and finished 2-1 with 19 saves in 21 chances and a 1.74 ERA in 72 games. Brothers took over for RHP Rafael Betancourt as the closer, twice filling that role while Betancourt was on the disabled list and taking the role permanently when Betancourt suffered a season-ending elbow injury Aug. 22 and ultimately underwent Tommy John surgery that will cause him to miss the entire 2014 season. Brothers allowed 51 hits in 67 1/3 innings with 36 walks and 75 strikeouts. He limited left-handed hitters to a .164 average (12-for-73) and right-handed hitters to a .228 mark (39-for-171).
--RHP Adam Ottavino set a club record with 23 appearances of two or more innings, the last of which was a three-inning outing Sept. 1. Ottavino proved to be a valuable middle reliever capable of pitching multiple innings. However, his final 10 appearances were one inning or less -- nine of them scoreless -- as the Rockies decided to look at Ottavino with an eye toward deploying him as a power arm in the seventh inning in 2014. Ottavino went 1-3 with a 2.64 ERA in 52 games, allowing 73 hits and 31 walks in 78 1/3 innings with 78 strikeouts. Ottavino held right-handed hitters to a .197 average (34-for-173), but left-handers batted .328 (39-for-119) against him.
--1B Todd Helton played in the final game of his 17-year career, going 1-for-4 with a walk in the season finale. Helton finishes his career having played in 2,247 games and a career batting average of .316 (2,519-for-7,963), hitting 369 home runs to go along with 1,406 RBIs. In his final season, Helton posted a .249 batting average (99-for-398) with 22 doubles, 15 home runs and 61 RBIs in 124 games.
--LHP Jeff Francis picked up his third win in his 12th start of the year in the season finale against the Dodgers, finishing the campaign with an overall record of 3-5 with a 6.27 ERA. Francis allowed one earned run on three hits while striking out six in 5.0 innings.
--CF Charlie Blackmon had his 16th multi-hit game on the season, going 2-for-4 in the season finale against the Dodgers, while knocking in the second Rockies' run with a single in the fourth inning.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "When our horses went down, we struggled. We had a hard time overcoming that. At the same time, some of our young guys got an opportunity. ... They've made some strong impressions." -- Manager Walt Weiss.
The arrival of rookie Nolan Arenado in late April solved the Rockies' problems at third base, as he became a fixture with magnificent defense and acceptable offense that should improve with experience.
Tyler Chatwood, who like Arenado began the season at Triple-A Colorado Springs, also came up in April and established himself in the rotation, along with Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa, both of whose 2012 seasons were limited by injury.
The Rockies were able to give extensive playing time to OFs Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson because CF Dexter Fowler missed the final month and LF Carlos Gonzalez the final two months with injuries. That situation also resulted in giving INF Charlie Culberson time in the outfield, where his inexperience showed but as he improves, his versatility will be enhanced. Blackmon, Dickerson and Culberson could prove to be useful players going forward for the Rockies or as trade pieces.
BIGGEST NEEDS: Rebuilding the bullpen and adding a right-handed bat are the major offseason tasks. With the retirement of 1B Todd Helton, the Rockies can move RF Michael Cuddyer to that position, where he has extensive experience. Regardless, the Rockies need a right-handed power bat capable of playing a corner outfield spot, first base or even both.
The bullpen understandably had trouble sustaining the loss of closer Rafael Betancourt, who was on the disabled list three times and last pitched Aug. 22 after sustaining an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery Sept. 17. The Rockies' relievers ERA was 3.00 in April, 3.24 in May, 4.53 in June, 4.98 in July, 4.15 in August and 5.45 in September.
The Rockies also have to decide whether C Jordan Pacheco has progressed enough at what is his best position to entrust him with the job of backing up starter Wilin Rosario or pursue a more veteran catcher for that role.
ARRIVAL: RHP LaTroy Hawkins (free agent from Mets).
FREE AGENTS: RHP Manuel Corpas, 1B Todd Helton (retired), LHP Jeff Francis, RHP Roy Oswalt, C Yorvit Torrealba, RHP Rafael Betancourt
Helton retired after the season. Francis and Torrealba are not expected to return. And while Oswalt would like to, it's questionable what he has left at age 36 after compiling an 8.63 ERA in nine games, six starts and 32 1/3 innings, albeit despite missing two months with a left hamstring strain. Oswalt has talked to the Rockies about being invited to spring training, believing he can compete for a rotation spot with a full offseason. Corpas could be back in a middle-relief role, but he easily could be deemed expendable as the Rockies reconstruct their bullpen. Betancourt will miss all of next year after elbow surgery.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: INF Jonathan Herrera, RHP Wilton Lopez, LHP Josh Outman, RHP Juan Nicasio
Lopez was a major disappointment. Outman is a left-handed specialist who struggled against right-handed hitters but was effective against lefties, albeit with a few too many walks. His chances of returning are greater than Boggs' or Lopez's as the Rockies look to rebuild and improve their bullpen. Herrera is valuable in a utility role and is likely to return. Nicasio's value won't be high following a mediocre season.
IN LIMBO: RHP Rafael Betancourt, LHP Jorge De La Rosa
The Rockies hold an $11 million option on De La Rosa and will exercise it. Betancourt underwent Tommy John surgery Sept. 17 and will miss the entire 2014 season. The Rockies won't pick up their end of his $4.25 million mutual option for 2014 but are expected to sign him to a less expensive contract so he can continue his rehab with the Rockies and attempt a comeback with them in 2015, when he turns 40 in April.
--OF Carlos Gonzalez (sprained right middle finger) last batted in a game Aug. 4. He tested the finger in games in the Rockies' instructional league program in October, and he decided not to undergo surgery. He expects to be ready for spring training.
--RHP Rafael Betancourt (Tommy John surgery in September 2013) likely will miss the 2014 season.
--LHP Christian Friedrich (lower back inflammation) missed the last seven weeks of the season due to an injury related to the season-ending stress fracture he suffered in July 2012.
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