Freeland agrees to 5-year extension with Rox

Southpaw tosses solid game as Cron's homer lifts Rox

April 20th, 2022

DENVER -- Lefty Kyle Freeland endured hard Phillies contact in his first inning, and then alternately breezed and wavered through five innings while limiting opposing runs to two.

Then, as when he did while growing up in Denver and still sometimes does while wearing the uniform, he rode the wild waves until the Rockies won as they often do at Coors Field. C.J. Cron's three-run, go-ahead homer -- his sixth homer of the season -- was all the difference in the Rockies' 6-5 win on Tuesday night, Colorado's eighth in 11 games.

And in a place that’s supposed to send pitchers screaming for the hills on the other side of the mountains, Freeland clearly didn’t mind. In fact he signed up for more -- five years at $64.5 million, with a vesting player option for a sixth year.

The news broke hours before the game but manager Bud Black said Freeland, who planned to address the media on Wednesday, and the Rockies had settled it a while ago. So Black could speak after the game about how Freeland, who entered with a 10.00 ERA, moved closer to the form to which the Rockies are committing cash and years.

“The fastball had life to it -- the fastball to both sides of the plate,” Black said. “He was effective to both sides of the plate, to both right-handers and a couple left-handed hitters they had. He threw some sliders, threw a couple good curveballs and a couple good changes, too.”

The biggest change may be in perception. There is more evidence that Colorado is a place to stay.

Freeland joined pitcher Antonio Senzatela, third baseman Ryan McMahon, first baseman Cron and catcher Elias Díaz in signing multi-year deals since the end of last season. They joined Germán Márquez, who set the trend by signing for five years early in the '19 season. 

Outfielder Kris Bryant put his endorsement on the cool of Colorado when he signed up for seven years and $182 million after celebrated seasons with the Cubs and Giants. But Freeland’s signing, which ate up his final two years of arbitration eligibility, in many ways was the biggest.

Freeland’s signing keeps him, Márquez and Senzatela together at least through 2024 (the club has options for Márquez for '25 and Senzatela for '26). The three were rookies in '17, when the Rockies made the first of their two straight postseason trips.

After righty Jon Gray reached free agency and accepted a bid from the Rangers, who offered more money and a chance to pitch without altitude concerns, eyes turned to Freeland to see if the hometown kid -- from Denver and Thomas Jefferson High before pitching collegiately at Evansville University -- would seek other pastures.

This year’s signings came against a run of exoduses -- not only Gray and Trevor Story this year, but DJ LeMahieu ('18) and Nolan Arenado ('20).

“Everyone wants to be here and win,” Márquez said. “We started here together and [Freeland's] going to be here six more years. He’s an amazing guy [and] an amazing pitcher. He deserved to get it.”

Signing after signing occurred during Spring Training, but Freeland actually traded arbitration figures. He sought $7.8 million, the Rockies offered $6.425 million in his second-to-last year of arbitration eligibility. McMahon, who wiped out his remaining arbitration for five years and $70 million not long after Bryant signed, carefully encouraged Freeland to join him.

“It’s kind of a sensitive situation,” McMahon said. “He’s your buddy, but you want him to do what’s best for him and his family. We wanted him here. I’m glad it worked out.”

Freeland’s best year was '18, when he finished fourth in National League Cy Young Award voting after going 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA in 33 starts. Freeland went on to pitch 6 2/3 scoreless innings in the eventual 2-1, 13-inning victory over the Cubs in the NL Wild Card Game. But his worst was '19, when he dealt with a groin injury and endured an option to Triple-A Albuquerque, before bouncing back solidly last year after missing the early part of the season with a left shoulder injury.

When Freeland was at his worst, Black reminded him of who he was and what he meant to the organization.

“I can’t remember every conversation, but there was a lot of that,” Black said. “His fastball velocity was still the same. His slider was still the same. In a lot of ways, he was still the same guy.”

Though the Rockies fell behind 4-3 in the sixth on Kyle Schwarber's two-run homer, Cron's long ball in the seventh off Jeurys Familia made the occasion a celebration in the end.

“We want to win all the games anyway,” Cron said. “So I'm sure he would say the same thing. I’m obviously super pumped for him. He deserves it for what he's done for this organization.”