Lyles agrees to one-year deal with Rockies
Flande, Gurka, Herrera sent to free agency on deadline day
DENVER -- The Rockies and right-handed pitcher Jordan Lyles avoided arbitration Wednesday by agreeing on a one-year contract, the Rockies announced Wednesday. The deal, first reported by Yahoo Sports, is worth $2.975 million.
The Rockies tendered 2016 offers to all of their other arbitration-eligible players -- star third baseman Nolan Arenado, All-Star second baseman DJ LeMahieu, starting center fielder Charlie Blackmon and closer Adam Ottavino -- before Wednesday's deadline.
The club also announced late Wednesday that it had non-tendered left-handers Yohan Flande and Jason Gurka and outfielder Rosell Herrera, making all free agents. The decisions leave the Rockies at 37 players on the Major League roster, three shy of the limit.
The Rockies have come to terms with two of their arbitration-eligible players -- Lyles and outfielder Brandon Barnes ($1 million base salary with $100,000 available in performance bonuses).
Lyles, 25, has been solid in two seasons with the Rockies -- when he has been available. Freak injuries have limited him to 32 total starts with Colorado (9-9, 4.56 ERA, 120 strikeouts and 65 walks).
Lyles made 22 starts in 2014, but he missed two months because of a broken left hand he suffered covering the plate June 5. In 2015, Lyles made 10 starts (2-5, 5.14 ERA) before suffering an injury to the medial collateral ligament in his right big toe and undergoing season-ending surgery in May. Before the toe injury, he was hit on the left hand by a line drive May 13 and left a game against the Angels after one inning, but didn't miss a start because of the injury.
The Rockies, however, still have much faith in Lyles, whom they acquired (along with Barnes) from the Astros for outfielder Dexter Fowler after the 2013 season. Lyles was an Astros supplemental first-round Draft pick in 2008. In addition to durability, the Rockies will be looking for Lyles to return to and improve upon the strike-throwing form he showed in 2014, when he fanned 90 and walked 46 while going 7-4 with a 4.33 ERA. He had 30 strikeouts and 19 walks in 49 innings in 2015.
The Rockies are on a well-documented quest for a front-of-the rotation starter to pair with lefty Jorge De La Rosa, their career wins leader, and righty Chad Bettis, who raised hopes by going 8-6 with a 4.23 ERA in 20 starts in 2015. But they also believe their rotation can be boosted by the returns of Lyles and righty Tyler Chatwood, who hasn't pitched in the Majors since April 2014 because of an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. Chatwood, who turns 26 on Dec. 16, went 8-5 with a 3.15 ERA in 20 starts in 2013.
Also returning as rotation competitors are lefties Tyler Matzek, a former first-rounder, and Chris Rusin; and righties David Hale, 2013 third overall pick Jon Gray and 2013 46th overall pick Eddie Butler. Also in the mix: righty Jeff Hoffman, a former Blue Jays top pick acquired as part of the deal for shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in July; lefty Kyle Freeland, who was chosen one spot ahead of Hoffman (eighth overall) in 2014; and lefty Tyler Anderson, the 2011 top pick who is projected to be healthy after an elbow issue kept him out of action last season.
Lyles began throwing bullpen sessions late in the 2015 season and threw in the team's Dominican Republic instructional program without incident.
Flande, 29, went 3-3 with a 4.74 ERA in 19 appearances, including 10 starts. In 2014, Flande went 0-6 with a 5.19 ERA and was removed from the 40-man Major League roster after the season. He was then re-signed to a Minor League contract.
Gurka, 27, who went to Spring Training with the Rockies under a Minor League deal, debuted in August and made nine appearances (0-0, 9.39 ERA).
Herrera, 23, once a shortstop prospect who moved to the outfield, hit .260 last season at Class A Advanced Modesto; he played in the Futures Game in 2014 but wrist injuries slowed his progress.