Rockies fill voids with signings of Hudson, Stallings

January 5th, 2024

DENVER – Looking to shore up pitching and catching this year and beyond, the Rockies reached a one-year contract with former Cardinals right-hander , and a one-year deal with a 2025 mutual option with one-time Gold Glove catcher .

A source informs's Mark Feinsand that Hudson's deal is worth $1.5 million, with $1.5 million more available via performance bonuses based on innings pitched. Stallings' pact is worth $1.5 million plus a mutual option, with a $500K buyout that can escalate to $1 million.

Hudson, 29, had standout numbers early in his career with the Cardinals but lost much of 2020 and 2021 because of Tommy John surgery. However, he finished last season healthy and went 6-3 with a 4.98 ERA in 16 games (12 starts) in the Majors. Although his contract is for one year, Hudson will be eligible for arbitration and therefore is under club control for 2025.

Stallings, 32, won a Gold Glove with the Pirates in 2021 and spent the last two seasons with the Marlins. Stallings will be reunited with former Pirates teammate and 2023 All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Elias Díaz.

The moves address a couple voids as the rebuilding Rockies try to improve from last year’s 59-103 finish. 

The rotation will be without Germán Márquez until midseason and may get minimal action from Antonio Senzatela because of the Tommy John surgeries they underwent last year. Hudson joins lefties Kyle Freeland and Austin Gomber – once a Cardinals teammate – and righty Cal Quantrill (obtained during the offseason from the Guardians) as experienced rotation members.  Last year, Díaz made a team-record 126 defensive appearances, but generally the Rockies try to keep any catcher around or below 100 games.

Hudson had a top-five finish in National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2019, when he went 16-7 with a 3.35 ERA. But he underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2020, and experienced muscle spasms in his neck in 2022 and 2023 during his comeback.

Hudson has spent his entire six-year Major League career with the Cardinals, going 38-20 with a 3.84 ERA (470.2 IP, 201 ER) in 114 games (79 starts) from 2018-23, before being non-tendered after the season.

While strikeouts (315) and walks (215) in 470 2/3 innings aren’t ideal, some factors made him attractive to the Rockies. His ground-ball rate has never dipped below 51.3 percent for a season, and at his best his sinker is his most effective pitch.

“He’s a young starting pitcher who has had success at this level, who can get outs in a way that can be productive at our place,” Rockies assistant general manager Zack Rosenthal said. “It’s no secret that toughness is really important here. And also he is a guy who wanted to come here, wanted to pitch for us, wanted to pitch in this ballpark. He’s heard good things about this organization. That’s always helpful to people coming in here, a positive mindset. And with the injuries that we suffered last year in the starting rotation, you’re adding to the depth here.”

Stallings is best known for his MLB-record 260-game streak without a passed ball – from Aug. 14, 2020 when he was with the Pirates to April 10 of last season with the Marlins. The old record of 224 games was held by Hall of Famer and 10-time Gold Glove Award-winner Johnny Bench.

Last season, Díaz was backed primarily by veteran Austin Wynns, who signed with the Reds this offseason. The Rockies peeked at the market for offense, but were happy with the leadership, game-calling, blocking and throwing of Stallings, who hit .191 in limited time last year with Miami. 

“Jacob and Elias were the catching tandem in Pittsburgh, and [current Rockies special front-office advisor] Clint Hurdle was their manager, and the relationship between the two catchers was important to us. Those guys know each other, get along and have played together," Rosenthal said.

“Clint raved about Jacob’s professionalism, game-calling and defense, but also his bat. He had his best season with the Pirates [.704 OPS during his Gold Glove season of ‘21]. He’s a good fit for us.”

To make room for Hudson and Stallings on the 40-man roster, catcher Brian Serven was placed on waivers and claimed by the Cubs while infielder Alan Trejo has been outrighted to Triple-A.