Rockies agree with Jason Giambi, Matt Lindstom
DENVER – The Colorado Rockies are bringing back the big bat of Jason Giambi to go with the strong arm of right-handed reliever Matt Lindstrom.
The hard-throwing Lindstrom and the Colorado Rockies agreed to a $6.6 million, two-year contract Monday, the same day the club agreed to a minor league contract with the 40-year-old Giambi, who could be a late-inning pinch-hitter.
Both were mild surprises in a winter full of big front-office moves for the Rockies, who committed $157.75 million over the next decade to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, $80 million over seven seasons to outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and $21.5 million over two years to lefty Jorge De La Rosa.
“We all know that whatever you do in the winter doesn’t mean a thing if you don’t play well in the spring, summer and fall,” general manager Dan O’Dowd said. “We’ve got a long ways to go to improve our style of play.”
And Giambi and Lindstrom are just the types of players the Rockies want on their roster.
Lindstrom was acquired in a trade with the Houston Astros last month. He’s made at least 50 appearances in all four of his season in the majors and had a team-high 23 saves for the Astros last season, finishing 2-5 with a 4.39 ERA.
Lindstrom is projected to join Rafael Betancourt as a primary setup man and also serves as insurance for Huston Street, who had an injury-riddled 2010 season. Betancourt is entering the final season of his contract.
He’ll make $2.8 million this season and $3.6 million in 2012. Colorado has a $4 million club option for 2013 that includes a $200,000 buyout.
“Matt’s walks were high last year, but we like the way he throws,” O’Dowd said. “We expect him to take a step forward.”
And the Rockies expect Giambi to help them out again as a late-inning pinch hitter.
The former AL MVP, who turned 40 this month, hit .244 with six homers and 35 RBIs in 176 at-bats last season for the Rockies.
A fan favorite, Giambi figured his time in Denver was over after last season when first baseman Todd Helton said he was coming back in 2011 and the Rockies signed Ty Wigginton to serve as Helton’s primary backup. Wigginton can play both corner outfield spots, so the Rockies could go with just four full-time outfielders, leaving room for Giambi’s big left-handed bat off the bench.
“Now he’s just got to show he’s healthy,” O’Dowd said.
Giambi ended last season with a torn triceps from a hard swing.
He got off to a slow start in his new role but finished strong and was good in the clutch, hitting .362 with 28 RBIs.
“He didn’t get enough at-bats in the spring,” O’Dowd said. “We need to get him some more playing time. Even pinch-hitters need to get some games so their bat stays in shape.”
With pinch-hitters, particularly those with long-ball power, O’Dowd looks at slugging and on-base percentages more so than batting average, and Giambi excelled in both last season, putting up a .398 slugging percentage and reaching base at a .378 clip.
“That’s a tough role he’s in,” O’Dowd said. “He can provide some big home runs and some walks to extend an inning. And in that role you have to be able to add something day in and day out and he does that. He adds leadership to our ballclub.
“He’s a big part of the fabric of our team.”