In a series of corresponding moves, the Rockies have begun shaping their everyday lineup for next season. On Tuesday, they traded center fielder Dexter Fowler to the Houston Astros to clear payroll to sign free-agent first baseman Justin Morneau. The Rockies ironed out the final details Tuesday night on a two-year contract for Morneau that will pay him slightly under $13 million, according to a major-league source. The deal is pending Morneau passing a physical. Fowler, one of the Rockies' most popular players, was dealt to Houston for two unproven players — 23-year-old right-handed pitcher Jordan Lyles and 27-year-old outfielder Brandon Barnes. The Astros also will get a player to be named. Morneau, a former American League MVP while playing for the Minnesota Twins in 2006, is a left-handed slugger who will replace Todd Helton. Trading Fowler saves the Rockies big money, as he was due to make $7.25 million next season. Lyles and Barnes are making near the major-league minimum. But Rockies general manager Bill Geivett disagreed with the suggestion that trading Fowler was a "salary dump." "I will say that when we open the season, our final payroll number is going to be what it's going to be," Geivett said. "Any money that we aren't spending on Dexter is going to go to somebody else." Geivett confirmed the club plans to move gold glove left fielder Carlos Gonzalez to center field. "We talked to CarGo about the possibility near the end of the season, and he's completely fine with it," Geivett said. Though the Rockies picked up two unproven players from the worst team in the major leagues, Geivett said the impetus of the Fowler trade was not strictly financial. "Part of this is to (free up) money for another deal," Geivett said. "The big thing is, it's always hard for us to acquire starting pitching. (Lyles) is a starting pitcher that we had interest in. And we feel like at his age — and we can control him — that he can impact our club." Fowler's name had been mentioned in trade talks for several weeks, as it was known the Rockies were looking to try to acquire pitching, but it still took him by surprise. "You are always surprised when you get traded," Fowler said in a conference call. "I know the rumors were out there, but at the same time I'm excited. But this is bittersweet because the Rockies drafted me and I'm thankful that they drafted me and I could get my career started. "I look at this like a new beginning." Fowler, 27, got off to a hot start this past season, hitting eight home runs in April. There was talk of him making the National League all-star team until injuries slowed him. He missed significant time with wrist, forearm and knee injuries. Fowler finished the season hitting .263 with 18 doubles, 12 home runs, 42 RBIs, 71 runs and a .369 on-base percentage. Fowler said he's completely healed. "I'm awesome," he said. "I'm healthy and ready to go."
Rockies sign Justin Morneau; trade Dexter Fowler to Houston
Denver Post | Dec 4