The Rockies have hammered out another extension, announcing agreement with Kyle Freeland on a five-year contract. The deal reportedly guarantees the MSM Sports Management client $64.5MM and comes with a vesting player option for the 2027 campaign. If Freeland tosses 170 innings in 2026, he’ll trigger a $17MM player option for a sixth season.
Freeland had been controllable via arbitration through 2023, so the deal buys out at least three free agent seasons. The southpaw will earn $7MM this year, $10.5MM in 2023, $15MM in 2024, then $16MM in both 2025 and ’26. Were Freeland to finish in the top five in Cy Young award balloting in either of the next two years, he’d earn the right to opt out after the 2024 campaign.
The deal evidently came together quickly, as Freeland told Nick Groke of the Athletic just last week there’d been “no movement” on an extension and that the club hadn’t put forth an offer. Within a few days, he and the team agreed to a long-term deal that figures to keep him around for at least an additional three seasons. It’s a particularly nice development for Freeland, a Denver native and career-long member of the organization.
Colorado selected Freeland with the eighth overall pick of the 2014 draft out of the University of Evansville. He was regarded at the time as a possible mid-rotation starter who could move through the minors quickly based on his polished strike-throwing ability. That projection more or less proved to be the case, as he was in the majors two and a half years later after performing well in the minors.
Freeland stepped immediately into the Colorado rotation, starting 28 of his 33 appearances as a rookie. He posted a 4.10 ERA in 156 innings that season, overcoming a mediocre 15.6% strikeout rate with an excellent 53.9% ground-ball percentage. The southpaw followed that up with a stellar sophomore campaign that has been the best season of his career to date. He made 33 starts and tossed 202 1/3 innings in 2017, posting a 2.85 ERA despite starting 15 games at the most hitter-friendly ballpark in the league. That mark still stands as the lowest single-season ERA for a qualified starter in Rockies’ history, offering plenty of evidence that Freeland could thrive despite the environmental challenges inherent for a Colorado pitcher.
Four years later, the Rox are presumably still placing a lot of emphasis on that showing. Freeland struggled mightily in 2019, allowing a 6.73 ERA. Colorado even optioned him to Triple-A Albuquerque for a month and a half that year. Over the past two seasons, he’s been solid but unspectacular, posting a matching 4.33 ERA in both 2020 and 2021.
Freeland’s general profile — few strikeouts or whiffs offset by plenty of grounders and plus control — hasn’t much changed throughout his time in the majors. Yet since his excellent 2018 showing, he owns a 5.32 ERA in 304 2/3 innings (including two starts thus far in 2022). Colorado surely considers the 2019 season an outlier, but even going back to the start of 2020, Freeland’s 200 1/3 innings of 4.58 ERA/4.65 FIP ball are more fine than exceptional.
The Rockies clearly believe the 28-year-old (29 next month) is capable of a return to something more closely approximating his early-career form. It’s the continuation of a pattern for general manager Bill Schmidt and his staff, who have worked diligently to keep many of the team’s veterans around for the long haul. Within the past eight months, Colorado has worked out multi-year extensions with Antonio Senzatela, Elias Díaz, C.J. Cron, Ryan McMahon and now Freeland. Those players join marquee free agent pickup Kris Bryant and staff ace Germán Márquez as the long-term core in Denver.
Márquez, Senzatela and Freeland are each under club control through at least 2024, leading a rotation the Rox envision as the backbone of the club. Senzatela’s October extension — a five-year, $50.5MM guarantee that contains a 2027 club option — is the most recent deal for a starter with between four and five years of service time. Freeland’s contract tops that of his teammate even though he’s nearly two years older and has been less effective over the past couple seasons. Freeland and Senzatela are similar pitchers stylistically, but the former has been a bit more home run prone and had an ERA about two tenths of a run higher (4.33 for Freeland, 4.11 for Senzatela) between 2020-21.
That’s not to say Senzatela fared poorly. His deal was generally regarded as a player-friendly pact at the time it was signed. Setting aside Jacob deGrom, the previous pitcher to sign an extension in that bucket was Cubs righty Kyle Hendricks. He signed a four-year, $55.5MM pact in March 2019. Like Freeland, Hendricks was headed into his age-29 season and thrived on his control and ground-ball propensity. The Cubs’ starter had posted five straight sub-4.00 ERA campaigns to open his big league career, though, making him a safer long-term bet than either of Colorado’s pitchers.
The Hendricks comparison makes the Rockies’ decision to commit $64.5MM to Freeland puzzling, although it’s not especially surprising. Colorado brass has shown repeatedly they value their own players more than many outside the organization might. While it has been some time since Freeland’s excellent first two seasons, he has shown himself capable of thriving despite the unique challenges the Rockies face at Coors Field. That’s no doubt of appeal to team brass, and the extension comes with the ancillary benefit of avoiding the hassle of an arbitration hearing.
Prior to today’s agreement, the team and player were set for a hearing next month to determine his 2022 salary. Freeland had filed at $7.8MM; the Rockies had countered at $6.425MM. They’ll settle a bit shy of the midpoint for this season and price in a raise for what would’ve been his final year of arbitration-eligibility before paying $15-16MM annually for what would’ve been his three free agent seasons.
The Rockies’ 2022 payroll isn’t much affected by today’s extension, but they’ll add another notable salary to the books for next season and beyond. Colorado’s 2023 player tab now checks in around $110MM, per Jason Martinez of Roster Resource, while Freeland ($15MM), Bryant ($28MM), McMahon ($12MM) and Senzatela ($12MM) all have notable 2024 salaries. Márquez has a $16MM club option that year. The Rockies have never eclipsed $150MM in Opening Day payroll, but they might be headed towards that mark in the next couple seasons. They’ll hope to build around the core in which they’ve invested in an ever-competitive NL West.
Jeff Passan of ESPN first reported the Rockies and Freeland had agreed to a five-year, $64.5MM deal, as well as the sixth-year option. Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported it was a $17MM vesting option, which Danielle Allentuck of the Colorado Springs Gazette reported Freeland needs 170 innings pitched in 2026 to trigger. Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic reported Freeland could opt out after 2024 with a top-five Cy Young finish in either of the next two seasons. Thomas Harding of MLB.com was first with the full breakdown of terms.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.
Wise move for Freeland.
0-2, ERA of 10.00, five year extension!
Lol. Looking at stats this early in the year is for IDIOTS
Easy captain serious, it was sarcasm
13Morgs13 was clearly replying to your sarcasm
People not getting sarcasm are IDIOTS
People calling other people idiots are idiots.
Extending Kyle Freeland for 5 years is for IDIOTS.
His 2018 was great with limiting the longball, but I think he’s consistently shown he’s 4 starter (Colorado 3). Is he a guy you need to lock up long term? He seems more like a Wade Miley type where teams won’t want to invest too much and are happy giving 1 year deals with team options
MLB network has been questioning Gerrit Cole’s performance after 2 starts. I guess they’re the same, right?
Rockies may be the worst run franchise in MLB
Must be why they have the 2nd best record in baseball. And if you scream “early season,” I’d suggest Kyle Freeland is a lot better than a 10 ERA, too.
Ok, cool. He’s better than a 10 era and the Rockies record is sss noise that’ll correct itself, reinforcing that they are the worst run organization in MLB.
There’s some competition for that, for sure. Not sure why what the Rockies did this off-season was dumb, while the Rangers spending over half a billion bucks on guys who will be in their 30’s (mid-30’s in Semien’s case) by the time they have any pitching, was smart.
Where did anyone say it was smart? If you need to rely on a straw man to support your argument, it’s probably a bad argument.
The Rangers moves were certainly questionable,but I’d still say less so than letting Story and Gray go then signing KB for what they paid.
I’d wager they have more playoff appearances than the Rockies do over the period the Rockies signed Bryant to.
I would say locking up those 3 starters is not dumb, what was dumb was letting Gray leave. They had a decent off season for a change.
Cinci, Pitts, and Baltimore just called and asked you where do they rank?
No, that is clearly the Angels.
Nope. Both Pirates and Orioles are more poorly run than the Angels.
The Pirates and Orioles were really poorly run in their previous regimes, but their new GMs have done a good job of accumulating talent over time since then. At some point, they both need to prioritize winning (the Pirates extending Hayes was a big step though), but it’s too soon to tell there.
Those two teams have been bad, but the Rockies have been in no man’s land for a while now, they’re committing too much future payroll to average players (not to mention that John Gray is demonstrably better than Freeland et al but signed elsewhere for about the same money), they refuse to go outside the organization with front office hires so they’re limiting themselves to the same flawed logic that’s gotten them here, and they have a bad recent habit of burning bridges with their star players. I hope their start to this year keeps up, but that doesn’t change that they’re poorly run.
In some order, I’d say that the Rockies, Reds, Angels, and Rangers are the worst run.
I’m a Pirates fan and you don’t win awards for having good prospects, you need to win in the majors, prospects aren’t guaranteed to pan out. Them and the O’s have to start showing real progress soon and quit sitting on the sidelines in free agency. Show the fans you care.
Nah that’s the pirates, they traded meadows and Glasow for archer
Don’t forget Baz
Get Off My Mound
The Reds say to that, “Hold my beer.”.
RSox: They want that revenue share money to keep rolling in, so it’s better to waste a small percentage of free money than to not get the free money at all. What they don’t care about is winning, as unfortunate as that is for their fans & baseball generally.
Dumpster Divin Theo
Free land, Im there! Where this? Oklahoma?
$64.5M doesn’t seem free to me
“Don’t worry Ruprecht, we won’t go anywhere without you.”
“OKLAHOMA! OKLAHOMA! OKLAHOMA! OKLAHOMA!”
PREDICTION: The Rockies will win a World Series before the Mets win again.
Big money big money no whammy!
*evil Whammy cackling*
As usual with a Rockies move, why?
Because they are unique in that they cannot acquire good starting pitchers. No free agent will pitch at altitude voluntarily (short of a massive overpay) and they need to keep their prospects rather than trade them. So when they do grow competent ones (Freeland’s not great but did not too long ago finish in the Cy Young top 5). they tend to try to keep them. Jon Gray was a bad fit for Colorado stuff-wise, so they (I think wisely) let him go. But usually they are very conservative with their SP’s.
How did they let Gray go? Gray’s extension offer from COL was reportedly 35-40M and he signed with TEX for 56M. They kept him in a walk year hoping to re-sign him and gave him a lowball offer, which he declined, then walked with them getting nothing but distant memories. Jon Gray was a bad fit for COL in that he knew somewhat his value. Freeland is still riding high off that 2018 season (3.67 FiP), which he hasn’t gotten anywhere close to since.
This may explain the desire to get a deal done, but it’s still a massive overpay for a guy who has maybe 1 or 2 prime years left and they don’t match up with Colorado’s competitive window.
That’s a lot of money, except when you consider that the rest of their rotation might be worth about $6.45.
German Marquez is one of the best pitchers in baseball and is vastly underpaid.
He is top 30 at best
Not what other front offices think. If he ever gets out of Coors, watch out. Pure ace.
I admittedly blanked and forgot about Marquez. However, as with many of my posts, I was simply going for the laugh over the accuracy.
FUN FACT: Colorado is the only franchise with a (ice) CAP.
They’ll never win consistently until they have a closed stadium. If my son was a pitcher I would tell the rockies dont bother. We aint signing.
The fielders should wear jet packs in Denver.
Don’t be ridiculous. Just install big trampolines on the warning tracks.
I would watch that.
That’s what my brother was thinking in 2002 as a lefty outfielder & first baseman but went to college instead n works as a scout now
For what team?
How would a closed stadium help? They’d need a pressurized one. Preferably with a clear dome as the whole point of Colorado is to be outside, or at least see the outside.
It’d be like a snow globe lol
And you know that’s exactly what they’d call it, too!
Is it me or does it seem weird to have a vesting option based off of performance from the year prior to contract expiring? Let’s say Freeland pitches 180 innings in 2025. That would secure his 2027, $17M option. Then he comes back in 2026 and either stinks or gets badly hurt, putting his 2027 in jeopardy. Wouldn’t it be better to have his 2027 option based off of his 2026 performance instead of his 2025 performance?
I think it is and that was a typo.
Apart for that one great season in 2017, he hasn’t been very good. That said, he does pitch where no man should ever throw a baseball.
That’s a lot for a pitcher who had one excellent season a few years ago and has pitched like a #4 starter at best since then.
The Rockies need to retain pitchers…so that is one way to do it. I think it’ll probably end up being a decent to good contract, but it’s not like the Rockies will sniff the playoffs.
Drew Waters Bat
Seems like when they sign a player to an extension, sometimes a trade is on the horizon.
Well, once. Strangely contradictory to the conventional storyline, Rockies players seem to really love playing for the organization, which is very laid back and never interested in tanking despite the long odds of the division they play in (and the deleterious effects of their home park). Gray and Story were genuinely hurt that the team decided to part ways with them. Arenado (who has a unique, prickly, ultra intense personality all his own) was an exception and was not popular on the team.
Since when was arenado not popular on the team? This is the first I’ve heard of that narrative.
Check out the comments from the players when he was traded. They all considered it a relief. Maybe except Story, who has a quieter version of the same personality. He’s a wonderful player, but he wasn’t getting the team anywhere win-loss wise, and he was a bear as a teammate (teeth-grindingly intense and pressure-increasing).
How can a “wonderful player” not be “getting the team anywhere win-loss wise?”
Wasn’t Story confused that they didn’t trade him? He definitely didn’t sound like someone who was all that hurt that he was leaving that team.
He said (at the time, you can take it or leave it) that he wanted to stay and was confused that the Rockies didn’t want to keep him. Then he was hurt further by the obvious fact that no one wanted to trade for him (or he would have been gone). A fact further confirmed when no one bid on him in the off-season as a shortstop. Rox have a couple excellent SS prospects on the way, so preferred to use that money on Bryant. Again, you can agree or disagree, but they’ve loved KB since he was a junior in HS.
Source that no one wanted to trade for him? This is the Rockies…the same team that decided to just not QO Gray, cuz reasons. So easy on calling anything obvious based on their actions.
Doesn’t every player say they want to stay? Except maybe, Nolan Arenado, post extension.
Another Rockies player making a statement that they value being in this organization more than the opportunity to hit free agency.
Kyle only had this year & next before he could choose his team & potential for a larger contract.
Maybe those who are tipping over when players choose to play/stay with the Rockies, should ask the players themselves about their decision.
Says something about the direction/culture of the org that contradicts the popular opinion on this site that the organization/team has no idea what they’re doing.
What? He’s a below average pitcher that’s now got a decent guarantee into his mid 30’s.
They won again last night with Freeland starting. Happens a lot. Perhaps you should reevaluate your definition of an “average pitcher” when he pitches at Coors Field. And what it would cost the Rockies to replace him with a similar pitcher if he left.
No, you’re right, the players like the way the organization thinks.
Rockies: I think we should offer Freeland a lot more money than he’s worth.
Freeland: I like the way you think!
I don’t care what the stats say, I LOVE THIS MOVE! Freeland is my favorite current Rockies player and I am thrilled that I get to watch him for another 5 years. I don’t just root for laundry, I root for the people wearing the laundry.
The Rockies make no sense with their spending and player evaluations.
Thanks for your assessment, Johnny GM.
For $13m AAV? That’s a good deal for the Rockies. Freeland’s solid. He’s not great, but remember he pitches in Coors Field half the time. He keeps them in games with ground balls, he’s typically healthy every fifth day, he gets the job done and is a home town guy. Rox now have 4/5 of their rotation locked in for a couple years, with a few solid arms on the way. It’s not the way the spreadsheet jockeys would run a mid-market franchise, and they’ll never win the division as long as the Dodgers, Giants, and Padres are spending like they are, but they’re competitive and entertaining, and won’t have to play those teams as much starting next year. Good for them. Using the windfall from the Arenado trade well.
I wonder why people always lump the Padres in with the Dodgers and Giants. They are nowhere close to the winners the other two are. Sure they are spending money NOW, but it’s not going to last and the only playoffs they have gone to in the Preller era was in the season that was so short they didn’t have time to completely fall apart in the second half of the year.
better than Jon Gray
This isn’t 2018.
nor is this 2015.
John Rocker Fan Club
I wouldn’t be surprised if Gray had a higher era at the end of the season
You haven’t seen Jon Gray lately.
Actually, with the signings and the organization I have to say Schmitt has not done a bad job as GM to this point. He is much better than Bridich, who managed to run the good players off.
Of course it came together quickly. Freeland and his agent was like, “huh? Are you sure this offer was meant for us? Where do we sign?”
I just checked his stats. Not too pretty but he is a groundswell pitcher, which is something the Rockies need, so it’s not half bad.
I know pot is legal in CO, but is it really a good idea for the entire FO to be high while doing business?