If you’re going to replace Todd Helton at first base in Colorado while wearing Larry Walker’s old number, you better have a solid résumé. The Rockies are convinced four-time All-Star and former American League MVP Justin Morneau is the answer.
“It’d be tough for anybody to have to fill those shoes,” manager Walt Weiss said of Helton, the freshly retired five-time All-Star who holds nearly every Rockies career offensive record. “But we’re doing it with a guy that’s been a league MVP and has been an elite player. Maybe that ghost isn’t overwhelming for someone like a Justin Morneau.”
There were many compelling reasons for Morneau to sign his two-year, $12.5 million free-agent deal with Colorado in December.
It meant being reunited with former Minnesota teammate and friend Michael Cuddyer, and they now have adjacent lockers.
Walker, Morneau’s boyhood hero and fellow Canadian, recruited him to where he was National League MVP in 2007. Walker even signed off on Morneau wearing his No. 33.
Morneau has an offseason home minutes away from the Rockies’ spring training facility. And playing in the high altitude of Denver in a park that sparks a fond memory helped, too. “In the end it turned out to be a pretty easy decision,” Morneau said Tuesday.
But there will be pressure.
Morneau has to replace the face of the Rockies in Helton, who spent his entire career in Colorado and is the franchise leader with 2,519 hits, 369 home runs and 1,406 RBI.
“From the outside looking in, it looks like I’m coming in to replace him,” Morneau said. “But that’s not my thought process. My thought process is just come in and be me and do what I can do. He has things that he can do that I can’t do and the other way around.”
Jimenez signs with O’s
Reports indicate that free-agent pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez and the Baltimore Orioles have agreed to a contract, pending him passing a physical.
Several media outlets reported earlier that the sides had reached an agreement, which is reportedly for about $50 million over four years.
Jimenez went 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA in 32 starts for Cleveland last season. He turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Indians, so Baltimore would have to forfeit its first-round draft pick (17th overall) to sign him.