The homegrown talent cultivated by the Colorado Rockies in the last decade will be sticking around a little bit longer.
On Tuesday, it was announced that LHP Kyle Freeland had signed a five-year, $64.5 million extension to stay in Denver through the 2026 season. With a player option for a sixth-year, he could stay in purple through 2027.
The move follows extensions this past offseason for 1B C.J. Cron, RHP Antonio Senzatela, C Elias Díaz and 3B Ryan McMahon, not to mention the seven-year deal given to free agent LF Kris Bryant by General Manager Bill Schmidt.
Keeping Freeland in Colorado has been something in the making since earning a spot on the Opening Day roster in 2017 and throwing a gem at Coors Field in his big league debut against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Three months later, it was also the near no-hitter at home against the Chicago White Sox on July 9.
Then came his outstanding 2018 season when he set the franchise mark for lowest earned run average (2.85) is a season en route to a fourth-place finish in the National League Cy Young Award, only the fourth time a Rockies’ pitcher had ever garnered a single vote.
Another résumé defining moment followed during the 2018 NL Wild Card Game at Wrigley Field when the Thomas Jefferson High School alum tossed 6.2 scoreless innings, out-dueling Chicago Cubs ace Jon Lester.
“I think that game tells you a lot about Kyle,” manager Bud Black said of his left-hander. “Playoff game, on the road, historic ballpark, good team. He pitches a wonderful six-innings on three days rest. That epitimizes, in a nutshell, Kyle Freeland.”
The 2019 season has been the one anomaly on his record over the past six seasons. After putting up a 7.13 ERA through his first 12 starts that year, Freeland was optioned to Triple-A and made six starts for the Albuquerque Isotopes before returning to the Rockies.
“I always have faith,” Black said of that period when it wasn’t clear if Freeland would figure it out. “He stood up and handled it like a true professional, like an adult. He went down and got better. He made changes.”
Between the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and 2021, the 28-year-old put up a 4.33 ERA over 36 starts, equivalent to a 112 ERA+, or 12 percent better than league average.
“Obviously, he’s a bulldog out there and we’re really excited that he’s gonna be here for the next six years,” complimented McMahon of Freeland. “I think he’s excited too. And I think it’s a big move, a really good move for us.”
In addition to what he brings on the field, the pact between Freeland and the Rockies has benefits for clubhouse, according to fellow Coloradan Lucas Gilbreath.
“Kyle’s a great guy,” offered the second-year left-handed. “He has been somebody that’s been awesome for me to be around, even last year when I was one of the only lefties. He’s always open and willing to try and help out and give information in any way he can.”
The deal eclipses the five-year, $50.5 million extension given to Senzatela and the Germán Márquez extension signed before the start of the 2019 season worth $43 million over five years; if the option is picked up for 2024, the deal will total $56.5 million.
Only Mike Hampton’s eight-year, $121 million deal signed before the 2001 season is worth more than Freeland’s extension as far as pitchers are concerned.
Freeland made his second Opening Day start for Colorado on April 8, tying him with several others for most in franchise history, including Márquez.
Between those two and the likes of Senzatela and Austin Gomber, the Rockies are banking on the club’s most talented rotation of all-time to continue their successful ways.