With his interests at heart, Rockies created opportunity in Rule 5 draft for Chris Frey
The Rockies did centerfielder Chris Frey a favor.
They rewarded him for time served in the organization _ six seasons, the past three at Triple-A Colorado Springs _ and with his chances slim of rising to the Rockies allowed him to get an opportunity elsewhere by protecting Frey on a Double-A roster. That enabled a team, which turned out to be the Phillies, to draft Frey in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 draft for $12,000. The Phillies don’t have to put Frey on their 40-man roster or offer him back to the Rockies if he doesn’t make Philadelphia’s Opening Day roster.
And Frey, who can’t become a minor league free agent until after the 2011 season, isn’t faced with the prospect of returning to Colorado Springs yet again. The Rockies have, 24, and , 25, to play center field, a position Frey, 27, plays well but wasn’t going to play with the Rockies.
“Hopefully, they looked at that as maybe giving me a better chance somewhere else,” Frey said. “And if that’s the case, I really appreciate everything the Rockies have done. I’ll always look back and love everything about the whole Rockies organization. I don’t have one thing bad to say about anyone that I came in contact with.”
Frey, whom the Rockies drafted in the 11th round out of the University of Arizona in 2005, was working out at Coors Field when the Rule 5 draft was held Thursday to conclude the winter meetings. He wasn’t even aware the draft was that day. Frey was riding an exercise bike in the weight room during the draft. He happened to check his cell phone while passing his locker on the way to the batting cages and saw his brother, Jason, had called and texted him. And Rockies player development director Marc Gustafson left a message to call him.
So Frey began his workout as a member of the Rockies organization and finished it belonging to the Phillies.
“They have a lot of people to choose from in this draft and they picked me, meaning a scout or somebody liked what they saw in me and that’s why they’re taking a chance on me,” Frey said. “Hopefully, the situation is where I can play every day in center field in Triple-A and from there, you never know what can happen. Hopefully, it’s a situation where it is a little better opportunity than what I had here with the depth of young outfielders we have here.”
Ryne Sandberg left the Cubs organization after not being hired to manage the Cubs. He began his career in the Phillies organization and has returned to manage the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs, Philadelphia’s Triple-A affiliate. Frey welcomes the chance to play for and learn from Hall of Famer Sandberg and to spend time in the Northeast, where he has never been.
“I’m excited about all the aspects of it,” Frey said. “I’m getting to the point in my career where I feel in the next couple years, it’s either going to happen or not. Hey, maybe this is the break that gets me past the Triple-A level. If I get to be a part of (the majors) one day, I can’t imagine the feeling. Hopefully, that can happen for me one day, but if not, I’m going to know, hey, I gave it everything I got and now I have another opportunity with another team.
“I can’t really say, ‘Hey, I feel I just got blocked by the Rockies.’ I feel like, hey, if I can step away knowing I was with a couple teams and it didn’t happen, it didn’t work out. I can live with that a lot better than just being with one organization the whole time.”
Frey played 101 games last year for the Sky Sox, who also had Jay Payton,and Matt Miller in the outfield. He hit .288 with 20 doubles, one homer and 25 RBI along with a .351 on-base percentage and .396 slugging percentage.
In three seasons at Colorado Springs, Frey hit .283 with 54 doubles and eight homers in 1,029 at-bats, 69 walks and 158 strikeouts and 35 stolen bases in 44 attempts. He is suited to batting second or eighth in a lineup.
“I am the player I am,” Frey said. “And I’m going to try to get better at who I am and not try to become someone I’m not.”
Curiously, Frey will continue to be linked with Miller. They have been teammates every year going back to high Class A Modesto in 2006. Miller left the Rockies as a minor league free agent and recently signed a minor league contract with the Phillies. Not long after the conclusion of the Rule 5 draft Frey spoke with Miller.
“I was joking around with him like, Gosh, I can’t get rid of you,’ ” Frey said. “Hopefully, there’s a way we can both get a chance here. And you never know, crazier things have happened. At least I’ll know one guy going into camp, so that’ll be good.”