Colorado Rockies history: the first big free agent splash

26 Apr 1997: First baseman Andres Galarraga of the Colorado Rockies stands on the field during a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Rockies won the game 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn /Allsport
26 Apr 1997: First baseman Andres Galarraga of the Colorado Rockies stands on the field during a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Rockies won the game 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Dunn /Allsport /
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On this day a quarter of a century ago, the Colorado Rockies had played exactly zero games in their franchise history as they had just been granted a team by National League President Bill White just a few months prior. The team had no major league players as the expansion draft for MLB players would not be held until the following day. However, the Rockies would sign a player who had struggled in the 1990 and 1991 seasons since both campaigns were injury plagued. However, this signing would be one of the biggest in franchise history.

On this day in Rockies history in 1992, the Rockies signed their first MLB free agent: a first baseman by the name of Andres Galarraga. Combined between 1990 and 1991 with the Montreal Expos and St. Louis Cardinals, he only played in 202 games. In this span, combined, he had 19 home runs, 72 RBI, and an offensive slash line of .230/.274/.361.

The Rockies would hope that, with the high altitude of Denver, he would be able to provide the team with some offense. Between 1987 and 1990 with the Expos, he averaged 153 games played and averaged 21 home runs and 88 RBI.

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His Rockies career

Galarraga would be plagued by injuries again as he just played in 120 games but he won the National League Comeback Player of the Year Award. In those 120 games, he had 22 home runs and 98 RBI as well as 35 doubles. He won the National League batting title with a .370 batting average (that’s not a typo) as well as a .403 on-base percentage and a .602 slugging percentage. For the average, that was the highest batting average by a right-handed hitter since Joe DiMaggio when he hit .381 in 1939. He was an All-Star and came in 10th in MVP voting.

After the season, former All-Star and former hitting coach turned manager Don Baylor worked with Galarraga on opening his swing up to generate more power. Baylor was Galarraga’s hitting coach in 1992 with the Cardinals before both came to Colorado (and Galarraga came, in part, because of Baylor).

In the rest of his career with the Rockies, from 1994-1997, he never hit less than 31 home runs in a season. In 1996, he hit 47 home runs and had 150 RBI (both led the National League) and in ’97, he had 41 home runs and 140 RBI (the latter of which led the NL again). In his five seasons in a Rockies uniform, he only hit under .304 once (in 1995, when he hit .280).

Next: Could Zach Britton come to Denver?

Overall, a bit of a risky signing became one of, if not the best, signings in Rockies franchise history.

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