On Monday, the Rockies announced that govt vice-president/basic supervisor Jeff Bridich could be leaving his position with the group. Whether or not or not this quantities to a resignation or a “resignation” permitting a long-time worker to avoid wasting face, the consequence is identical: there shall be a brand new face liable for personnel choices in Colorado. (For now, that’s group COO Greg Feasel, who will function the interim GM, however the group expects to rent a full-time substitute after the tip of the season.) This group typically has had an excessive amount of loyalty to its basic managers over time: After practically 30 years of existence, the group has solely had three GMs in Bridich, Dan O’Dowd, and Bob Gebhard. However will this be sufficient to proper what’s gone horribly improper in Denver?
The Nolan Arenado commerce this winter might have been the straw that broke the camel’s again for the group’s possibilities of a longshot wild card run in 2021 and the fanbase’s emotions concerning the Rockies. Bridich’s relationship with Arenado soured the team’s relationship with its franchise player, however possession was a key participant in making the trade happen.
In February, the Rockies bowed to the stress, buying and selling Arenado and $51 million to the Cardinals for a package deal that included pitcher Austin Gomber and 4 mid- to low-level prospects. Monfort was largely the architect of the commerce, sources advised The Athletic, however blame fell to Bridich. There is sufficient to go round. Bridich was the one who alienated Arenado; Monfort is the one who allowed it.
“We lack course of in so some ways,” one now-former member of Colorado’s entrance workplace stated. “We lack management in most methods. And there’s very, little or no accountability.”
So, how did the Rockies get right here? The place they sit now, firmly on the backside of the NL West, is a product of long-term decision-making failures, not simply the current drive to save cash or a number of poor strikes lately.
Let’s set the time machine again a decade. In 2009, the Rockies made their second look within the playoffs in three years beneath O’Dowd. These weren’t excellent groups, however that they had a strong core, with a younger Troy Tulowitzki, Ubaldo Jiménez, Carlos González, and Dexter Fowler. That’s a quartet worthy of constructing round, and Todd Helton had not but fallen off the cliff. To maintain the run going that winter, the Rockies did, effectively, nothing. Or not less than, nearly nothing, re-signing Rafael Betancourt to a comparatively cheap two-year deal and inking veterans like Jason Giambi, Melvin Mora, and Miguel Olivo to one-year contracts.
The group slumped to 83–79 in 2010 and, in a double-whammy, neither traded off veterans on the deadline nor signed them over the winter. The Rockies shed one other 10 wins in 2011, dropping to 73–89. Jiménez was traded to Cleveland for 4 gamers, most notably Drew Pomeranz, however a bigger sell-off wasn’t taking place. Colorado did, nonetheless, make its first signing of a free agent to a big contract in years, and it was a curious one: Michael Cuddyer, on a three-year, $31.5 million contract; over the earlier 4 seasons, he averaged simply 1.2 WAR for the Twins. (The compensation draft decide, in the meantime, became José Berríos.)
Three extra years beneath .500 ended O’Dowd’s tenure with the group: He resigned on the finish of the season, as possession had not acted on his earlier request to have himself fired a few years earlier. In got here Bridich, the group’s senior director of participant growth since 2011. He had a strong report of participant growth, with Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, and DJ LeMahieu developing beneath his watch, and drafts that included, amongst others, Trevor Story and Jon Gray.
The long-term downside since has been the selections made on the main league stage. Whether or not the fault lies with Bridich or the Monforts in possession, the group repeatedly didn’t get worth from their veterans within the midst of shedding seasons. Colorado by no means bought something in return for Gonzalez, LeMahieu, Jorge De La Rosa, or Justin Morneau, and the Tulowitzki commerce was extra of a wage dump than a restock of the farm system. The Rockies did land Germán Márquez and Jake McGee for Corey Dickerson, however that’s higher than they did for all the opposite departing gamers mixed.
In free company, the selections made have been much more disastrous. I’ve been following baseball professionally for 20 years now, and I can’t bear in mind any group having such an epic run of failure when signing main league free brokers. Let’s chart out this Kafka-esque story of woe.
Rockies Free Agent Signings
Paying $150 million per win could be dangerous sufficient, however this group in some way topped that, paying $150 million per destructive win. There’s little doubt that there are parts of dangerous luck right here, reminiscent of Murphy being dragged down by damage issues. However few of those offers had any argument for them, not less than when you’re a believer in trendy analytics. The Desmond signing was significantly noteworthy in that the Rockies each made a gross misevaluation of his abilities and used him in a way by which success was practically unattainable. In case you thought on the time that he may nonetheless play shortstop, you would squint and justify the deal; he was coming off a 3.5 win season for the Rangers regardless of enjoying a mediocre middle discipline. However from day one, Colorado meant to make use of him as a primary baseman — an issue on condition that ZiPS projected Desmond for a 101 OPS+ in 2017 and going downhill from there.
The Rockies didn’t simply fail within the broad strokes. Mike Tauchman was no star, however the group had zero curiosity in getting a take a look at him, preferring as a substitute to present enjoying time to up-and-coming children like 38-year-old Matt Holliday. Traded to the Yankees, Tauchman’s 2.6 WAR in 2019 was a greater efficiency than anybody the Rockies signed in free company. Roberto Ramos didn’t get a single look within the majors in a misplaced 2019 season and left for the Korean Baseball Group, the place he hit .278/.362/.592 in 2020 for the LG Twins. Little-used Tom Murphy bought a complete of 210 plate appearances in 4 years in Colorado, was waived proper earlier than the 2019 season, and posted a 126 wRC+ in Seattle that 12 months whereas Rockies catchers hit .245/.317/.360.
The purpose isn’t that any of those gamers would flip across the group, however that the Rockies displayed completely no need to see what they needed to supply. The results of all that is that whereas they did make the playoffs for consecutive seasons in 2017 and ’18, the muse was paper-thin. Success was based mostly on the group’s few stars, with almost nothing to support it. With no reinforcements on the commerce deadline or free company, Colorado’s transient foray into competition was doomed to be short-lived, solely lasting so long as it may journey a handful of massive names.
The farm system received’t spearhead a fast turnaround. By way of rest-of-career WAR by way of the present ZiPS projections, the Rockies rank thirtieth in baseball, simply behind the Reds and Rangers. In my colleague Eric Longehagen’s top 133 prospects for 2021, solely a single participant, outfielder Zac Veen, makes an look, down at No. 70.
The long-term query the Rockies face is whether or not possession has realized something from the Bridich period. Bridich little doubt made lots of the choices on his personal, but it surely’s practically plain at this level that the Monforts, who’ve been the first homeowners since 2005, play a key position within the selections Colorado has made. Will they permit Story and Grey to be traded reasonably than letting them stroll on the finish of the season? Would they be prepared to commerce Márquez, the Twenty second-ranked participant on our 2020 trade value list? Will they really spend cash?
That final one is a difficult impediment. Groups can win with out spending cash — hello, Rays! — but it surely’s robust to do with no trendy entrance workplace, and Colorado might have hassle attracting prime expertise. Within the midst of a worldwide pandemic and a shedding of jobs round baseball, two-thirds of the franchise’s minuscule analytics division quit rather than return to the team for 2021.
In an ideal world, the subsequent GM of the Rockies may have a dream job. Denver’s an attractive metropolis with a fanbase that has supported winners prior to now, and Coors Area is without doubt one of the greatest locations for baseball to observe a sport with distinctive traits that make it probably the most fascinating puzzles to attempt to remedy. A brand new GM may put their imprint on the Rockies with a real clean slate and construct the group from the bottom up, from scouting to main league expertise acquisition. However it will contain the group selecting to get up from its self-created nightmare.