Yesterday morning, we woke up to the news that the Rockies were going to make Gerardo Parra an official member of the team. That meant two things: He needed to be officially added to the full 40-man roster, which meant that someone had to be removed from it. The latter necessity meant that the Rockies either had to designate a player for assignment or execute a trade that brought back prospects not yet on the other team’s 40-man roster. The idealist version of this sequence of events had the Rockies trading a surplus outfielder; the reality was Kyle Parker’s designation for assignment.
The free agent market, plodding as it is, is wrapping up. Yoenis Cespedes and Dexter Fowler remain the best free agent outfielders out there. Once they sign, it might mean a subsequent Rockies trade to a team still in need of outfield help. But we have to start acknowledging that a trade might not materialize. While we’re not there yet, we’re getting closer to a scenario in which the Rockies begin spring training with four capable outfielders. This caused me to raise a question (generated by this excellent article at Baseball Prospectus) about Jeff Bridich, whether or not he has a plan, and whether or not he needs one given the state of the farm system. Here’s how the conversation played out among Nick Stephens, Connor Farrell, and myself:
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Eric Garcia McKinley: In which category do the Rockies fit?
Team has no plan Team has a plan, but it's a dumb plan Team has a good plan, but goofed it up Team has a good plan & is properly executing— Christopher D. Long (@octonion) January 12, 2016
Nick Stephens: I honestly think B, unfortunately.
EGM: A, B, and C are in play, we just can’t know about D yet.
NS: I'd rather it at least be C. That's better than B. But I'm not even sure they understand how well they are set up right now if they execute properly.
EGM: Of A, B, and C, which do you hope it is? A should be out, so B and C? Is it better to have a dumb plan or a good plan messed up?
Connor Farrell: Oh that's a deep question
NS: Good plan messed up. At least we know they have the right intentions.
EGM: I guess it’s just important to remember that it’s possible that Bridich has a plan, and that the Rockies will still be in the same position in five years.
NS: It's frustrating because I feel like D isn't out of the question. They could so easily have a great plan and execute it properly.
EGM: I think so too, and a lot of that has to do with the great farm. But does there need to be more than that? With a great farm, can a front office without a clear agenda sleepwalk to contention?
CF: I think the Rockies could just fall into a good team as long as they don't trade farm assets without having a legitimate plan executed. Like not trading an outfielder is an egregious mistake but not one that seriously hurts the long-term contention of the team as long as the current assets pan-out, which might be why Bridich is keeping his price high.
CF: Oh definitely, there's really no reason to hold on to four outfielders. But I don't think it kills any chance that the team contends
EGM: If nothing happens, it’s too passive, regardless of the state of the farm.
CF: It's really just a question of whether you think Bridich is playing the trade game too rough or if he's not getting valuable offers, because trades are getting done.
EGM: I get the sense he’s going where the wind blows.
CF: I mean making a move just to make a move isn't a smart way to build. But if he's being too staunch and not budging on who he wants and is getting stuck with guys because of it, that could be an issue.
NS: I think he's playing it too rough. We're probably going to get lowballed no matter what, to an extent, on CarGo. Maybe I'm just being too impatient, but I think you still have got take what you can get for him. If you can get Nick Tropeano for CarGo, I say do it. It's not like CarGo is the only way the team will contend in the near future, anyway. We've got outfielders in the system coming up.
CF: The problem is, and Drew mentioned this when Tulo got moved, is trade returns like Tulo and CarGo will define Bridich’s tenure. So he has a lot riding on these guys panning out and doesn't want to risk too much.
NS: We all want the same thing. This is the best the farm has ever been. It's not time to stop stacking it. Bridich needs to not worry about what his tenure looks like and do what's best for the club. And maybe Bridich isn't concerned about what everyone thinks, because he obviously traded Tulo, but signing Parra and not trading anyone else is such a textbook Rockies move that keeps the casual fan happy. Focusing on Major Leaguers keeps the casual fan happy.
EGM: When I remind myself that he traded Tulo, I also remind myself that he was really close to not trading Tulo.
CF: And him being inexperienced and without an experienced guy like John Hart in Atlanta to calm fans and ownership with the promises of future wins makes it tougher on Bridich, too. He should be more aggressive and it doesn't look good the way he has the roster now, but his inexperience may be popping up in his unwillingness to be bold. I don't know if Parra is a casual fan appeasing move. It just doesn't speak to that, it doesn't speak to normal Rockies team building. If they had seriously pursued Chris Davis or Daniel Murphy, then yeah that's fan appeasement. But that's why I'm so confused if they go in with him as a fourth outfielder, it doesn't work for any team building strategy I can think of.
EGM: I think it would be a pretty good and aggressive move to shore up depth if the team was actually good in other places.
CF: Agreed on that. Maybe it is Bridich thinking the Rockies are good and we're stuck in that mentality for another year
EGM: oh no
CF: I don’t know. That seems like an odd turn if they went cheap with Mark Reynolds at first.
EGM: Yeah that’s far from a win-now move. Then we’re back to the Cespedes domino.
CF: Yeah I'm going to reserve judgment until the market fully plays out and if the Rockies stand pat after that, then I'll be confused and disappointed.
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This can all change very quickly—indeed, we hope that it does. But that doesn’t mean Rockies fans are not, and should not, be getting that sinking feeling in their stomachs. The one that confirms the suspicion that the Rockies overvalue their own players, have unreasonable expectations of contention in the immediate future, and will remain reactive rather than proactive on the trade market.