Colorado Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich made a visit to Albuquerque on Wednesday afternoon.
Even with the trade deadline looming, he was gracious enough to take some time to answer questions about what’s to come and about several of his top farmhands.
First up, with the non-waiver trade deadline set for Monday afternoon, Bridich addressed the slew of rumors bubbling about the Rockies’ search for relief pitching and possibly other pieces, specifically catching.
“The priority, and I’ve said it before publicly, is to see what’s out there in terms of pitching and can we make some adjustments or improvements to our bullpen potentially,” he said. “So that is ongoing. The rest of the stuff that’s out there is, I think, a little bit of wildfire that’s kind of caught and burned a little bit.”
This, of course, was before news broke that the team acquired Pat Neshek from the Phillies, so they seem to have at least partially addressed that priority. Bridich said he understands that certain rumors, such as the one about Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy, can catch fire over the course of discussions with just about every other team in baseball.
“The reality is that we’ve now spoken to 27 or 28 of the 29 other clubs,” he said. “You don’t necessarily speak to absolutely everybody because some teams just aren’t natural trade partners and you might be chasing the same stuff. I think just naturally most teams want to know what’s going on with each other at this time of year. Sometimes there are questions that are asked that are taken out of context or taken and run with a little bit. But we’re focused on pitching right now.”
The status of being a buyer as opposed to being a seller is a nice one for Bridich and the Rockies.
“It certainly is good for us and it’s nice to be looking to be aggressive and make trades in the now that will help us win games now because of how our season has gone to this point,” he said. “It’s certainly a little different than what it’s been over the past seven or eight years and that’s a great thing for us. At the end of the day we’re still looking to make good, smart, baseball trades, as is every team. I don’t think we’re necessarily going to do anything that is too out of character or crazy, but it’s nice to be able to aggressive on the buying side now.”
Bridich was accompanied on his trip by Rockies owner Dick Monfort and minor-league director Zach Wilson. This was their stop after previously visiting Boise and Grand Junction.
The Isotopes, though, might be the most loaded team in the organization, with the likes of Raimel Tapia, David Dahl, Ryan McMahon, Jordan Patterson and Tom Murphy all suiting up Wednesday night against the Omaha Storm Chasers.
Having all that depth and talent was something Bridich said he always hoped for at Triple-A.
“It’s come through a lot of hard work if that is the case, a lot of hard work by a lot of different people in all corners of the organization,” he said. “Certainly it’s been part of an overall larger picture and larger goal. There are times where you feel like you have talent that extends throughout your organization, but we felt like through some trades, through the drafts we made and the development process that we’ve had over the last five or six years, if we could have a large group of players coming up together, arriving in short bursts, in short waves, at the Triple-A and major-league level we had a chance to be a very talented team both at the major-league level and with the players that are coming up. You can never have too much depth. That’s a good thing for us now, but we still have a lot of work to do with these guys and they know that. But it’s a good group and we have fun working with them.”
Bridich said he couldn’t identify any specific surprises among the Isotopes or elsewhere in the minors, lest he accidentally forget a name or two, but one who has caught his eye for sure is right-handed reliever Austin House. The Albuquerque native has gone 5-1 with a 2.23 ERA and two saves in 38 games.
“Austin’s really come on this year in a lot of ways, in a lot of positive ways,” Bridich said. “I think he’s started to open up some eyes. There’s so much else that goes on in terms of when and how players arrive at the major-league level, that a huge a part of that equation is the player making strides and stepping up and being ready, and/or getting better. Austin has done a nice job of that. It’s been really nothing but good for him this year.”
On the rebound front, infielder Ryan McMahon has truly recovered from a lackluster 2016 season at Double-A Hartford. While seeing time at first, second and third, McMahon has hit .373/.395/.606 with nine home runs and 37 RBI in 45 games.
“We’ve worked hard together to fix him, especially offensively with his approach,” Bridich said. “He’s let his athleticism and his talent come out, which is great. He’s taken on challenges. Last year he took on the challenge of going to first base. This year we’re adding second base to it. That’s not easy, either. He’s been completely open minded and worked hard at it, so kudos to him.”
Right-hander Yency Almonte, who just moved up from Hartford, is another talent who’s caught Bridich’s eye.
“He’s really done, over the last couple years that we’ve had him, a nice job of maturing,” Bridich said. “I think that he’s really started to take his career seriously in very specific ways, in very detail-oriented ways that are quickening his development. We protected him from the Rule 5 draft last year and put him on the (40-man) roster in the wintertime and I think it was for good reason. He’s done everything he needed to do at the Double-A level, so Albuquerque and the PCL is the next challenge for him.”