As the August 31 trade deadline approached, #Rockies Twitter was again waiting for the front office to act. Only a half game out of first place, the Rockies had been on a West Coast road trip that was only slightly better than disastrous, including a painful 3-2 extra-innings loss to the Padres on Thursday. Surely, after largely sitting out the July 31 trade deadline, the Rockies would act and add a lefty reliever or a right-handed bat. Other teams were aggressively shoring up their rosters, the thinking went, so the Rockies should as well.
You can imagine the reaction when the Rockies announced they had traded pitcher Jerry Vasto to the Royals for their backup catcher Drew Butera (.188/.259/.289), essentially an older Tony Wolters who brings with him none of the offensive pop that had been missing from the lineup. Fans hoped this was, perhaps, part of a larger strategy and watched until the deadline came and went at midnight. Nothing changed.
Rather than dwelling on the action the Rockies did take and the actions they didn’t, let’s think about why the Rockies might have made the decisions they did. Here are three possibilities.
They wanted another back-up catcher
Plain and simple. Jake Shapiro discussed this in his Rockie Road podcast released late Friday night. The Rockies feared that if they only had three catchers, should two become injured in a playoff run, the team would be at a disadvantage because Anthony Benboom is neither ready nor on the 40-man roster. So they filled a personnel gap with a cost-effective player who has experience catching their current closer, Wade Davis. In other words, it was a pragmatic choice with an eye toward October.
Bridich is sticking with the plan
You may disagree on the decision, but the Rockies have been fairly clear when discussing their approach to team building, which I wrote about here. Bridich and Black have a plan based on player development with conservative trades designed to fill gaps. Here’s what Bud Black told Thomas Harding yesterday:
“I don’t think there’s one philosophy. You can’t be afraid to make a big deal. But a lot of times it makes sense to keep what you have and add some more pieces, depending on your team.”
The plan is predicated on following the plan rather than being reactive. Yesterday, Rockies fans wanted the front office to be reactive, especially in light of this week. In response, Bridich and Black politely declined and acquired a player who doesn’t appear to fill an immediate need.
Bridich and Black believe in the team they have — and they value mythology
Bridich and Black have been clear all season: They like this team, and they believe in it. Yesterday, the front office reaffirmed their confidence. As Black also told Thomas Harding yesterday:
“From my conversations, from my point of view in conversations, we’ve liked our team all season long,” Black said. “And we’ve played our best baseball the second half of the season, even though the offense is not hitting their stride like we think they can.”
In other words, Black believes the best is yet to come. The players have said repeatedly that they have yet to meet their potential. Bridich and Black agree with them and have proven their faith by not making big changes.
I’ve written here that in bringing back Matt Holliday, Bridich was paying not only for a right-handed bat but also playoff experience. In addition, he added in-the-flesh Rocktober. Every day Holliday shows up, he’s a reminder to a very young team of what the Rockies did in 2007. That may seem like a superfluous gesture, but these are young players trying to achieve a dream few players ever attain. Holliday embodies those dreams, especially for the Rockies.
Adding Butera fills a similar role, even though he and Holliday are very different players. As Patrick Saunders put it yesterday, “[B]oth veterans are role players who have playoff experience, which is something the Rockies covet.”
Here’s Bud Black elaborating:
“There is an influence factor there that helps the guys around them . . . . Just the conversations prior to the games, in the dugouts, in the clubhouse, it can make a difference. There is a calmness they bring.”
So not only has the front office told this team that they believe in them, they’ve also said that they believe they need to prepare for a playoff run. That’s confidence. You may disagree with Bridich and Black’s perspective, but that’s what these moves say.
And, by the way, did you notice how @Rockies introduced Butera yesterday?
Why, yes, that’s Butera embracing Wade Davis when the Royals clinched the World Series in 2015. You may not be excited about Butera, but I got chills looking at those pictures. Wade Davis is actually smiling!
Jeff Bridich and Bud Black are, again, saying to the Rockies, “These guys have done this. You can do it, too.”
You may think they don’t have enough personnel for Rocktober — only September will tell us — but this is the bet the Rockies are making, and they’re all in.