There is no financial certainty this year. We keep hearing that from league insiders and front office executives. Just a few days ago, Rockies fans heard it directly from their owner Dick Monfort in a letter to season ticket holders, “...the industry faces a new economic reality, and each club will have to adjust.” More on that letter here.
Monfort expectedly doesn’t give details on how exactly HIS club will adjust. The Rockies originally were one of the few teams committed to paying all of their employees their full salary for as long as possible when the 2020 season was in jeopardy back in April. But now, financially, things have changed after a shortened season.
On October 21, food service contracting giant Aramark announced it would lay off 904 Coors Field workers. This includes cashiers, cooks, bussers, attendants and more. These types of moves are now being seen and anticipated all across baseball and other sports. Commissioner Rob Manfred recently said that teams amassed a total of $8.3 billion dollars of debt and will see $2.8 to $3 billion in operational revenue losses this year.
While it’s understood that many people’s livelihoods have changed/are at risk, MLB fans are curious but nervous to see how it will affect the product on the field. Just how cautious will teams be in spending? Or will some teams shrink player budgets entirely and prioritize financial stability over competing?
Let’s imagine the Rockies take the latter approach and begin looking for ways to trim the budget. What does that look like?
Well, last season the Rockies had the 12th largest adjusted payroll ($67.8 million adjusted, would have been $164.7 million). At the time of writing, Spotrac projects the Rockies to have an estimated 2021 payroll of about $130 million (does not include the potential salaries of Elias Diaz and 19 other pre-arbitration players). Obviously many things can change soon but let’s play with these numbers. How can the Rockies bring that number down?
Trade Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story or maybe both...
Financially, moving either one would save the club tens of millions in 2021 and beyond. With Nolan Arenado taking up 26% of the payroll and being unhappy, he’s the most obvious move to cut payroll. The Rockies would likely need to pay a large portion of his salary and want to acquire much cheaper prospect to make a deal worthwhile.
Moving Trevor Story would avoid paying him his large contract extension. Getting prospects in return would obviously save the club huge figures.
These moves wouldn’t just be a way of saving massive amounts of money, it would also signal that the franchise is heading for a rebuild or a cheaper retool.
Trade Jon Gray and non-tender Tony Wolters, Chi Chi Gonzalez and Carlos Estévez
If the Rockies want to wait until the trade deadline to decide what to do with Story or Arenado, this could be the way to go. This will be Jon Gray’s final arbitration eligible year which means the Rockies will need to make a decision on whether or not to pay up and extend him. If Monfort wants to avoid that financial commitment to an inconsistent Gray, they can save their money and swap him for less expensive pieces.
According to Spotrac, Gray is estimated to get around $6 million this offseason, so simply moving just him wouldn’t move the needle enough. If the Rockies wanted to rip the band-aid and move on from some struggling players who’ve ran their course, they could decide to non-tender a few players.
Non-tendering Tony Wolters could be an option. He’s projected to earn $2 million and perhaps the Rockies want to hand the keys over to a slightly cheaper Elias Díaz/Dom Nunez platoon to see what they can produce.
Chi Chi Gonzalez could also be non-tendered. He just finished his second year with the club and has not been particularly productive in his role (5.66 ERA with COL). Rockies could save about $1.2 million and give more opportunity to younger players with more promise.
The Rockies might also want to consider cutting ties with Carlos Estévez. Estévez has had a mixed career so far (5.01 ERA in 4 seasons). It would save them about $2 million in 2021 and would also give way to some some younger and cheaper options with more potential.
This series of moves wouldn’t save as much as an Arenado trade but depending on what was brought back in a Gray deal, it would cut about $11.2 million.
What do you think? Do you think Monfort and Jeff Bridrich will dramatically slash the payroll? Or do you think we’re headed for another quiet offseason with small moves?
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Patrick Saunders reviews offensive areas where the 2020 Rockies struggled and the players who’ll need to be better next year. He also looks at some free agents who could help the Rockies in those areas.
Here’s a discussion and closer look at the reinstatement of Ian Desmond on Sunday. Nick Groke of The Athletic noted that there is still no guarantee that Desmond will return for the Rockies in 2021.
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