The Colorado Rockies had an offseason in which there was very little to write about—at least in terms of roster moves. The biggest acquisitions were Drew Butera, Elias Díaz, Chris Owings and Tyler Kinley. As I seem to have tirelessly written, not a single free agent was brought in on a guaranteed major league contract (José Mujica received a split contract and certainly does not appear ticketed to begin 2020 in the big leagues). There was not a trade to speak of either.
We’re coming off a 2019 in which DJ LeMahieu, Mike Tauchman, Adam Ottavino and Tom Murphy all thrived in new environments (the first three with the New York Yankees, the fourth with the Seattle Mariners).
This offseason, the Rockies lost Tyler Anderson, Rico Garcia, Pat Valaika and Sam Howard, among others. The Yankees have signed three more former Rockies—Chris Iannetta, Chad Bettis, and Rosell Herrera to minor league contracts, while the Atlanta Braves also have three former Rox in their spring camp—Yonder Alonso, Chris Rusin and Tyler Matzek.
In 7 2⁄3 innings, Rusin has seven strikeouts and a 2.35 ERA this spring, while Matzek has pitched 3 2⁄3 innings in which he has struck out seven and, most importantly, issued no walks. That could be one fun story.
The players that left the Rockies this offseason had varying degrees of success in Denver and don’t all have a likelihood of flourishing into stars for other teams, unlike what we saw with the 2019 offseason departures, but given the track record of general manager Jeff Bridich, one can’t help but second-guess these moves.
The Rockies earned a big “F” grade from Jim Bowden of The Athletic and Katherine Acquavella of CBS Sports on their offseason scorecards, while Joe Rivera of Sporting News was feeling generous with his “D” grade.
Oh, and we haven’t even mentioned how front office inactivity has led to the biggest story of the offseason for the Rox—the feud between Bridich and the face of the franchise, Nolan Arenado.
Arenado essentially wrote the State of the Position post on the front office himself when he texted various members of the media to refer to Bridich as “disrespectful.”
And while owner Dick Monfort has been quick to call the situation overblown, there has still been no indication of a meeting between the two sides to resolve their conflict.
It really says something that this has become a key story of baseball’s offseason—an offseason in which the Houston Astros have otherwise dominated headlines for one of the biggest cheating scandals in baseball history.
The Rockies have plenty of homegrown talent, and we’d be remiss not to give Bridich any credit for his role in their development. We also have him to thank for the trade that brought Germán Márquez (who, along with Jon Gray, can be put in the “ace” conversation) to Colorado.
But then we get to the free agent contracts of Ian Desmond, Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee—all taking up a considerable portion of the Rockies’ payroll and delivering sub-replacement level production. And, as we saw last season, the talent of homegrown stars like Arenado, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, David Dahl, Márquez, Gray and Scott Oberg was essentially negated by how the roster was constructed around them (a few of these homegrown players also sustained injuries over the course of 2019, but the season went off track before the significant blows were dealt).
We’re experiencing an offseason where you can’t look at the replies to the Rockies’ official Twitter feed (or any Rockies-related Twitter feed, honestly) without seeing “#FireBridich.” Confidence in the front office may be at an all-time low, but anyone expecting their hashtags to result in an actual changing of the guard should look higher and see Monfort is on the exact same page as those in baseball operations.
From nearly all public interactions we’ve seen, Bridich sees himself as the smartest person in the room at all times, and no player, fan or media member is going to change that perception. The Rockies still see themselves as contenders in 2020 despite coming off a 71-91 campaign and then making no appreciable offseason moves. But if your general manager thinks he can do no wrong, then what is the incentive to change? It’s the players who just need to play better.
Not all is lost, however—the Rockies may be trying to become savvier analytically and the hires/promotions of Steve Merriman and Doug Bernier stand as evidence.
And we shouldn’t be surprised that no moves were made this offseason, whether the Rockies viewed themselves as contenders or not. Monfort said directly at the post-season media availability that there wasn’t money to spend this offseason.
Through all of this, we also need to remember why we got here in the first place and why that money is said to have run out. The Rockies’ 2020 payroll will be higher than it was in 2019 despite few additions, and a lot of the money is tied up in players that have produced sub-replacement results in the recent stages of their careers. But who are we to say this isn’t the way to construct a roster? Our ways are not our general manager’s ways. We’re no brain surgeon, after all.