Between the bleak projections, trade rumors surrounding the Rockies’ best players, and lack of resources being committed via free agent acquisitions, the question of whether or not the Rockies should rebuild has been asked repeatedly through the offseason thus far. Let’s assume for a moment that the Rockies actually do commit to a rebuild.
What type of rebuild would it be? There are options here.
The Rockies could adopt the approach similar to the Texas Rangers, coined “skinny rebuild” by FanGraphs’ Dan Szymborski, where the team doesn’t actually attempt a rebuild but more or less “stays the course.” This method would involve keeping the young players under team control intact while looking to supplement the team’s talent gaps via free agency. What’s great about this is that the team would probably win quite a few more games while also avoiding the stigma of completely tanking and not trying to compete.
The downside, however, is that without a top-ranked farm system or a competitive advantage in player development, there is no real path for the team to improve by a significant margin. Furthermore, the Rockies’ greatest dilemma right now is that its’ two best players are only guaranteed to be with the team for one more season. It’s hard to stick to the narrative of winning games while also testing the market for trade returns for Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story.
Our other option: tank. It’s all the rage. Both the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros went through lengthy, all-out rebuilds that eventually led to World Series rings. So, yeah, the Rockies should do that, right?
While it’s been adopted by some teams, it’s a difficult pill to swallow for the fan base. The Baltimore Orioles general manager Mike Elias recently said about his club that “there will come a time when we flip the switch to maximizing wins in the upcoming season, but we’re not there yet. This isn’t fun.” It’s hard to imagine a similar statement coming from Rockies owner Dick Monfort or the front office. Of course, Monfort infamously stated his belief that the Rockies would “win 94 games and lose 68” in response to lackluster projections leading up to the 2020 MLB season.
The upside, of course, is the wealth of eventual high draft picks and reloading the farm system by trading away current assets. If the team is unlikely to compete for a World Series in its’ current state, why not invest in the future and target a competitive window down the road once that talent develops?
There are many reasons to believe the Rockies will not tank. The ‘94-win’ statement from Monfort was supposedly genuine optimism and as long as that’s how he sees the team, they will attempt to win as many games as they can. He also may not want to publicly commit to a rebuild in fear of losing fans, as in-game revenue is a significant portion of team earnings. Also, with the track record of the front office, there is not a high level of confidence (at least from the fan base) that tanking would be a successful endeavor.
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Is tanking bad for the game of baseball? Max Scherzer seems to think so, saying it creates “bandwagon fans.” Brittany Ghiroli of The Athletic shares some thoughts on how MLB could address teams “tanking” in order to land in a better position to accumulate talent. Instituting a draft lottery similar to the NBA is an obvious idea, but it has been shot down by some execs citing the draft as a “crapshoot.” Some other creative ideas are explored, such as instituting a metric called a “Success Ratio” that would be used to penalize teams for being bad, or completely restructuring free agency so it isn’t dominated by big market teams.
Thomas Harding reports on the latest progress for Scott Oberg in his return to action from blood clots that sidelined him for the 2020 season. Oberg had surgery in September to remove a rib, a procedure “designed to alleviate blood clotting that has struck Oberg three times.” Oberg has recovered from the surgery and is working with Rockies athletic trainer Keith Duggar to prepare for next season.
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