Rockies owner/CEO Dick Monfort and general manager Jeff Bridich held a press conference Tuesday morning, discussing the immediate aftermath of the Nolan Arenado trade that became official last night. The conversation was wide ranging, and the press did not hold back.
Below are some highlights:
Dick Monfort began the presser by issuing a lengthy statement:
We are here to discuss Nolan’s trade just St. Louis. This brings closure to something that we have been dealing with for over a year. Nolan is an incredible player. He came up through our system, I’d like to think we had a part in the player he has become. For over a decade, Nolan Arenado was a Colorado Rockie. In 2019, we signed Nolan to, what I would call, a career contract — something we were committed to. Nine months later, Nolan asked us to look for a trade. In 2020 came COVID and the stark reality of a shortened season, one without fans, and Nolan’s desire to move on never wavered. With an option to move on at year end, the most cost efficient way to lead it was to let it play out. That also was the lowest return, and doing that also had some risks associated with it. We talked with several teams and ultimately we determined there was a deal to be made with St. Louis. We don’t discuss financial details, but I can tell you what has been reported is not completely accurate. There are deferrals and the money is spread out over a number of years. In return, five players with a legitimate opportunity come our direction, players who we believe will help us.
I am aware this is not a popular decision, but I promise you it wasn’t made with haste. I’m a fan first. I think you all know that our players are like family to me. We were blessed by Nolan, and we all had a front row seat to watch this unbelievable player. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. I will always wish Nolan and his family the very best.
Let me close with this: we have an extremely talented team. They are built to compete. It is time for them to take the next step. We are excited for our season ahead and look forward to the challenges.
In this statement, Monfort outlined the timeline in which this trade came to fruition. He also noted that he understood this was an unpopular decision among fans (himself included), but still believes that the Rockies are extremely talented. They have a core of pitching and they still have Trevor Story, who “stepped up” in the post-Tulo years. The media made sure to press both Monfort and Bridich on all aspects of this trade and how the Rockies will expect to move forward with the “extremely talented team” who are “built to compete.”
The Arenado Trade
During Monfort’s opening statement, he stressed that nine months after the Rockies signed their third baseman to the contract extension, Arenado asked to be traded. He also stressed that this was Nolan’s decision: “If I had my druthers, I would rather have Nolan Arenado. But it was Nolan’s choice, he wanted to move on. I’ve speculated over the last year what, why, and I’ve talked to Nolan a lot about it over the last year, but the fact remains that I think he just felt it was time for him to try something else out.”
When asked why the Rockies did not allow Arenado to play through the 2021 season, pay his salary, and then opt out — thereby allowing the Rockies to gain a draft choice — Monfort and Bridich explained they felt they would receive more out of gaining five players from the Cardinals than they would have with a compensatory pick.
The owner spoke about the growing struggles between Arenado and the front office, saying “I have anguished for many sleepless nights wondering why that happened.” Monfort identified the trade as the “best thing [the Rockies] could do at the time,” and that the trade “didn’t just all of a sudden happen. This took a lot of work.”
“There were many teams that we talked to,” he continued, “and there were many deals that made no sense. There were ten times over the past week where I didn’t think the St. Louis deal made any sense.”
During questioning, Bridich did not directly identify the Rockies as a rebuilding team. “This isn’t a total team overhaul. A rebuild is not the case for our situation right now.” Monfort said the Arenado deal was the best thing the team could do at the time.
The GM answered questions relating to his recent decisions. “Could I have done a better job in certain areas? You bet.”
Monfort also mentioned the struggles with being a mid-market team: “We do everything in our power to keep this team as competitive as possible. We know that we’re not going to ever get out there and go after Gerrit Cole or some of the top-line free agents because we’re in a grouping — a mid-market team — where we just can’t take that risk, which means that at times we have to sign sort of the next level down.”
While the extent of a potential rebuild was not identified, Monfort said the Rockies have the nucleus of players that can get them to where they need to be. He further addressed how more opportunities in the infield can shape future players: “Hopefully that next star will come out of having an opportunity to play third base. . . or however it all works out.”
Monfort also expressed that his confidence in the team comes from the fact that “for the 20-some years we’ve been doing this, one of our goals in life was always to grow enough pitchers to where we could compete without having to bring somebody in here.” He went on to address the “toughness” it takes to pitch at Coors Field and noted that they have a lot of current quality pitchers and they have been working internally to build more pitching for the future.
Bridich took questions near the end of the conference about the incoming players from the Cardinals. It is unknown whether left-hander Austin Gomber will be in the Rockies’ bullpen or compete for a starting spot, but Bridich said they are “going to get to know Austin as best we can here and as quickly as we can.”
“I think he’s going to certainly prepare himself as a starter here coming into spring training,” he continued, “but there’s a lot of conversations and relationships building, especially with him and our pitching coaches and Buddy [Black] and we’ll just take some time to evaluate all of that in terms of his role before we make a final decision.”
He further addressed how the Rockies may explore the free agent market moving forward, hinting “there are going to be discussions with agents in the coming days and the coming weeks.”
Most notably, Bridich said that he believes Trevor Story will be starting with the Colorado Rockies in 2021.
The press held both Monfort and Bridich accountable. When asked about prior decisions, Bridich took the blame. “If you’re going to pass blame, you can blame me” he said. “It’s the job of the GM to create a team that competes and wins as much as humanly possible.”
Monfort also harbors regret for losing DJ LeMahieu, who has been tearing up the American League since his departure in 2018.
“I think in hindsight, losing DJ was a big deal” he said. “And in hindsight, I wish we could have figured out a way to keep DJ. DJ is a great guy, and somebody that always played with a chip on his shoulder, and the Cubs paid for that every time they played against against us. So, in hindsight yeah, we wish that we could redo that.”
Finally, Monfort was asked if he had thought about firing Bridich based on his performances before and after the 2017-2018 playoff run and if not, if he had thought about firing himself.
In short, “no, I have not thought about firing Jeff. I have thought about firing myself, but I have not thought about firing Jeff.”
A Stark Contrast
The Rockies’ conference was held at 10 a.m. local time, the same time the Cardinals held a conference to welcome their new third baseman. Arenado commented on his own relationship with the Rockies organization: “My relationship with the Rockies is just fine. I’m not going to sit here and talk about bad things, I don’t have any bad things to say. That last few years were tough in Colorado, but I did my best.”
Monfort offered his final thoughts to fans: “I mentioned I’m a fan, and I truly am, so I understand how [the fans] feel. To be quite honest, I would probably feel the same way.
“Maybe I do feel the same way.”
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