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Jeff Bridich’s legacy is trading away Rockies’ superstars

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If confidence in the Rockies’ front office was low last offseason, where is it now?

Last offseason, we wrote that “confidence in the Rockies’ front office may be at an all-time low.”

It was no easy feat, but the #FireBridich hashtags may be even more plentiful in the comment sections of the Colorado Rockies’ official social media pages this offseason. We’ve also seen comments calling to “Boycott the Rockies” receive hundreds of likes.

Of course, social media may not be the best way to gauge public perception, so we’ll just have to see if ticket sales are indicative of a “boycott” in a season where there will already be limited capacity seating at Coors Field due to COVID-19 restrictions.

While fans of any team griping about front office decisions is not unusual, the true anger directed at Rockies’ general manager Jeff Bridich began last offseason when (now former) Rockies’ All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado made public that he felt Bridich was “very disrespectful.” As the 2020 season went on, there was no indication that Bridich and Arenado talked about their situation at all, and after requesting to be traded, the Rockies moved him to the St. Louis Cardinals, officially announcing the move February 1, 2021.

It’s hard to fault Bridich for trading a player who requested to be traded (especially if he’s likely to opt out after 2021 due to a clause in his contract anyway), but it’s that things got to that point in the first place that Bridich can receive blame.

Coming off back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time in franchise history in 2017 and 2018, the Rockies headed into 2019 with no upgrades to their roster and let DJ LeMahieu walk in free agency, replacing him with Daniel Murphy for virtually the same amount of money. LeMahieu signed with the New York Yankees and has produced a 6.7 WARP from 2019-20, while Murphy was worth 1.1 WARP in his time with the Rockies.

Bridich’s biggest free agent signings (Ian Desmond, Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee, Mike Dunn and Murphy) have combined to produce exactly 0.0 WARP during their combined times in Rockies’ uniforms despite receiving a combined $217 million. Dave Cameron of FanGraphs looked at the worst transactions of the 2017 offseason and the Rockies are highlighted twice (once for the Desmond signing, which was declared the worst move on the list, and once for the Dunn signing, which Cameron called “pay[ing] premium for [a] non-premium reliever”). Additionally, signing Desmond required the Rockies to forfeit a first-round draft pick. Now, Desmond has opted out of the 2020-21 seasons, forgoing all of his salary for both years, meaning he is no longer a financial liability to the Rockies, almost saving the front office from the poor decision that was made to give him such a large contract.

The Rockies took a dramatic step back in 2019, finishing with a 71-91 record. Bridich and Rockies’ owner Dick Monfort insisted the team would rebound in 2020, but made no major league signings (aside from signing José Mujica to a split contract) and finished 26-34 in the pandemic-shortened season. Heading into 2021, the Rockies have once again made no major league signings and even after trading their best player, Monfort and Bridich again say the team will be able to compete.

Arenado did not feel the front office was putting all of their cards on the table to build the team around him. Arenado will be 30-years-old in April, and given his competitive nature, it’s easy to see why he wanted to be on a team he feels has the best chance of competing for a World Series title before his time is up.

Of course, the front office did give Arenado the biggest contract in franchise history (8 years, $260 million) prior to the 2019 season, but the decision to include an opt out clause after the third year was curious, especially since revelations that it was insisted upon by Bridich—not Arenado.

What will be Bridich’s ultimate legacy in Colorado? Ultimately, his most memorable moves involved trading two of the biggest stars ever to play for the Rockies—Troy Tulowitzki in 2015 and now Arenado this offseason.

It’s certainly not unheard of for a front office to trade a star player due to perceived financial constraints or otherwise—recent examples include the Boston Red Sox trading Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cleveland Indians trading Francisco Lindor to the New York Mets.

But the souring of the relationships between Bridich and Tulowitzki and Bridich and Arenado are unique for a general manager. Rockies fans, players and local media members saw how Bridich operated firsthand, but this was the offseason where it became known on a national scale.

After the Arenado trade, one common theme was to suggest this would preclude Trevor Story from ever signing a long-term deal with the Rockies. I’m of a mind that the ultimate event of trading Arenado had no bearing on this decision for Story. He knew about Bridich’s poor communication skills and Monfort’s limitless faith in the GM. After everything that happened with Arenado prior to the trade (and who knows what Story’s own personal experience trying to communicate with Bridich has been?), why would he have ever been interested in staying in the first place?

Perhaps one positive takeaway from this offseason is Bridich did seem to acknowledge after the Arenado trade that some of the shortcomings in the organization were his fault.

I commend Bridich for taking the blame here. But it’s hard to have faith in things getting better. Bridich has always placed an emphasis on “athleticism and positional flexibility” and specifically lauded himself for the additions of Desmond and Alexi Amarista to bolster the team in that regard prior to the 2017 season (I’ll let you come to your own conclusions about Bridich’s roster construction talents based on that). The team’s analytics department has been gutted (we hear constant stories of former Rockies going to new teams and marveling at even modest upgrades in how data is presented to them or how their curiosity is encouraged rather than stifled), Bridich and Monfort both assess the 2021 team as a contender yet again (possibly based on interpolation?) and Monfort has reiterated that firing Bridich hasn’t even crossed his mind.

It’s safe to say confidence in the Rockies’ front office has reached yet another new low.