On Monday the Jeff Bridich era officially concluded in Colorado. The abrupt announcement just one month into the season leaves the club with a general manager vacancy to fill in the front office. Darren Gonzalez recently wrote about the new era facing the Rockies and how significant deviation from the previous formula is sorely needed. Greg Feasel has been promoted to the role of President, the first step in the process, but his day-to-day baseball operations experience is not robust. Internal candidates such as director of scouting Bill Schmidt or assistant general managers Zack Rosenthal and Zach Wilson could also be in line for a promotion to interim GM for the remainder of the season. This would appear to be the plan as the team indicated it will pursue hiring a permanent candidate for the position in the upcoming off-season.
However, before we get to that point, there is work to be done and decisions to be made. Few are as important as what to do with two of the team’s core pieces: Jon Gray and Trevor Story.
Gray and Story are in the final years of their contract and are eligible for free agency in the 2021-2022 off-season. The offloading of Nolan Arenado prior to the start of the season seemed to indicate the Rockies were entering a period of transition and, with Gray and Story able to leave following this season, could be a sign of things to come. Both hold value to other organizations and will be hot commodities come the July 30th trade deadline.
But trading Gray or Story is just one side of the coin. Both would be desirable extension candidates from the club’s perspective, too. These are lifelong Rockies who have been some of the most successful homegrown talents in club history. Plus, the Arenado trade freed the organization from over $150M in payroll commitment over the next six seasons, so that money “saved” has to conceivably go somewhere. Or, more specifically, to someone.
But this situation isn’t a new development. We already knew heading into the season the clock was ticking on Gray and Story. But now that it has to be figured out without Jeff Bridich, how has the outlook changed? More specifically, what are the possible outcomes we can expect given these new circumstances?
To say Jeff Bridich wasn’t a popular figure is...at least appropriate. He has been described as “the worst communicator in MLB” by agents and the bombshell article from The Athletic in March portrayed his relationship with Rockies players as frayed and dysfunctional while other club executives openly mocked his job performance.
Simply removing Bridich from the equation could be the deft maneuver this organization needs to get back on track. The outlook Story and/or Gray have on the future of the organization and the proposition of signing an extension could improve with the recent front office shake-up, and the Rockies may be able to retain one or both of their core pieces moving forward.
If either player is not persuaded, then a trade could still be the most logical path forward. But a new interim GM such Schimdt, Wilson or Rosenthal orchestrating an exchange could provide a better working relationship with other teams and ultimately fetch the Rockies a greater return for their departing stars.
Heading into the season, Dick Monfort described the construction of this team as being “as competitive as possible.” If we can agree that having a winning record and pushing for a playoff spot can be qualified as “competitive”, then that’s the goal. So far, that is not the Rockies. The team currently has the worst record in the National League, is 2-11 on the road this season and sit 7.0 games behind the Giants in the NL West. The writing is on the wall in blaring, neon green paint that this team is not going to be a contender this season.
But, the organization could stick to its guns and insist that the team is good enough to win. They could give it one last go with Story and Gray and retain their services throughout the season before watching them depart in the off-season will little to show for their time here other than a possible compensatory draft pick or two after extending a qualifying offer.
It’s been a week after the Bridich announcement and there is still no interim GM in place. In charge of making sure the ship doesn’t sink to the seafloor are men whose résumés include cattle empire king and Coca-Cola director of sales and marketing. The issues holding the Rockies back from achieving new heights are systemic in nature and if it proves that Bridich alone wasn’t the problem, a mishandling of the Story and Gray relationships or returns could provide yet another setback for the organization’s return to relevancy.
Feasel could fall flat in his responsibilities as team president and be relied upon for duties as a GM he is not qualified to perform. Perhaps the interim GM turns out have an even harder time in role than Bridich did. Or maybe Dick Monfort just drops the façade of someone else calling the shots and goes full Jerry Jones by playing GM and owner. Any of these scenarios could completely rot any willingness Gray or Story have to re-sign. If those relationships turn contentious closer to the end of their tenure, it could also make a negative impression on future extension candidates like Kyle Freeland or Ryan McMahon when their times come.
Additionally, if an under-qualified executive does intend to handle a trade for either player, other teams could smell blood in the water in Colorado and fleece two high-quality players for pennies on the dollar. This would push the window of contention further into the future and compound the ill-feelings towards the organization after the Arenado saga and negatively impact fan interest and ticket sales for years moving forward.
Ultimately, what the right decision is for handling Story and Gray in their final season under contract remains to be seen. But the team is at a crossroads both with its product on the field and its relationship with its fanbase. With Bridich no longer on board, it is imperative that the Rockies handle their next move with both of those in mind.
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Thomas Harding talks with Lucas Gilbreath about his major league debut experience. The first taste of big league action was not picture perfect as he gave up a home run to Josh Rojas on his first pitch, but Gilbreath kept his demeanor and was able to finish his first big league inning without further damage. Harding goes over the path to the big leagues for left-hander from Legacy High School in Colorado and the competitive nature and work ethic that got him to the games highest stage.
Patrick Saunders details the uphill battle facing the Rockies moving forward. He looks at the near-term picture, wondering aloud how well Greg Feasel can perform on the baseball operations role of his new President title and what or who will make the decisions on Gray, Story and Mychal Givens this season. Saunders also talks with current Rocky Mountain SABR Board of Directors member and former Dodgers GM Dan Evans about the state of the franchise. Evans lays out the blueprint to building a competitive organization, points out the teams underwhelming emphasis on forming their own identity and the need for the team moving forward to be transparent and with a clear plan in mind.
Saunders lists the numerous tasks facing a new GM to bring the Rockies back to competitiveness. This includes rebuilding the farm system, revamping the analytics department, using that department properly and admitting to themselves and the fans that a rebuild is needed. All of this is the challenge facing the team, but the biggest obstacle of all may be the willingness to go at it the right way at the top:
“If the Rockies really want to change things, Dick needs to get out of the way and let the new GM do his job,” one major league executive said.
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