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We’re 10 days away from the Major League Baseball trade deadline and I don’t know what the Rockies are going to do.
And I don’t know who the Rockies are. Do they?
Do they really believe they are close to being contenders? Just a player or two away from the playoffs? Their 43-51 record screams otherwise.
General manager Bill Schmidt’s immediate goal is to get the team back to .500. But even that looks like the Holy Grail for the Rockies, who entered the season’s second half seven games below mediocrity.
Do you know how many times the Rockies have posted a winning record after the all-star break? Just eight times in their first 29 seasons. Do you know how many times they have been seven or more games over .500 after the break? That would be four.
We’ve been told many times through the years that the Rockies are a “draft-and-develop organization,” and yet they gave Kris Bryant a seven-year, $182 million contract that confounded the baseball world.
Bottom line: this franchise lacks an identity and it needs to take a hard look at itself. A little honesty with the public would be nice, too. “Rebuild” doesn’t have to be a dirty word.
It wasn’t that long ago — 2018 to be precise — that the Rockies came one win away from winning their first National League West title. Then what happened? They let D.J. LeMahieu walk away and then signed an over-the-hill Daniel Murphy for the same amount of money that LeMahieu received from the Yankees. The slide had begun.
In 2019, after making the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history, the Rockies tumbled to a 71-91 record. After the season, owner Dick Monfort, former GM Jeff Bridich and manager Bud Black met with the media. Monfort and Bridich took umbrage with my question about whether the team was in a rebuilding mode.
I had taken my cue from star third baseman Nolan Arenado, who was ticked off that the team had not invested more in the team after the 2018 season, and had said multiple times that he thought the team was facing a rebuild.
Monfort’s response lingers today.
“I haven’t seen many rebuilds that start with signing the face of your franchise, your best player, to an (eight-year) $260 million contract,” Monfort said, referring to Arenado’s mega-deal, and adding that right-hander German Marquez also was signed to a five-year, $43 million contract extension.
“When some teams don’t play good over a long period of time, they choose to do a (rebuild), but our goal is to play better and to win,” Monfort continued. “I also hear — what is the phrase? ‘You have a window of time’ — I think we have a huge window of time.
“And I think you start with Nolan, Charlie (Blackmon), control of Trevor (Story) and the young pitchers — Jon Gray and (Kyle) Freeland and Marquez and all of that — I think you have an incredible nucleus of players that you need to build on and try to take this to the next level.”
Since Monfort said that, the Rockies own a 143-172 record, and Arenado, Story and Gray are all gone. Freeland (4-7, 4.96 ERA) and Marquez (6-7, 5.47) are having bad seasons and it’s fair to wonder if they will ever be as good as they once were.
Closer Daniel Bard, set-up man Alex Colome, starter Chad Kuhl, and shortstop Jose Iglesias are all scheduled to become free agents. If the team can work out a reasonable deal to keep Bard they should go for it.
But they should restock the farm by trading Colome, Kuhl, and Iglesias. And if a club makes a good offer for slugging, all-star first baseman C.J. Cron, they should deal him, too. Yes, Cron has a team-friendly $7.25 million contract next season, but he doesn’t figure in the team’s long-term future.
Most of all, the Rockies have to realize that rebuild is not a four-letter word, and realize shaking things up for a team that’s stuck in a rut is not a bad thing.