Baseball

What Exactly are the Rockies Doing?

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Major League Baseball may be in a lockout right now, denying all baseball fans the content that we so desperately crave. Despite all of that, there is one rock that constantly weathers the storm. With baseball at an absolute standstill, there remain three certainties in life. Death, Taxes, and a bevy of bizarre choices/rumors regarding the Colorado Rockies, the worst run franchise in all of professional baseball.

Where the Rockies Currently Stand:

“What are the Rockies doing?” You may ask yourself. The Rockies seem to be asking similar questions. There’s been a variety of rumors circulating, some that indicate a desire to be competitive next year, while others tend to point towards an attempted rebuild. The issue is, the Rockies are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Not only are they not competitive, coming off of a 74-87 fourth-place finish in the uber-competitive NL West, but they also have limited to zero farm system depth.

Outside of OF prospect Zac Veen, a player that has yet to play above A-ball, the Rockies have no MLB Pipeline top 100 prospects, and a good chunk of the cream of the crop remains a few years out from expected debut seasons. Bennie Montgomery, the 8th overall pick in the draft this past season, was drafted out of High School, and Pipeline does not expect to see either him or Veen playing within the confines of Coors  till 2024-2025.

With no specific direction, neither rebuilding nor contending, the Rockies and newly minted GM Bill Schmidt are tasked with steering a rudderless ship through the murky waters that former GM Jeff Bridich got the franchise trapped within. Past moves make it seem more likely that a rebuild is a possibility, with the trade of Nolan Arenado and the minimal efforts being made to re-sign other franchise players like Trevor Story and Jon Gray leading Rockies fans to believe the short term future may appear to be grim.

Are The Rockies a FA Destination?

Yet, despite all of those moves, the Rockies have found themselves linked with both Kris Bryant and… Trevor Story?

While the Trevor Story angle is never going to go anywhere, Story is more likely to end up on a team attempting to seriously compete, the Bryant to Rockies rumor has legs to stand on. Heyman points out that geographically it adds up, which is an odd take being that Denver is 10 hours from Las Vegas by car, but that is not the most interesting point of the tweet. Heyman states that the Rockies “obviously” are trying to compete in 2022. Which, first off, no. The Rockies are not obviously trying to do anything outside of running the most confusing baseball operation known to mankind. If they were trying to compete, would they not have made an effort to re-sign homegrown stars? If the Rockies expect to seriously compete with the roster as currently constructed, along with the inclusion of one or two marquee free-agent signings, they find themselves sorely mistaken if by their own evaluations that would be enough to even crack top three in their own division, let alone compete for the playoffs.

As a team in 2021, the Rockies ranked 14th in the league with an OBP% of .317 while allowing opponents an OBP% of .332, leaving their pitching staff ranked 26th in the league. Their starting pitching is a relative strong point, with the likes of German Marquez, Antonio Sentenzela, and Kyle Freeland all posting above-average ERA+ numbers, but the bullpen and core of hitters remain distant from that of a competitive lineup. With that being said, the Rockies are faced with two options to get out of their current rut.

You Say You’re All In, Prove It:

If the Rockies truly are “obviously” competing, there are ways to do it. You cannot build a World Series contender in one offseason, no matter how hard you try (looking at you, 2020 Padres) but you can establish a fringe competitor. It starts with Bryant and likely includes one more impact bat acquired whether it be through trade or FA signing. The Rockies outfield provides nearly no offensive value, so a player like Kyle Schwarber or Nick Castellanos seems like attractive options offensively, especially as power hitters within the confines of Coors. Defense may prove to be an issue though, as Coors is home to the second-largest outfield in all of baseball, as well as the league’s highest average BABIP. Castellanos is a horrific defensive outfielder, to put it lightly, but the potential inclusion of the DH in the NL as part of the new CBA may make his profile more attractive to the purple and black.

The Rockies currently have roughly $90M on the books for the 2022 season, leaving them with some financial wiggle room, but not nearly enough to go out and spend like crazy. Outside of a star like Bryant, the Rockies could utilize the FA market to acquire more fringey-depth pieces. Jorge Soler remains unsigned and could be an attractive fit. Beyond that, any major acquisitions the Rockies piece together should be through trade. The issue is, the farm system remains rather thin. For any deal that nets a star-caliber MLB player, expect to part with at least three of the top five prospects, including Veen and Montgomery for sure.

If the Rockies really are all in, that is how you go about it. Acquire a star through FA, a few more mid-tier pieces alongside him, and then mortgage your future for the shot to compete right now. Now, if that option does not sound all too attractive, you could always:

Tear it Down to the Studs:

Goodbye German Marquez, so long CJ Cron, au revoir Antonio Sentenzela, adios Ryan Mcmahon, and hello to a few years of 100+ loss seasons. While distantly the less-sexy option, if I were tasked with picking which of these two routes is more likely to produce a Rockies World Series win within the decade, I am taking the rebuild 100/100 times. The foundation as currently constructed is far too shaky to produce anything of solid magnitude, so why not hard restart? The Rockies do have some intriguing pitching, a hot commodity on the trade market, and players like Marquez and Sentenzela (despite him signing an extension this offseason) could return some top-of-the-farm-level talent.

Nearly every champion of the past 10 years is built around a core of homegrown hitters, supplemented by pieces that round out the operation, not built through FA acquisitions at the major league level. The 2016 Cubs remain the perfect example of what a club like the Rockies should aspire to be. Yes, the next few years will be agonizing if this is the decided route, but at least there’s direction. Rockies fans have sat through horrific baseball long enough to be able to do it for a few more years, as long as there is promise of greener pastures.

What Comes Next:

Keep an eye on the Rockies once the CBA is locked in place and free agency restarts. Their first few moves should be indicative of a greater narrative in the coming years. A failed attempt at competition only leaves them in an even greater mess than they came into this offseason with, but with this front office literally, anything is possible.

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main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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