Colorado Rockies: Searching for a silver lining

Almost exactly two years ago, while the baseball media was fixated on the landing spots for free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the Rockies stealthily signed their offensive linchpin, Nolan Arenado, to an eight-year extension.

The deal was lauded by media and fans alike. It prevented endless speculation over the next couple of years as to whether Arenado would be traded before he hit free agency. The Rockies made a big financial statement – they meant business.

Praise by the bucket load was heaped upon Dick Monfort, chairman and CEO, and Jeff Bridich, general manager. In effect, they had stolen Arenado away from the Dodgers, and set their franchise up to be competitive in the tough NL West.

Monfort had always remained confident that Arenado would sign a long-term extension. And as reported in USA Today: The beauty of their talks is that both sides were being transparent, leading to calm, respectful and quiet talks.

Arenado could not have been happier,

“That’s why I have a lot of respect for them. No one’s playing any games. That’s why I’m willing to stay because of how they’ve communicated so well with me.’’

The third baseman’s agreement to the extension appeared to signify how much he believed the Rockies would contend each year, hopefully, culminating in the franchise’s first World Series.

Within one year of signing the extension, and bizarrely after Arenado had notched up his first 6.0 WAR season, tensions had grown between the third baseman and his GM, with Arenado claiming Bridich was “very disrespectful.”

Fast-forward another year, and with the Dodgers and Padres improving on a seemingly weekly basis, relations between Arenado and Bridich hit an all-time low. The Rockies decided to cut bait.

In a near-unfathomable deal, Colorado sent $50 million and their All-Star third baseman to St Louis in exchange for Austin Gomber and some low-level prospects.

Manfort claimed “In dealing with this, we tried to find a way that we could get the greatest returns possible. There were many teams that we talked to. There were many deals that made no sense.”

Oh, how I would love to see those rejected deals.

Cue the publication of many damning articles accusing ownership and senior management of unconcern or incompetence or becoming the new standard-bearer for the most inept franchise.

The Athletic’s Marc Carig summed it up well with “while the industry zigs, the Rockies zag.”

According to Paddy Power, the Rockies are tied as the least-fancied team to take the 2021 World Series, but there must be some reasons for optimism for Rox fans. Here’s what I’ve got …

Trevor Story: The guy is a stud. And such an underrated stud. He was the 16th best hitter over the last couple of seasons. Which, as he excels at a premium position, makes him a top-10 player according to WAR.

The Rockies have the opportunity to secure the shortstop to a long-term deal in Colorado.

Zac Veen: Sure, it doesn’t help the team in 2021, but this guy is a player. Overshadowed by Spencer Torkelson in 2020 draft, he could be the Rockies All-Star power outfielder as soon as 2024. The 19-year-old has already drawn comparisons with Cody Bellinger.

Brendan Rodgers: The 24-year-old is one of the big beneficiaries from the opening in the infield brought about by Arenado’s departure. He proved with 1.035 OPS in Triple-A in 2019 that he is ready for the big leagues. Rodgers, with fewer than 100 MLB at-bats, will get the opportunity to be the Rockies everyday second baseman and show why he was the third overall pick in the 2015 draft.

Colorado bred: A battery of Kyle Freeland and Dom Nunez, an infield of Josh Fuentes, Brendan Rodgers, Trevor Story and Ryan McMahon, and an outfield of Raimel Tapia, Charlie Blackmon and Sam Hilliard gives a lineup entirely drafted by the Rockies (or first signed by them in the case of international free agents). If nothing else, that is impressive.

Germán Márquez: The 25-year-old is an undisputed ace. I’m not saying he’s worth $40 million in 2021, but …

Germán Márquez411611255.223.3%5.6%3.635.7
Trevor Bauer451617286.029.7%8.3%4.065.8
Data courtesy of Fangraphs for 2019-2020

And in Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela, Jon Gray and the newly acquired Austin Gomber, Colorado has an underrated rotation that will stifle many teams.

Charlie Blackmon: Now 34, the four-time All-Star is still a supreme hitter. His .374 wOBA over the last two seasons ties Bryce Harper. Blackmon is a defensive liability, so the potential DH will help him, maybe more than anyone else in the National League. Fingers-crossed.

That’s all I’ve got. Let us know other reasons for optimism for Rockies fans. What silver linings did we miss?

Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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