The Colorado Rockies announced on Monday that general manager Jeff Bridich was stepping down from his position as part of a “mutual agreement.” Bridich, who had held the job since 2014, had faced criticism for a number of poor decisions, ranging from free-agent signings and draft picks to trades, including, most recently, that of franchise third baseman Nolan Arenado.
The Rockies noted in their press release that they intend to name an interim GM for the remainder of the season before then conducting a full-fledged search for Bridich’s successor at the completion of Major League Baseball’s playoffs. While there’s no doubt that someone will take the Rockies job — there being only 30 of these positions in the industry means that the supply will always, always outpace the demand — we wanted to take this opportunity to outline why it’s the league’s least-desirable GM post.
Below, you’ll find our five reasons for that proclamation. Do note that we’ve omitted Dick Monfort, the owner who fancies himself to be “Theo Epstein,” on the grounds that every billionaire owner has an overinflated sense of their worth to society and an underdeveloped sense of knowing when to stay both quiet and out of the way.
To be clear, Story isn’t the problem; it’s timing, and it applies in multiple respects.
First, there’s Story’s impending free agency at year’s end. Then there’s the perception in the industry that he won’t re-sign with the Rockies. That leads to a likely deadline deal by July 31, which is an issue because said trade would be the second involving a star player made within a year of a new GM’s appointment. As with the Arenado deal, these are franchise-altering decisions being made by individuals who won’t be around come 2022.
Heck, if you want to stretch the timing theme to its logical end, there’s even a case to be made that the Rockies missed their chance to maximize Story’s return by keeping him around rather than moving him after trading Arenado. Colorado’s decision to hold onto another impending free agent, Jon Gray, was more sensible (he was coming off a down year), but the next GM shouldn’t squander the opportunity to move right-handed starter Germán Márquez before he moves past his peak value.
2. Bad MLB team
The timing of Bridich’s removal is funny, if only because the Rockies have played well as of late. Dating back to last week, they’ve won five of their past seven contests, including series wins against the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies. Bridich’s resignation would’ve made more sense if it had been announced a little earlier, after Colorado suffered a seven-game losing streak that dropped their record to 3-11 on the year.
Don’t let the dead-cat bounce fool you: this is a bad team with its worst days ahead of it. Projection systems like SportsLine (68 wins), ZiPS (66), and PECOTA (61) all agree that the Rockies will finish closer to 100 losses than to a .500 record — and that’s with Story and crew in tow. If and when the Rockies start selling off veterans at the deadline, they’re likely going to become competitive for the No. 1 pick.
While there’s no sense in reducing Colorado’s failure to one aspect or another, the Rockies owe some of their woes on their poor player development record. The likes of Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson, Brendan Rodgers, and Raimel Tapia were supposed to develop into either everyday types or complementary players. Even now, with most of them on the wrong side of 25, they’ve failed to establish themselves as such. (Though, in the interest of fairness, McMahon and Tapia are off to good starts this year.)
3. Lackluster farm system
You might think that the Rockies have a good farm system after trading an All-Star third baseman and making six top-10 selections in the past nine drafts. You’d be incorrect. The Rockies have only a handful of prospects worth investing hope in, including the ninth pick in last summer’s draft, high school outfielder Zac Veen.
This isn’t just the opinion of CBS Sports, either. “It’s not a good system,” Baseball Prospectus wrote in December; “This system isn’t very good,” FanGraphs echoed in March. Baseball America ranked Colorado’s farm 25th, noting that “this is the fourth consecutive year that the Rockies have ranked in the bottom third.”
It’s theoretically possible that every public-facing prospect evaluator is wrong about the Rockies farm system, but it doesn’t seem likely — especially not given the organization’s trouble with producing viable big-league starters. The next Rockies boss, then, will have to rebuild from the bottom up.
4. Weird ballpark
Coors Field is a problem for which the Rockies have struggled to solve for much of their existence. The next Rockies GM will be trying to assemble a winning roster in what remains one of the most unforgivingly offensive ballparks in the league.
The difference with Coors Field versus other parks is that the Rockies cannot tinker with the dimensions or the fence heights to achieve harmony. Rather, they have to contend with the effect the altitude has on certain pitch types, which in turn informs their personnel decisions and leaves their hitters playing a different game on road trips.
Perhaps the Rockies next GM can figure out a better way to approach the Coors issue, but there’s no sense pretending that will be an easy task.
5. Brutal division
We’ll end by noting that the Rockies are stuck in what amounts to an un-winnable division, at least for the near future. The Dodgers have won the National League West eight years in a row, and they haven’t played at worse than a 90-win pace in nearly a decade. The Padres have arrived to give the division a second superpower, while the Giants and Diamondbacks are lurking as two of the league’s best positioned rebuilders.
If you’re the Rockies, the division ought to appear unattainable for the foreseeable future. That, plus the current wretched state of the franchise, is going to make for some hopeless summers. But, in the long run, it’s possible that the bleak outlook works in their favor. Whoever takes over in Colorado won’t be tempted to patch up the roster, hoping and praying there’s enough in the tank to make the Wild Card Game, in lieu of addressing the organization’s larger, corrosive structural and philosophical issues.
Ingenuity is said to be a product of necessity. These Rockies will test that parlance.