As infuriating, or disappointing, or occasionally exciting as baseball teams can be these days, you can generally figure out their direction and aims pretty quickly. As well as where they are on said arc. You don’t need a Watson to figure out what the Reds and A’s are doing. Nor do you for the Mets or Dodgers. The Yankees and Cubs may not act like two of the top-five market teams in the league, but it’s pretty easy to decode what they’re after and how they want to get there.
And then you have the Colorado Rockies.
It wasn’t so long ago that the Rockies actually had one of the better home-produced cores in baseball. Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez — with Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, and Jon Gray in the rotation — there were a lot of teams that would have traded places with them as far as starting points. Of course, the Rockies backed that up with some of the worst free agency decisions you could possibly imagine (Ian Desmond, Wade Davis, and various other far overpaid relievers). But there at least was some plan… kind of.
What this is now…well, you probably do need a Watson for.
The major move to signal a total teardown was not only moving Nolan Arenado along before last season — just two years into his megadeal and after thoroughly pissing him off — but paying the Cardinals $50 million just for the pleasure of doing so. During the 2021 season, they simply sat on Trevor Story, even though they had no chances of re-signing him and could have gotten something tangible for him at the deadline. Same goes for starter Jon Gray. It felt like there was simply no one in the Rockies’ front office, and apparently that was actually the case a lot of the time.
So it was certainly out of the blue when yesterday the Rockies inked Kris Bryant to a seven-year deal worth $182 million. Sure, the Rockies have to sell tickets to someone. And maybe they owe their fans something to watch for the next few seasons, which Bryant in Coors Field could certainly be.
But the math doesn’t really work, and neither does the logic. The Rockies already had a premier third baseman, and he was making just $2 million more for the rest of his contract, though for one year less. And that’s before you add the $50 million the Rockies tossed at the Cardinals to take Arenado off their hands. Sure, the Rockies got four prospects out of it, though only one of them has played above Single-A so far and all of them are lottery tickets. The Rockies could have kept Arenado, kept the $50 million, and signed two or three players to help out instead of waiting on players with severe acne.
And what are they going to do with Bryant? The Rockies are years from competing. And by the time they get there, Bryant should be in his decline and perhaps not physically able to get around the Coors Field outfield, even if he’s only playing left. Coors requires basically three center fielders (FanGraphs’ Roster Resource has them playing Bryant in left), which Bryant isn’t going to be at 33 and above.
Sure, we want more teams throwing around money and players having more options to get the contracts they deserve. On that front, it’s good for everyone. And if the Rockies are intent on adding to Bryant in the next couple years through free agency while trying to bring through a couple prospects, fine. But the instinct is that Bryant’s contract will be used as an excuse as to why the Rockies can’t add more, just as it was with Arenado, before he said, “Fuck this.” That’s been the Rockies’ MO in general, as well as just being genuinely weird as an entire organization.
Or it could be that Bryant, like Arenado before him and Troy Tulowitzki before him, just gets caught in the wake of yet another sharp turn from the Rockies and their path. They’ll say one thing now, and it’ll be another in a season or two. And they’ll continue to just spin a circle, always twirling, twirling toward…well, just twirling.