The Rockies Went Backwards by Doing Nothing by Kevin Goldstein August 3, 2021 At 4 PM EST last Friday, the trade deadline closing bell rang, and when it did, those of us on the outside looking in were glued to Twitter to learn about the trades that had been completed right before the countdown clock hit zero. It usually takes a little while to learn about all the transactions that get completed in those final minutes. Plenty of players found new homes, but the surprise of the afternoon was that when the dust settled, Trevor Story was still a member of the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies are 21 games out of first place in their division. Per our Playoff Odds (and good sense), their chances of reaching the postseason this year are a big fat zero, and have been for some time. They also play in the toughest division in baseball, with the Dodgers and Padres looking like teams that will sit at the top of the National League West standings for years to come. The Rockies need to make drastic changes in order to take on those two powerhouses (and the Giants aren’t exactly slouches), and those changes should have begun on Friday. Instead, they sat on their hands, losing a golden opportunity to kick-start a return to competitiveness for a franchise that has reached the playoffs just five times in 28 seasons and has still never won a division title. Colorado did make one trade during deadline week, sending reliever Mychal Givens and his expiring contract to the Reds for a pair of fringe pitching prospects. But that’s not starting a re-build or, if that term strikes you as too strong, re-tooling the roster so much as it is taking care of some necessary chores. And while Givens departed, there were other players rumored to be on the move who ended up staying put. Holding on to Jon Gray is a curious decision. The team hasn’t earned the benefit of anybody’s doubt, but let’s give it to them in the case of Gray, who has publicly stated his desire to stay in Colorado. Player comfort leads to better player performance, and if they can sign him to an extension, this makes sense. The jury can still be out on that one. But Daniel Bard still being the teams’ closer on August 1 is significantly more difficult to explain. Again, there is surely some loyalty here, and the Rockies deserve some credit for getting Bard back on the mound and finding a decent late-inning option in the process, but as a free agent following the 2022 season (a season in which Colorado will almost certainly not contend), the club just squandered Bard’s peak trade value, and yet another chance to boost a farm system that is among the worst in baseball. Rockies leadership tries to say the right things (we’ll ignore the club’s strange insistence that this is a very talented team that has simply underperformed), like that they are excited about the young core in their starting rotation, and that they want to spend this winter trying to improve the offense. You know, the offense that could use a guy like Nolan Arenado, who was jettisoned in a move that seemed to be at least somewhat driven by a clash with management just two years after signing a Rockie-for-life extension. Or the offense that would benefit from a contact-driven machine like DJ LeMahieu. At least there, owner Dick Monfort admitted the team erred by allowing LeMahieu to sign elsewhere when he inked a two-year deal with the Yankees prior to the 2019 season that was below industry expectations. But trying to say the right thing hasn’t translated to good process or results, and now we can add Trevor Story to the list of playoff-caliber players looking forward to getting out of Denver. Maybe they really do believe that the compensatory draft pick they’ll receive when Story departs in free agency after being tagged with a qualifying offer is better than the deadline offers they had in hand. Story’s 2021 performance certainly led to a depressed market for the shortstop. But it’s nearly impossible to believe that no team was willing to offer a prospect, or a package of prospects, with greater value than a pick in the 30s. Not to mention that that player (or players) would immediately become a Rockie and hopefully begin his path to the big leagues, while the player Colorado gets with a 2022 compensation pick won’t even begin his pro career until a year from now, thus further delaying any hope for a return to competitiveness. Despite their struggles as a franchise, the Rockies have never had a full front office turnover. The people in charge can be traced, family-tree style, to the team’s origins. In terms of their strategy, behavior and responsiveness, other clubs have found them somewhere between confusing and frustrating to work with for years. There is nothing wrong with zigging when other teams zag, but at times the Rockies operate with seemingly no understanding of the Major League Baseball rule set, or what must be done within it to build a good roster. And to be clear, I feel bad for Bill Schmidt, the team’s vice president of scouting who currently serves as the interim general manager. With front office personnel departing the organization left and right over the last 12 months, he was put in an exceptionally difficult spot. He’s a well-respected talent evaluator and a well-liked person who was placed in an absolutely untenable situation; it’s like being made captain of the Titanic, but only after it hits the iceberg. I can’t help but think that his activity (or more accurately, unforgivable inactivity) during deadline week rests on the shoulders of Monfort, who at times seems to care more about optics than winning. Those optics took a severe hit when a visibly upset Story expressed his frustration and confusion with the situation, talked about the toll it has taken on his on-field performance, and pulled himself from Friday’s lineup. Bud Black spoke after the deadline about how the team needed to score more runs. He’s certainly not wrong, as the Rockies entered the week 10th in the National League in on-base percentage and ninth in slugging despite playing half of their games at Coors Field. No position player has accumulated as much as 2 WAR on the season; their best qualified hitter has been Brendan Rodgers, who has a wRC+ of 103. The third overall pick in the 2015 draft, at age 24 Rodgers feels like he’s begun to turn a corner. His wild approach is now merely aggressive, and the power potential is starting to show up in games. He’s beginning to look very much like a building block kind of player and he doesn’t reach free agency until after the 2025 season. But based on what we’ve seen from the Rockies over the past five years, and their inability to project anything close to a competent organization, chances are much better than he’ll just become the next disillusioned, talented infielder looking for a way out of the Mile High City.