Colorado Rockies: Understanding who’s running my team

SCOTTSDALE, CO - FEBRUARY 22: Colorado Rockies Jeff Bridich, Senior Vice President & General Manager attends the teams workout on February 22, 2018 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
SCOTTSDALE, CO - FEBRUARY 22: Colorado Rockies Jeff Bridich, Senior Vice President & General Manager attends the teams workout on February 22, 2018 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images) /

One of a series of articles looking at the front office structure of each major league team. Let’s take a closer look at the Colorado Rockies.

Colorado Rockies

  • Owners: Charles and Richard Monfort
  • Executive Vice President and General Manager: Jeff Bridich

Charles Monfort made his money in meatpacking along the Front Range of the Rockies before obtaining a minority share of the new Rockies franchise in 1993. He and his older brother, Richard, bought out principal owner Jerry McMorris in December of 2005, and have held controlling interest since then.

Save for retaining control of the purse strings, the Monforts have in most aspects generally been hands-off owners. Notably, in an era of ever-expanding front office hierarchies, they have tended to resist the urge to grow the bureaucracy.

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The sole exception came in 2012 when the Monforts promoted Bill Geivett, then an assistant general manager, to a new position of “director of major league operations.” Geivett and general manager Dan O’Dowd clashed, the result being that by the 2015 season both had left the organization and Geivett’s position had been eliminated. Jeff Bridich, the team’s director of player development, was promoted to the GM post.

Bridich, 42, is a Harvard grad who began as an intern in the MLB office and was hired by the Colorado Rockies to run their minor league operations in 2004.

The most recent Forbes valuation marks the Rockies as a $1.2 billion enterprise, essentially triple the value of a decade ago.

Among the 30 major league teams, that ranks 22nd, classifying Colorado on the lower fringes of mid-market. Revenues have over-performed that classification. The team brought in $291 million in 2019, 10th best. That’s up $108 million, or 59 percent, from a decade ago.

The problem isn’t revenue, it’s expenses. Last year the team committed about $179 million of that $291 million, easily a team record, to player salaries, a 61.5 percent fraction that will set off alarm bells in any front office. The projection this year is to pare the opening day total down to about $174 million, although if the Rockies move Nolan Arenado as is being rumored the payroll will fall even more.

On the field, Bridich’s record is mixed. On the plus side, the Rockies have qualified for two post-seasons on his watch, reaching as a wild card in both 2017 and 2018.

The downside is that although Bridich has generally enjoyed a free hand with respect to player decisions, he hasn’t always used it wisely. In four of his five seasons as general manager, Bridich’s moves have cost Colorado value as measured by Wins Above Average*. That negative impact has averaged -4.14 games.

The shame is that the Monforts have given him a relatively free budget hand, allowing him to accelerate payroll from $98 million in O’Dowd’s last season to that $179 million number in 2019. He’s brought in such free agents as Greg Holland ($6 million), Chris Iannetta (two years, $8 million), Mark Reynolds (three times for $5.1 million), Ian Desmond (six years, $83 million) and Wade Davis (four years, $68 million). The improvements simply haven’t taken.

Colorado Rockies operations are also hampered by one element outside their control, and we’re not talking about the altitude. For reasons known only to MLB offices, Colorado derives just $462 million of its franchise value from the sport’s revenue-sharing system. Does that sound like a lot? It’s not. The MLB average is $532 million and Colorado’s portion ranks 27th, ahead of only Cleveland, Atlanta, and Houston.

Their buddies in the NL West all draw substantially more from Park Avenue, from $533 million for the Diamondbacks all the way up to $597 million for the Giants. It doesn’t help that the Rockies are also lower-half in all the team-centered measurements of wealth, notably stadium, brand, and market-related revenues.

In combination, that ensures that Colorado remains the poorest team in its division.

What has remained healthy in Denver is fan interest. The Rockies have not fallen below 2.5 million in attendance since 2007 – ironically the only year they played in the World Series—and they’ve averaged about 2.8 million for the most recent decade.

Given that Colorado’s $63 per fan revenue is the game’s ninth highest, it can’t be said that Denverites haven’t been supportive.

Related Story. Rockies: 3 viable trade options for Nolan Arenado. light

*This calculation is obtained by determining the net impact of all player transactions on team performance for the season(s) in question. Wins Above Average is a zero-based offshoot if Wins Above Replacement; thus, the final figure suggests the degree of positive or negative movement in the standings attributable to front office moves.