Colorado Rockies: a reserved approach to free agency

Colorado Rockies (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Colorado Rockies (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) /
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Major League Baseball free agency and the general construction of teams can be broken down into three categories.

The first is the easiest for fans to digest; those teams considered big spenders. Think the Los Angeles Dodgers or New York Yankees.

The middle group consists of teams opting to contend but perhaps burdened by budgetary constraints.

In the third group are teams in rebuild mode. It’s time to officially place the Colorado Rockies into this last grouping. Colorado and its front office have taken a rather reserved approach to free agency. In fact, the Rockies haven’t signed a major league talent in free agency since Daniel Murphy back in December of 2018.

Colorado Rockies take a slow approach to MLB free agency

As Patrick Lyons of DNVR Rockies points out, that means it’s been close to 800 days since the Rockies made a major splash in free agency. More than two years.

Looking at the big picture, it’s hard to understand how the Rockies now find themselves in the middle of a rebuild. In both 2017 and 2018, Colorado won close to 90 games while earning MLB postseason berths. These rosters consisted of All-Star caliber talent like DJ LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, Adam Ottavino, and Charlie Blackmon. So, what exactly happened?

Despite the postseason appearances, Colorado failed to make any serious runs at World Series contention. In 2017, the Rockies lost in the Wild Card game. The following year, Colorado was swept in the Division Series. Then, the talent began to disappear.

Of those talented names, only Story and Blackmon remain. LeMahieu opted for greener pastures following the conclusion of the 2018 campaign, signing a two-year deal with the Yankees. In this process, the Rockies failed to provide the second baseman with any serious incentive to stay. Ottavino, perhaps seen by Rockies’ management as an aging reliever, joined LeMahieu in New York. Unfortunately for Colorado, the reliever enjoyed a solid run of success during the past two seasons.

The biggest blow came one month ago when Colorado shipped off its biggest talent, Arenado, to the St. Louis Cardinals for a measly return. Simply put, this deal was bad on the Rockies’ part. After signing Arenado to an eight-year, $260 million extension ahead of the 2019 campaign, the front office sent him to St. Louis for a few mid-level prospects. Colorado’s front office even agreed to pay more than $50 million of Arenado’s remaining deal.

Signing one of the league’s top third baseman to a lengthy extension was just step one in the process of truly competing. The Rockies misunderstood the remaining steps of this process, which includes adding a talented roster around the superstar. Arenado quickly grew unhappy before the Rockies understood his time in Colorado was rapidly ending.

This goes back to the front office’s painstakingly slow approach to free agency. Over the past two years, the Rockies were not completely absent in free agency. The club signed contracts with several players including Chris Owings, C.J. Cron, Greg Bird, and Drew Butera. However, these signings came as minor league deals and featured players with unproven MLB talent.

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It’s time for the full rebuild in Colorado. It remains unclear if Blackmon and Story will see the other side of this rebuild, but fans should prepare themselves for a few long seasons of below-average baseball.