The Rockies Are Just Out There Doing Stuff
2:31 PM EDT on March 17, 2022
There is still plenty of time for other silly and surprising things to happen during MLB free agency, but for now there is one signing that is shaping up to be the most confounding of the offseason: Kris Bryant has signed with the Colorado Rockies for seven years and $182 million.
Do not mistake the Rockies splashing big money on a free agent who can still be reasonably described as a star player as some sort of signal that the team is suddenly serious about winning. The Rockies have spent before, on players who are both better and worse than Kris Bryant, and it has never added up to much of anything. And please do not mistake me for some drip who thinks that service-time manipulation and savvy payroll slashing are better or more virtuous ways to try and build a winning baseball team. It's good when team owners are willing to spend money on talented players who can help them win, even if they "overpay" those players from time to time. But when and how that money gets spent matters a great deal, and the Rockies have never put much thought into either of those factors.
Let us be kind to the Rockies, and not even point out the awkwardness of them signing a 30-year-old slugger who can play third base to a huge contract so quickly after they signed Nolan Arenado to a huge contract, totally alienated him, and then sent him and $50 million to the Cardinals in one of the most embarrassing trades in MLB history. There is a world in which replacing Arenado with Bryant could be seen as a bit of smart team-building, but that world would look very different from this one. In that world, the Rockies may have also re-signed frontline starter Jon Gray, who for inexplicable reasons really wanted to stay in Colorado, but went to the Rangers after receiving an insulting low-ball offer from the Rockies. The Rockies could have also possibly re-signed all-star shortstop Trevor Story, whose bat would pair very nicely with Bryant's in the middle of the order. Barring any of that happening, the Rockies might have at least traded Story and Gray at last year's trade deadline, exchanging them for the kind of prospects who might be able to move up to the big-league club relatively quickly and try to kickstart a short rebuild with Bryant leading the way.
The Rockies, of course, did none of those things. They just sat there and watched Story's and Gray's contracts expire, apparently happy to see them walk out the door while getting nothing in return. And where does that leave them? As a team that is demonstrably worse than the one that won 74 games last season, but with Bryant brought in to try and do ... what exactly? Get them into the playoffs? Sure! Anyone can dream!
For years now the Rockies have been a team that can't seem to decide whether it's rebuilding or competing, and it's led them into a stupid cycle in which a lot of money gets thrown at players who could theoretically help build a good competitive team, but then taking none of the additional steps that are required to go about building around them. If the Rockies were in charge of decorating your house, they'd wheel in a beautiful flatscreen TV that cost $1,200, and then whip out a set of camp chairs for you to sit down in and enjoy it from.
But hey, maybe the Rockies know something we don't. Maybe their always-shrinking analytics department identified some overlooked combination of factors that points to the team far exceeding its expectations this season, thus making it the perfect time to spend big on a player like Bryant. Let's turn to The Athletic's Nick Groke for some clarity on what motivated the Bryant signing:
Immediately after baseball’s lockout ended last week, the Rockies pounced on the idea of finally signing Bryant. They chased him aggressively, making it clear they were willing to spend a premium to make it happen.
By Monday, Colorado general manager Bill Schmidt, the former chief scout and draft boss who first lobbied to draft Bryant to Colorado nine years ago, pushed even firmer with Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras. With talk of money in the nine figures, the deal went to Monfort’s desk for approval.The Athletic
Ah, OK. So some guy who probably has spent every happy hour he's ever been to over the last decade telling people that he "always knew Kris Bryant was gonna be an MVP" was just looking for some perverse sense of vindication. Seems like a great way to run a professional baseball franchise.