If everything goes right for the Rockies in 2021, they could very easily finish in fourth place in the NL West. Hey, if everything also goes wrong for the Diamondbacks and Giants, they could even finish in third place. That is to say, the immediate future looks pretty grim for Colorado and the outlook doesn’t get any sunnier beyond 2021. Trevor Story, who has put up 21 rWAR in five season with the team, will enter free agency at the end of the season. At the same time, Nolan Arenado, the fourth most valuable player in Rockies history, could opt out of the five years and $164 million that would be remaining on his contract.
It’s increasingly likely that one or both of these players will be traded before Opening Day, but the following statements can all be true:
- The Rockies will be bad in 2021.
- It’s unlikely that Story or Arenado will return in 2022.
- The Rockies should not trade Nolan Arenado or Trevor Story.
The only way the last statement would be wrong is if there is a zero percent chance that Story or Arenado will be Rockies in 2022 and beyond. The chance of that happening is likely closer to zero than it is to 100, but so long as Colorado has any hope of keeping them around, they should make every effort to do so.
In an article at The Athletic (subscription required), Nick Groke spelled out three reasons that the team is going to have trouble doing that, however. Revenue sharing was paused in 2020, and there’s a chance the 2021 season will be played without it. The Rockies had the second-lowest TV deal in the majors, and it appears that their new deal will be for less than owner Dick Monfort had hoped. Finally, the Rockies dug themselves into a hole with several other bad contracts. The Rockies still owe Ian Desmond $8 million of his now $55 million contract. Daniel Murphy’s club option was bought out for $6 million. Desmond has combined for -3.2 rWAR in a Rockies uniform while Murphy put up -0.9.
What these excuses boil down to is money, money, and incompetence. What a travesty it would be for Rockies fans if ownership told them, “Sorry we couldn’t keep the face of the franchise around. We’re too poor and inept. Anyway, we’re going to continue running your team into the dirt. kthxbye.” If Arenado and/or Story are shipped out, I somehow doubt the Rockies would continue to draw the sixth-highest attendance in baseball when fans are able to safely return to the ballpark.
In a just world, Dick Monfort and general manager Jeff Bridich would be leaving Colorado, not Arenado or Story. Monfort and Bridich could try to rebuild all they want, but the pair hasn’t shown that they won’t end up right back where they started. Monfort has been criticized as being too hands-on. Aside from getting Germán Márquez from the Rays, Bridich’s trade history has been lackluster and his free agent signings have been mostly a disaster. That doesn’t figure to improve any time soon.
Colorado’s analytics department, which was already one of the smallest in the majors, has been gutted by departures. As of December 9, the Rockies had two people in their research and development team as four of the six members left for jobs outside the sport. To the Rockies’ credit, they didn’t furlough or lay off their analytics department, but the fact that so many of them were willing to leave lends some credence to the theory that R&D wasn’t being listened to.
Bridich and Monfort could trade Arenado and/or Story, and sure, it might save them a few bucks and net a top-100 prospect or two. But there’s no guarantee that they could do anything with the resources they would gain in the trade. If the Rockies had a savvy front office, there’s an easier argument to be made for trading Arenado or Story given their predicament, but a savvy front office would have never gotten into a situation where having Arenado and Story on their team was a problem.
Kenny Kelly is the managing editor of Beyond the Box Score.