A little over a week ago, the Rockies squandered yet another trade deadline keeping their expensive, aging, and frustrated stars, and effectively doing nothing to prepare for the future.
Since their NLDS exit in 2018, the Rockies have been mired in obscurity, irrelevant, and player drama. That quick playoff exit in the NLDS, a 3-0 sweep at the hands of the Brewers, was the last time Colorado was relevant in the National League West.
Despite not being competitive, and being in one of the most difficult divisions in the game, Colorado chose inertia over making any deals for the future at the trade deadline. They chose to keep nearly everyone whose contract expires at the end of the year, regardless of their value to a contending team.
Colorado will finish the season with reliever Daniel Bard, who has been a serviceable reliever with both an ERA and FIP better-than-league average, first baseman CJ Cron, who is on a one-year $1 million deal, and starter Jon Gray, whose contract also expires at the end of the season. Most egregiously, they decided not to move All Star shortstop Trevor Story, who has made it abundantly clear he’s likely to leave the Mile High City and not look back once his contract expires.
The team said they hoped Bard would be ‘part of the future’, which frankly is a rather bizarre position on a 36-year-old relief pitcher whose value to a contender is far greater than it is to the Rockies at present.
Story of course was the biggest deadline surprise, as he is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, and clearly would have been an asset for a contending team as an infield rental who hits for power, steals bases, and plays a decent shortstop.
The Rockies are under no obligation to send Story, or any other player packing. Teams don’t move players at their own behest, but this is less about making players happy and more about operational competence. Not trading a player with an expiring contract in a season in which the team isn’t close to sniffing the playoffs is pure negligence. Keeping Story is not only unfair to him and his teammates, who end up having to suit-up with a player who obviously doesn’t want to be there, but from an operational standpoint, this is a really bad baseball move.
Rightly or wrongly, Story publicly condemned the non-move, telling the Denver Post, “I’m confused and I don’t have really anything good to say about the situation and how [the trade deadline] unfolded.”
Regardless of the state of the Rockies farm system, it makes sense to add lottery tickets and high-ceiling / low-probability players, and others. Considering MLB.com ranks Colorado as having the third-worst farm system in baseball makes matters that much worse. Coming into the season the Rox had only one top-100 prospect (who ranked 54th by the way), and weren’t exactly lighting the world on fire since their most recent classes matriculated to MLB with much success (Story, Gray, Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, etc. etc.).
The Rockies seem to have botched the 2021 deadline and they won’t have that same opportunity again. The meage compensation they’ll get back for letting Story waltz into free agency at the end of the year pales in comparison to getting a few players back in exchange.
It’s unclear what the Rockies’ front office plan is to get the team back into contention, but next year this team is likely projected at the bottom-of-the-pack in the National League, and there’s no reason to think that will change anytime in the near future.