The Rockies got a jump-start on their offseason plans a week ago, signing Antonio Senzatela to a five-year deal and CJ Cron for two years.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of work that needs to be done. They still have more free agents to try to re-sign, a front office to fill out and acquisitions to potentially make.
Talk to Trevor Story
As of the last day of the season, there had been no communication between the front office and Trevor Story about his future in the organization.
“He knows how we feel about him,” said Bill Schmidt on Oct. 2, a few hours after he officially became the Rockies’ general manager.
But being told an organization loves him is not the same as being offered the type of contract that will keep said player in town. Story, a free agent at the conclusion of the season, wants a long-term deal with a team that he feels is committed to winning. The Rockies are only expected to give him a qualifying offer, which, if he turns down, will give the team an extra draft pick next year.
Fill out front office
The Rockies can put a checkmark next to general manager, promoting Schmidt before the season ended without conducting a search. They also gave Zack Rosenthal and Danny Montgomery new titles, adding vice president to both of their business cards. Rosenthal will still oversee baseball operations and be the assistant general counsel. Montgomery, who has worked by Schmidt's side for over 20 years, will continue to evaluate talent, just now as the assistant general manager of scouting.
Next comes filling out the rest of the front office. The Rockies operated with a small front office this season, especially after losing two assistant general managers a month before the trade deadline. One of those, Jon Weil, was their top scout and was in charge of evaluating players for potential trades. He resigned after being told his contract would not be renewed, a source said.
Zach Wilson, the other former assistant general manager, oversaw the farm system. His duties were reassigned to Chris Forbes.
“There’s people here still,” Schmidt said in his press conference immediately after the trade deadline in July, when they did not make any major moves. “We are not short handed.”
Schmidt has made one major hire so far, tapping Scott Van Lenten as the director of research and development in August, when Schmidt still had the interim tag. Van Lenten is in the midst of hiring new personnel, and also plans to make an internal promotion to complete his staff.
Schmidt said there’s no timetable for making hires in other departments, but said solidifying the scouting and player development departments are his first priorities. Schmidt said he does not know what the structure of the front office is going to look like yet.
“It’s not how big we are, it’s having the right people,” Schmidt said.
“Someone will run the farm system,” he added. “Somebody is going to replace me.”
Other free agents
Cron is locked up. Now comes Jon Gray, who’s extension talks started back in July but so far haven’t amounted to much. Gray is looking for a three to four-year deal, he said.
The Rockies also have Jhoulys Chacín, the journeyman reliever who ended up back on the team that drafted him this season. He told the Gazette that he would also like to return to the Rockies, if given the opportunity. He performed well, one bad night in Chicago aside, and fit nicely into his new role as a late-inning reliever. Chacín also provided valuable leadership in a very inexperienced bullpen.
"I would love to come back," Chacín said. "This has always been home to me."
Chris Owings, who spent most of the season on the injured list, is also set to become a free agent. When healthy, Owings can be an experienced hitter and a versatile defender, with the ability to play almost every position. He’s playing winter ball in Mexico to try to make up for some lost at-bats.
Find more help
The Rockies are not the Dodgers, as Schmidt pointed out recently, making a reference to the major trade and free agent accusations their National League West rivals have made in recent years, including adding Max Scherzer, Trea Turner and Mookie Betts to their roster.
The Rockies still plan to operate as a scout, draft and develop organization. But even Schmidt could admit that the team is not where they want to be, and their top minor league talent is still down in instructional leagues learning how to be a professional baseball player. They’ll need some help until they're ready for the majors, and with a depleted Triple-A and Double-A teams, that will have to come from trades or free agent signings.
That, of course, will require spending money. Their opening day payroll in 2021 was $105,575,629, 18th in the league, compared to $145,248,500 in 2019, 12th in the league during the last full season. The economic toll of the pandemic is to blame, president and chief operating officer Greg Feasel said, and they hope to be back up to their 2019 level by the 2023 season.
On their list is a power outfielder and more bullpen help. With Story likely on his way out soon, they also could use an extra infielder. And a team can never have too much starting pitching depth, especially if talks with Gray continue to go astray.