Bridich willing to spend for Rockies to contend
national harbor, md.» Despite six consecutive losing seasons, Rockies fans have kept the faith. Attendance at Coors Field last season averaged 32,129 per game — 2.6 million total — to rank 11th in the majors.
Now, perhaps, fans will be rewarded with increased offseason investment and team building.
When the Rockies hired Bud Black as their new manager last month, owner Dick Monfort said: “Our payroll will be higher this year. It will be a record this year.”
At the winter meetings here this week, general manager Jeff Bridich told the MLB Network, “Maybe (a higher payroll) makes us be a little more aggressive and maybe a little bit more opportunistic than we’ve typically been used to over the past four, five or six years.
“It’s a lot of fun. I think it’s good for us … in some ways to be uncomfortable and do some things differently that we have done in the past.”
Words are cheap, of course, but there is evidence the Rockies are ready to make a big move. Bridich, for example, has not taken the Rockies out of the mix for high-priced, free-agent first baseman Mark Trumbo, despite a reported price tag in the four-year, $80 million range.
According to Bridich, he and Monfort are working on the Rockies’ blueprint together.
“We are totally in lockstep on all of this. Dick and I communicate every single day, literally,” Bridich said, then
added: “We are not just talking about … our payroll growing because we are planning on turning around and doing the exact opposite. We are talking about that because we believe that will happen, and we are expecting it to happen over the next few years.”
The Rockies finished the 2016 season with a payroll of about $120.5 million, which ranked 19th in the majors, according to Spotrac.com. With the Rockies believing they are on the verge of contention, those numbers should improve.
The Rockies, however, already have some major salaries on the books. Their highest-paid player in 2017 will be New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, who was part of the 2015 Troy Tulowitzki trade and is still owed $22 million by Colorado. Currently, the Rockies have earmarked about $75 million, including $20 million for right fielder Carlos Gonzalez, as well as the money owed Reyes. Additionally, third baseman Nolan Arenado, center fielder Charlie Blackmon and starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood all are scheduled to get major raises through arbitration.
Bridich’s chief projects now are acquiring a power- hitting first baseman and shoring up a bullpen that had an MLB-worst 5.13 ERA last season. To the former end, the club has had talks with representatives for Trumbo, as well as free agent Edwin Encarnacion. Also, Bridich confirmed the Rockies have had “very preliminary” talks about making a deal with the Chicago White Sox for slugger Jose Abreu.
Should the Rockies actually sign either Trumbo or Encarnacion, they would lose a first-round, No. 11 overall draft pick next summer because both players received qualifying offers from their former teams. Encarnacion’s asking price is probably higher than Trumbo’s. He turned down Toronto’s four-year, $80 million offer and, according to multiple media reports, wants a five-year contract.
Bridich has also acknowledged interest in less costly free-agent first basemen, including Chris Carter, Mitch Moreland and Mike Napoli. Colorado remains in touch with Mark Reynolds, who batted .282 and hit 14 homers for the Rockies last season.
Both Bridich and Black have said that Colorado’s closer could already be inhouse, with right-hander Adam Ottavino as the frontrunner, but acquiring a reliever who would “play a significant role” is high on Colorado’s wish list.
“Are we interested in guys who can help us man the eighth and ninth innings, and make us better in those innings? Absolutely,” Bridich said.