SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich on Tuesday said he is united with unhappy third baseman Nolan Arenado on the subject that counts.
“The reason that we come together every Spring Training is to start focusing on becoming the best team that we can become,” Bridich said.
Bridich, who had previously declined to discuss the rift with Arenado -- the $260 million star who was the subject of trade rumors and expressed his discontent in January, all stemming from a 71-win 2019 -- spoke at length during his Cactus League Media Day availability. Bridich said he and Arenado have not sat together, and he won’t say what they will talk about when they do.
But on Tuesday, Bridich addressed the rift, to a point. And like many involved with the Rockies, he was happy to move on to other subjects. Here are his views on Arenado and other subjects:
Relationship with Arenado
Bridich said he is sorry the situation with Arenado “has caused them angst.” Arenado characterized the Rockies’ position as “disrespect,” but Bridich would not comment on the personal nature of the rift.
“Sometimes there are professional disagreements,” Bridich said. “But apart from that, we’ve never really handled things internally publicly. A lot of that is out of respect to the organization, it’s out of respect to the players in the organization, and I think it’s appropriate that a lot of inner-team business is kept inside. That’s a big reason why I haven’t been out making statements.”
Arenado’s long-term deal
Bridich fondly remembered last year, when the club and Arenado announced the eight-year contract. He believes once the season gets going, Arenado will be a winning player on what he hopes is a winning team.
“You think back to less than a year ago, when we were on the dais, talking about the extension, and all those things that we said publicly in terms of the elite level of talent … the elite-level work, work ethic and his own expectation to play well, to be one of the best players in the game,” Bridich said. “All of that still rings true right now.
“There's absolutely no wavering in our mind whatsoever.”
The window of contention
With Arenado possessing an opt-out after 2021, shortstop Trevor Story signed through then and righty pitcher Jon Gray under club control for the same period, it looks like a tight window. A poor start this year would lead to trade speculation at the July 31 Trade Deadline. Bridich, however, said he’s not thinking that way.
“The great thing about each new season, or each new Spring Training is that there is a sense of belief in the group, a sense of looking around and having this group start to figure each other out,” Bridich said. “One of the nice things about this group is there are so many guys still here in ’17 and ’18 [for postseason trips]. There is a core here that knows what it takes to be a playoff-type team.”
The limited of turnover on the coaching staff -- the only change being Darryl Scott promoted from a coordinator spot to Major League bullpen coach -- is a plus, with the same people looking for new solutions.
“We trust our people to create solutions,” Bridich said. “It might be new solutions, new technologies. Sometimes, it might mean trying to teach old dogs new tricks, myself included -- constantly trying to learn and apply, and apply well.”
Beyond supporting Arenado, many players diplomatically said it would have been nice if the Rockies had brought in Major League experienced players via trade or free agency. Bridich said the winter was unusual, and the last three offseasons were “quite active.” But he’ll take player sentiment as a positive.
“I like that our players expect us to be good, expect us to be a playoff team,” Bridich said. “There are a lot of times during seasons and during offseasons -- this one included -- where [there’s] a call or a text, and they’ll say, ‘Hey, man, I played with this guy over here, and he’d be interested in coming.’
“Sometimes, that leads to things and sometimes it doesn’t. … I’m glad that our players in the Major League clubhouse are truly invested in our team.”