DENVER -- Here are some items to watch in the early days of Jeff Bridich's time as the Rockies' general manager, based on conversations with various sources familiar with the situation:
Bridich will need an assistant GM, and a new player development director to take Bridich's old spot. Also, manager Walt Weiss will have discussions with Bridich to solidify next season's coaching staff.
Bridich, 37, is part of a younger group of club officials who are expected to have greater roles. Some of these officials in statistic analysis, contract negotiation and scouting areas were graduating to expanded duties. Even before the change, Weiss actively sought their information and assessments.
Weiss and former Rockies senior director of Major League operations Bill Geivett had exit interviews with players to set offseason expectations. With Bridich's voice carrying weight, he will meet with Weiss and talk to players who have scattered. Out of this discussion must come a cohesive strategy for trades and free-agency pursuits.
What is the role of ownership involvement
While there is no way to truly know without being in the meetings, the perception from the outside has been Geivett and former general manager/chief baseball officer Dan O'Dowd took information from the baseball side to owner, chairman and CEO Dick Monfort, and the info was hashed out until Monfort was comfortable with the decisions.
With a different structure, will Bridich make more decisions before they reach Monfort? What types of decisions will need to have ownership's direct involvement? Will Weiss's voice carry increased weight?
All questions about the process pale in comparison to the need that the decisions be sound.
Where do advanced analytics fit?
With the attention media pays to the role of advanced analytics on winning teams, the perception exists that they're ignored on struggling teams, but such an old school vs. new school scenario rarely is reality-based. Here's how it has been done in Colorado:
Weiss spent offseasons doing homework on the stats, ones that are common in the analytics community and ones the Rockies have devised that are unique to their roster and playing conditions (which they don't reveal publicly). During the year, the team's analysts share their findings daily with Weiss and the coaching staff, and Weiss said they were used in strategy and coaching. Analysts were not present in the strategy meetings, but their findings were.
By applying logic and talking to people familiar with the organization, the at-bat that creates runs or run-scoring opportunities, which can be called a team at-bat, carries heavier weight than other traditional measures. In their three playoff years, they had road batting averages of .247 (1995), .261 (2007) and .235 (2009) -- a wide variance. But in those years they averaged, respectively, 4.21, 4.71 and 4.19 runs per game.
Does Bridich, who meshes an analytics bent with a scout's eye, emphasize different measures that could affect strategy for free agency and trades?
How about the current roster?
We have offseason to consider questions. Here are some:
• Were catcher Michael McKenry and outfielders Corey Dickerson and Drew Stubbs as good as their offensive numbers, which blew away their previous performance?
• Did injuries cause catcher Wilin Rosario's offensive numbers to dip? Is his best output on offense enough to make up for defensive issues?
• How valuable are DJ LeMahieu's defensive metrics at the important second base position (according to the Fangraphs.com his 2014 defensive calculation ranked fourth in the Majors behind the Red Sox's Dustin Pedroia, the Tigers' Ian Kinsler and the Rays' Ben Zobrist). Does his offense lower his overall value to the middle of the pack?
• After a season of dramatic highs and lows in his first wire-to-wire season in the Majors, what can be projected out of center fielder Charlie Blackmon?
• Does late callup Ben Paulsen, who intends to add outfield play to his first-base skills, deserve an expanded role based on his run production in a small sample?
Frontline starters aren't going to flock to the Rockies or charge less than marked-up prices to pitch at altitude just because there's a new GM. But when the Rockies find creative ways to add impact to the rotation or the bullpen, can they do so without taking guys with risky injury backgrounds?
Take for example three pitchers whose seasons ended because of injuries -- righty starter Tyler Chatwood (Tommy John surgery to right elbow ligament), lefty reliever Boone Logan (left elbow cleanup), and lefty starter Brett Anderson (back surgery). All had signs of injury possibility. Chatwood had Tommy John surgery in high school, and the ligament put in his elbow then was at the stage where many break down. Logan had an elbow cleanup last October, but the Rockies signed him to a three-year, $16.5 million deal. Anderson had a long history of injuries -- elbow, foot, ankle -- with the Athletics before the Rockies acquired him last winter.
The biggest pitching decision is Anderson's $12 million club option for 2015. Do the Rockies exercise it knowing the injury history, or pass and seek a free agent of similar talent -- no doubt for more than one year and with a greater total salary commitment?
Even if they retain Anderson, the Rockies need to add impact in the rotation and the bullpen. And the decision to go with Bridich rather than bring in an outsider to remake the club and payroll means they're unlikely to deal shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, signed through 2020, and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, signed through 2017 -- stars whose 2014 seasons ended with August surgeries.
Anything can change. Gonzalez's contract makes him a more attractive trade target. But trading either before they have a chance to prove their health might not be possible, anyhow.
Still, impact pitching that can stay healthy screams as a need.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page, Thomas Harding and Friends at www.Rockies.com.