5 priorities for Rockies' interim GM

April 27th, 2021

DENVER -- Whoever becomes the Rockies’ interim general manager in the wake of Jeff Bridich’s departure on Monday has a chance to impact the franchise’s next phase.

The timing of Bridich’s resignation is complicated. The decision to wait until after the season to officially replace Bridich is sound, since that will give the organization time to talk to candidates not attached to another team. But what happens between now and then will impact that candidate -- or candidates, should the Rockies add an experienced baseball executive and a GM to lighten the load on the club president.

The team, which has an 8-14 record going into Tuesday night at San Francisco, is struggling, but it holds potential free agents who could improve the team’s future through trades -- shortstop Trevor Story, pitchers Jon Gray and Mychal Givens and, less likely, given his investment in the franchise, outfielder Charlie Blackmon.

That’s where the interim GM, who should be named within days, becomes a crucial figure. Here are five principles to keep in mind:

1) Make an investment in the future
The Rockies’ loyalty to their employees has been criticized, especially when the team goes through rough times on the field. But it can also be an asset, and owner Dick Monfort will expect that from the caretaker GM and that person’s staff.

Last season, through a difficult pandemic economy, Monfort did not lay off or cut the pay of a single full-time employee. Now, everyone in the baseball operations department faces the uncertainty of knowing a new regime is coming. Nevertheless, they must be invested -- even if they’re not certain they will be around.

2) Get to evaluating
The trade of third baseman Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals was essentially a salary dump, forced by a player who wanted out, to a team that wanted him but was right to demand help paying such a hefty salary. Because of all this, St. Louis could lower its price.

Now the Rockies have some leverage. Teams evaluating Story, Gray, et al. are trying to get to the World Series. Colorado can ask high.

You figure the Rockies would need a Major Leaguer or a Major League-ready prospect, plus other prospects -- preferably players they won’t have to protect on their 40-man roster after the 2021 season -- in a trade for someone like Story. But, with no Minor League season and no access to other teams’ alternate training sites, there was no way to evaluate younger prospects on other teams during the 2020 season. It would have been a move made largely in the dark.

Now, with the Minor League season about to start, the Rockies can get a more complete picture of potential acquisitions.

The Rockies held together their pro and amateur scouting staffs through the pandemic. Now they can make the decision pay off in shrewd evaluations.

3) Give the Minors full attention
Public opinion on the Rockies' Minor League system isn't particularly high. Praise toward Colorado prospects doesn't extend much beyond unseen outfielder Zac Veen (No. 46 MLB Pipeline, No. 1 Rockies), who was last year’s top Draft pick, and left-handed starter Ryan Rolison (No. 2 Rockies), the 2018 top pick.

But during Spring Training, outfielder Ryan Vilade (No. 4), corner infielder Colton Welker and relievers Lucas Gilbreath and Justin Lawrence showed enough talent to potentially be part of the team later this season. More importantly, they could be future pieces on a club that will be looking to control its payroll, no matter who becomes GM. Lefty Helcris Olivarez (No. 7) is also teeming with potential.

With each player, the development this year has to be meticulous and the evaluations have to be fresh and accurate so that any new baseball personnel understand the talent level.

Also, it’s a feather in the current baseball department’s cap if an unheralded prospect becomes the next Story -- who was not on the prospect radar before he made an impact in 2016.

4) Improve the relationship with the fans and media
The hard feelings of the Arenado trade have been dissected to death. The lesson should be that transparency must improve. Fans have been displeased with the product on the field the last two years, but an underlying cause for the anger is that decisions were made to keep them in the dark about the team’s plans.

If the Rockies have to shop their best players now to enhance the future, they'd benefit from telling everyone -- even if reaction is negative. Monfort and new club president Greg Feasel can help with this attitude by keeping stand-up baseball people around when the new hires are made.

5) Foster some fun
Manager Bud Black has stepped up as the public face of the team, offering assurances that all will be OK. The person running the baseball operations in the interim can let the fans and players know that Rockies baseball is going to be fun.

Yes, players are going to be evaluated closely. But some of the low service-time players will be counted on to win in the future. Embrace them and let them play with freedom.