Schmidt balancing present, future with Rox

June 13th, 2021

CINCINNATI -- Rockies interim general manager Bill Schmidt’s job is much like a parts inspector, mainly trying to figure which current players can fit into a future winning team.

On Sunday afternoon at Great American Ball Park, it meant staying the course despite watching the Rockies lose to the Reds, 6-2. Colorado was swept in three games and went 1-5 on the road trip to fall to 5-27 away from Coors Field.

But Schmidt’s task is the same.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out, where they are as you go through what our roster looks like, and how we can improve our roster?” Schmidt said on Sunday. “From a 40-man roster standpoint, what pieces do we need that maybe we don’t have internally? Or knowing what we can add through the Draft, that becomes important.”

Schmidt, who was announced on May 3 as interim replacement for Jeff Bridich (who stepped down), is careful to keep the present in perspective and not make mistakes in the emotion of a moment that isn’t good.

Here is a look at five of Schmidt’s thoughts and challenges:

1) Starting pitching is a strength, and holding it together is a priority

Schmidt’s entire posture is to be careful not to overreact to a snapshot. He chuckled about making this assessment after the last four games in which Chi Chi González, Kyle Freeland and Germán Márquez and Antonio Senzatela (six innings and five earned runs on Sunday) combined for a 13.05 ERA. However, the staff has pitched well at Coors Field and decently in general, and the four-plus-year run of Márquez, Freeland, Jon Gray and Senzatela has arguably been the best in club history.

Gray is a free agent at season’s, end, which means trade speculation -- although he has expressed a desire to stay with the club.

Can the Rockies hold the rotation together?

“Ideally you'd like to, but what we want to do and what other people's thoughts are might be completely different,” Schmidt said. ”But it's important because it's tough to put on staff together in Colorado. And Jeff did a good job putting together a starting rotation.

“Ideally, will we keep some of the pieces? You’re not going to keep them all. But Jon Gray, Freeland, Márquez, Senzatela, Austin Gomber [acquired from the Cardinals in the Nolan Arenado trade], that’s a pretty good rotation."

2) MLB Draft

Schmidt's evaluation of the team’s performance in the MLB Draft (which he has run since 2000) is more comprehensive than the current snapshot. The last week hasn’t been pretty, as Riley Pint (No. 4 overall, 2016) joined fellow recent high Draft pick pitchers Mike Nikorak (2015, second round) and Robert Tyler (2015, 38th overall) in announcing their retirements.

Postseason teams throughout franchise history, especially the 2007 World Series club and the ‘17 and ‘18 teams, were heavy on players developed by the club. But when they haven’t hit on stars and depth at the same time, the Rockies have struggled.

Established players Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon, and players moving into the everyday category, namely Ryan McMahon and Raimel Tapia, are simply not enough for a winner.

But Schmidt believes in the philosophy of filling most depth roles internally, rather than sign and trade. The philosophy and the look for the roster leads him to say, “We’ve drafted and developed as well as anybody in the industry.”

None of that means Colorado doesn’t have to improve.

“You want to add talent at the top, and you want to add talent at the bottom,” Schmidt said. “That’s what we’re going to try to do, continue to add talent to what we have.”

3) How they’ll add talent

Speculation is Story, possibly some veteran relievers, maybe even Gray could move by the July 30 Trade Deadline. But Schmidt isn’t putting a “For Sale” sign up on his 40-man roster page.

But this much is known: While the Arenado trade (in which Schmidt was not involved) was clearly financial -- the Rockies sent the Cardinals $51 million but escaped $149 million -- Schmidt said the team’s current hand is not forced by money.

“At the end of the day it’s going to come down to, what are they offering?” Schmidt said. “I’ve said this to some others. If we keep Trevor and make the qualifying offer, that was where we took Trevor Story [45th overall in 2011 as compensation when free agent Octavio Dotel left]. That’s where we took Nolan Arenado and Ryan McMahon [actually lower, as second-rounders].

“I trust our ability to make a good pick.”

4) Talk of comp pick is no guarantee the Rockies will stay pat

The immediate question last offseason was if the Rockies dealt Arenado, why not Story? Problem was with no Minor League games in 2020, how does a team evaluate the bounty it would have to receive?

“I can’t speak for last year, but I have confidence in our people, and we have them evaluating our own organization as well as other organizations,” Schmidt said. “We’re ready if opportunities present themselves.”

Story has not found his timing since returning from an 11-game absence due to a right elbow injury. After going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts on Sunday, Story is 1-for-14 with seven strikeouts since coming off the injured list on Thursday.

5) What changes would he make as GM?

Schmidt said upon receiving the appointment that he wants to be considered for the full-time GM job. But he isn’t commenting directly on changes and additions he would make to the organization.

Many observers believe the Rockies need to beef up their statistical analysis and ability to collect and apply data, for example. Such increases will have to be agreed upon by baseball leadership, however that ends up looking, along with club president Greg Feasel and owner Dick Monfort.

“We’re not at the point where I can say where we are, but I will say that in all areas, we’ve got to continue to grow,” Schmidt said.