Rockies extend closer Bard through 2024

July 31st, 2022

DENVER -- Faced with a choice, Daniel Bard opted not to start anew. That was fine with the Rockies, who don’t believe in restarts, regardless of what others might say. And it all worked out Saturday night at a sold-out Coors Field, when Bard locked down the ninth inning of a 5-3 victory over the National League West-leading Dodgers.

Bard, 37, reached a two-year, $19 million agreement with the club on Saturday, to not only avoid free agency at the end of the season but to make sure he was not swapped before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. MT Trade Deadline.

This deal began coming together around July 4, when Bard and general manager Bill Schmidt addressed the simple question: What did Bard want? Put that way, Bard and the Rockies set aside what everyone could see on their computer -- standings and stats, rumors and opinions -- and decided the best route was for humans involved to make it turn out right.

Let’s unpack:

1) Bard wouldn’t be here without the Rockies taking a chance on him in 2020, after he’d been out of the Majors for six full seasons because of control problems.
The first question of his Saturday press conference elicited an answer of nearly five minutes. With no orchestra to play him off, Bard thanked his wife and children, his agent, the Rockies’ ownership and front office, and his teammates. His voice cracked several times.

But he was dry-eyed and composed in expressing his belief in the strategy of holding together a core. Outfielder Kris Bryant is the most expensive of the group at six years and $182 million, but multi-year contracts also have gone to pitchers Germán Márquez, Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela, first baseman C.J. Cron, third baseman Ryan McMahon and catcher Elias Díaz -- a group the Rockies believe will win. On Saturday, Freeland’s six innings of three-run ball and a big night from Randal Grichuk (three hits and three RBIs, including a two-run triple off Clayton Kershaw, plus a run-saving catch in center in the sixth) provided a Rockies dream scenario.

“Hopefully, signing me is another show of that, that they’re committed to winning here over the next two years, and not any kind of rebuild or anything,” Bard said.

2) There’s no interest in a teardown.
The signings show that the Rockies’ way isn’t changing, even though times have been hard since postseason trips in 2017 and '18. But jettisoning core guys in hopes that a younger group will become core guys -- a strategy that has resulted in World Series championships only for the richest of franchises -- will not be the Rockies’ way.

“The history of this organization is such that you’ve seen these types of signings over the years,” manager Bud Black said. “We like a lot of our players, and in years moving forward you try to keep players you want to keep, then go out and try to sign a Kris Bryant like we did.

“This just falls in line with that type of philosophy.”

Then there's the matter of how to fill in around the core, as much of the organization's prospect depth is still below Double-A. While the Rockies have many times hit on complementary players, it hasn't always lined up with their years of contention.

“We’ve got to play better baseball than we’ve played, but we’ve got people that want to be here, and we’ll continue to grow,” Schmidt said.

Privately, multiple club officials said teardowns send a poor message to remaining players and rob them of role models of professionalism. Bard also believes teams owe something to the sport.

“People complain about all the overhauls going on across the league, and I don’t think it’s necessarily good for baseball to have 5-8 teams trying to do that all at the same time,” Bard said. “It’s not good for baseball, not good for the players. That’s one thing I’ve always respected about the Rockies -- there’s always an effort to win next year.”

3) It’s more than a transaction.
Bard touched on related subjects.

Being catapulted into a pennant race: “Something about that is exciting, being thrown into a new team, new market, a team that’s projected to be in the playoffs right now.”

Putting himself in a traded player’s shoes: “You saw a guy like Craig Kimbrel last year get traded after being probably the most dominant closer in baseball for four months. He struggled the last couple of months with the White Sox, like it's not automatic. You're going to be the exact same guy. When you switch uniforms, you try to be, try to do everything the same, but at the end of the day, you got a new catcher, a new uniform, new city, new fans, new routines.”

Trade rumors: “Most people just read it as a trade, how it affects their team. I read, ‘How am I going to get my apartment packed up here and how am I going to get my truck across the country? Are my kids going to go home [Greenville, S.C.]? Are they going to come with me? You know, there's a human element to it that we see as players that a lot of fans don't necessarily think about.”