Nolan, 94 wins & more: Rox owner speaks out

February 1st, 2020

GREELEY, Colo. -- Rockies owner Dick Monfort saw a talk at a fundraiser in his hometown as a perfect opportunity to be bullish about his team.

The Rockies went to the postseason in 2017 and '18 before crashing to 71 wins in '19. Monfort, speaking at the Friends of Baseball Breakfast of Champions -- which raises money for baseball and softball from youth to college to semi-pro in Northern Colorado -- reached into the past. Between a World Series appearance in '07 and postseason trip in '09, the Rockies fell to 74 wins in 2008.

“I had an analytical staff go through and interpolate those numbers,” Monfort said. “And so in 2020, we’ll win 94 games and lose 68.

“So it’s that easy. All we’ve got to do is start praying and it will happen. Baseball’s a crazy game.”

If you can’t be excited about a team in February, when can you? But suffice it to say, this has been an odd offseason for Colorado.

When star third baseman Nolan Arenado criticized the front office -- particularly general manager Jeff Bridich -- for disrespect, trade rumors heated up. A payroll crowded by recent free-agent forays has meant the team has meant a quiet offseason.

Of course, it all goes from conjecture to reality soon, and Monfort can hardly wait to get there. After his brief speech, Monfort talked to reporters about various subjects, including Arenado, in his first response since the flap materialized a little less than two weeks ago.

Here are five points from Monfort’s post-speech interview:

1) The Bridich-Arenado situation is smooth, in Monfort’s mind

Last offseason, the Rockies signed Arenado to an eight-year, $260 million contract -- with a full no-trade provision and the ability for Arenado to opt out after 2021. With Arenado publicly unhappy and all but asking for a trade, the situation has loomed over the offseason. But Monfort says his texts with Arenado give him a different outlook.

“I think the Nolan-Jeff deal's sort of blown out of proportion,” Monfort said. “I really don't view that as that big an issue ... I've talked to Nolan by text. There’s issues. I think the Nolan-Jeff issue is down the packing list of whatever that is.

“He’s a young kid and he's competitive. We had such a great ‘17 and ‘18 and then we were supposed to take the next step and it didn't happen. He's frustrated and we're all frustrated.”

Monfort said he has not dug into whether there are personal issues between the two -- but long relationships have rocky times.

“Jeff was with him Triple-A, Double-A -- he was farm director,” Monfort said. “When you’re coming up through the ranks, there’s some tough love along the way. There could be something built in there that I’m not even aware of and they’re not even aware of.”

2) Criticism for a quiet offseason may be fair, but there are reasons

Locally, nationally, even seemingly within the conflict between Arenado and Bridich, the lack of roster change is a sticking point. But Monfort said the $10 million jump in payroll from 2018 to '19 meant the Rockies expected things to be tight going into ’20.

“People say, ‘Inactivity by the Rockies … you’re not doing everything you can [to win],” Monfort said. “And that’s fair. But we have to live within our means.

“We knew a year ago that we needed this group to compete, because this is probably the group that we were going to have.”

On moving some of the other big contracts, Monfort said, “Every year, trades get tougher.”

3) He’s behind Bridich

The more vocal fans tend to be behind Arenado in his discontent. But Monfort takes a longer-range view of Bridich, general manager since October 2014.

“I think Jeff was the general manager in ‘17 and ’18, is that right?” Monfort said. “I think the Rockies had been in back-to-back playoffs once in the history of their organization. I guess sometimes it's nice to weigh the bad, but do you ever sprinkle it in with some of the accomplishments that they've made?

“Look at the guys that we put on the field. I will almost guarantee you we put more homegrown players on the field than any other team.”

4) No guarantees, no answers

Observers are all over the place projecting the Arenado situation. Many place the prospect of a trade as “inevitable,” but see narrow chances of one happening before the season. The “inevitable” label comes from expecting the Rockies to come nowhere near the 94 wins Monfort touted Saturday.

Monfort refused to entertain whether the Rockies are in “listening” to “shopping” mode. But, when asked if the chance of Arenado being traded or not depends on where the team is in the standings at the Trade Deadline, Monfort said, "I don't think so," before adding he hoped the Rockies would be competitive. In other words, he refused to be pinned down.

“We're in the mode that we've got two weeks until hitters show up,” Monfort said.

Pressed on whether he could guarantee Arenado would be there, he said, “I won’t guarantee anything.”

5) It would be nice to be right

Monfort said the fan disgruntlement may change his policy of answering email, after one of his answers was posted and, he said, “mischaracterized” on Twitter. But maybe it was just his share of a hard year for everyone associated with the Rockies.

“My mom told me that it builds character and I think that's definitely what has happened,” Monfort said. “As painful as it was, a bad season for a lot of these players is not a bad thing. Right? It's a gut check.”