5 takeaways from Rockies owner’s press conference
Rockies owner Dick Monfort believes the club will improve after last year’s 68-94, last-place finish in the National League West.
“We can be competitive,” Monfort said in a meeting with reporters during the Friends of Baseball Annual Breakfast of Champions, a fundraiser for baseball in Greeley, Colo., and the surrounding area. “This is a year where people need to take a step forward. Some of the new kids need to come in there and show excitement, knowing that there's more coming right behind them.
“Just keep the faith here. I think we're on the right track.”
1. Last year hurt
“Last year was so tough for me,” Monfort said. “I had this defeatist attitude almost all year, like we weren’t doing things. We were playing awful. We started off and did all right record-wise, but we weren’t playing like we can play. I’m a guy that loves to see crisp defense, and we didn’t have it. And it just bugged me.”
It’s a new year, though. Immediately after saying that, Monfort added, “I just feel like we've got the pieces and we've got a lot of pieces that are coming.”
2. Finding a model of success
The aggressive Padres have four players Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts, Juan Soto and Joe Musgrove) due at least $20 million, and six others between $10 million and $9 million in ’23. The Rockies have Kris Bryant due $28 million, with Germán Márquez at $15.3 million No. 2 on the list.
The star system brought the Padres to the NL Championship Series last year, and they’ve doubled down. The competitor in Monfort led him to say, “We’ll see how it works.” But he admitted the Padres’ 2022 season and general buzz “puts a lot of pressure” on the Rockies.
“We spend quite a bit for what we are,” Monfort said. “But … the Padres’ TV [revenue] is less than ours. I would say the spending habits of their clientele is much less than ours. Our tickets, if you take the Rockpile [2,326 tickets above center field that are $5-14 in advance, and on gameday go for $4 adults, $1 for children] out, we’re probably 24th in average price. If you put the Rockpile in, we’re 28th, 29th.
“San Diego jumped their prices and got more people there, and that model worked. My hat’s off to them. They almost doubled their revenue in the park. But we should be able to compete with them.”
Look to the D-backs as being more similar to the Rockies.
According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Rockies’ current projected Opening Day payroll of $115.05 million is higher than the D-backs’ commitments of just under $109.2 million (although the Rockies are contributing $16 million to the Cardinals’ Nolan Arenado). But the Rockies acknowledge that D-backs’ crop of young players is a little ahead of that of the Rockies.
A sign the Rockies are committed to a D-backs model is they stayed away from multiyear offers for outfielders who could block young talent, even though Monfort acknowledged they ideally would have nabbed a left-handed-hitting center fielder.
“We believe we have probably three legitimate center fielders, Brenton [Doyle, No. 23 on MLB Pipeline’s Rockies Top 30] being one of them, Zac Veen [The Rockies’ No. 2 prospect and No. 27 in the overall Top 100], although [Rockies baseball officials] think he may be a corner guy, and Benny Montgomery [Rockies’ No. 6],” Monfort said.
• Check out Montgomery’s progress throughout last season. Scroll to Aug. 26 for an in-depth look. Read more >
3. The right people are in place
Monfort and GM Bill Schmidt, who replaced Jeff Bridich in April 2021, speak the same language of “pulling the rope in the same direction.” He believes a revamped analytics staff under research and development director Brian Jones will offer innovative ideas, specifically in usage of players in their taxing home environment -- in a year after veterans C.J. Cron and Charlie Blackmon saw their effectiveness dwindle.
Monfort also revealed that manager Bud Black and Schmidt have “chatted” about extending Black’s contract beyond this year. The Rockies traditionally avoid letting a manager enter a season in the final year of his contract. Whatever happens, though, Monfort said he is open to Black reaping the rewards of the farm system.
“I like him a lot,” Monfort said. “He’s done a lot of great things for us. It's sort of up to Buddy, how long he wants to do this. So he’s another guy that really is fond of the team, the city, the organization.”
4. Bryant is on board with the process
Monfort responded, “I know,” to a question about players who have signed lengthy deals but became unhappy when the Rockies stayed with their operations model through tough times. Monfort believes Bryant, limited due to back and foot problems last season, wants to push through for the rest of his seven-year, $182 million deal.
“He likes Denver. He bought a home in Denver,” Monfort said. “I think he's got the potential to be a leader and to help the process. He brings a lot.”
Beyond desire to be here, Bryant’s ability to play either outfield corner, first base and designated hitter gives them an accomplished player who can move around to accommodate younger players entering the Majors.
5. Monfort is big on Ezequiel Tovar, other prospects
Tovar, who checked in at No. 25 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects for 2023, will be given a chance to be the regular shortstop.
“We’ve had a really good run in the Dominican, plus in ’20, ’21, ’22 we had good Drafts, and our record [a .549 Minor League affiliate winning percentage, second to the Rays’ .576] says that we have a lot of talent,” Monfort said.
Here’s the Rockies Top 30 Prospects list, which will be updated before the 2023 season.