Former Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich saw his Colorado tenure come to an end because of a trade orchestrated by his boss, owner Dick Monfort. The Nolan Arenado-to-the-Cardinals deal has been ridiculed relentlessly throughout the game since the moment it broke in the news, and Bridich has been the one to wear it. But reports indicate that Monfort was the “brains” behind the deal.
Monfort and Bridich were totally blindsided by the blow-back they received in the press from this deal. Somehow, they didn’t expect to be criticized unanimously for paying a National League rival $51MM to take their best player without sending a top prospect back. The trade revealed Dick Monfort’s greatest blind spot: himself. He needs protection against his own failures that he can’t seem to see.
He’s already been criticized for installing a non-baseball-operations employee into the club president role in Greg Feasel, which hadn’t been occupied since Keli McGregor passed away in 2010. But Feasel might be even more appropriately prepared to handle the leadership duties in the short-term than a baseball ops pro. The former offensive tackle has to protect Monfort from the missteps that he can’t see coming. In the short term, that’s not a baseball responsibility.
After all, it’s uncertain how permanent Feasel’s appointment is. The Rockies are too loyal, really, to make such a longstanding decision so quickly. The next guy, like the three in the club’s history, will probably be given a long leash. Especially if it’s someone like, say, Thad Levine, whom Monfort likes and (presumably) trusts. Levine would bring the perfect blend of what Monfort wants (a company man) with what he knows the public wants him to want (a forward-thinking baseball analytics professional).
But for the time being, former offensive lineman and current Chief Operating Officer Feasel is the man at the wheel. That means that for the next six months or so, he’ll be the one responsible for keeping Monfort out of an even bigger mess than he’s already made.
To put it in terms that suit Feasel, he’s looking to create a clear pocket for the next GM. This should make sense to Feasel, not because of his football background, but because of his business background. As Monfort’s COO, Feasel’s priorities and expertise are not on the baseball side. He knows that his role is to hold the line until they install the next generation of baseball thinkers.
That means he’s unlikely looking to make waves from a baseball development standpoint. That said, teams are going to call, and when they do, it will be Feasel on the other end handling their trade offers. So how is Feasel likely to respond?
Don’t Expect a Germán Márquez Trade
Germán Márquez is far and away the Rockies’ best trade asset. He’s a potential frontline pitcher (for the Rockies), certainly a first-division playoff pitcher, and he’s on a team friendly deal. He’ll make a dirt cheap $7.8MM this season, and while he’ll get a pay bump soon, he’s still controlled for two years beyond 2021 at the reasonable rates of $11.3MM and $15.3MM.
Those are fine prices, but because they’d come with the added cost of prospects, the salary doesn’t really net as much of an asset after this season for a potential trade partner. That’s okay, however, because it’s not a detriment, either.
Still, he’s the one decent trade chip that will be on the roster after this season. For that reason, Feasel is unlikely to trade him. The new GM will be able to use Marquez to add a number of prospects to the system and begin to set his vision in motion. If Feasel makes the move, the Rockies would be essentially diluting the talent pool even further, as there’s no guarantee that the new GM and his new analytics crew will feel the same way about the prospects that come back to Colorado.
For example, it’s unlikely that the next GM will feel that Austin Gomber is the type of centerpiece player that Jeff Bridich seemed to think he was. For the next GM, Gomber is likely just another fungible arm that may or may not end up providing some utility in a thin rotation.
The Cost to Acquire Trevor Story Just Went Up
You might think that Feasel will finally see the light and offer up Story to whoever comes with the best offer. If Feasel doesn’t move him, after all, they’ll lose him for nothing more than the compensation pick. It makes sense to trade him.
But the price of star player acquisitions has gone down so much in recent seasons that moving him isn’t quite the slam dunk decision that people think. Remember, Feasel comes from the business side, and he’s going to want to continue to market Story as an attraction at Coors Field for the rest of the season. He’s also not exactly on the hook for whatever happens with Story. If he doesn’t move him, the blame will still fall on Bridich.
Feasel can effectively hold hostage teams interested in the star shortstop. He has nothing to lose. Why go against his own business interests for some dreamy-eyed collection of teenage prospects who are likely never to reach the majors? A GM like Jed Hoyer of the Cubs can take a deal like that for Yu Darvish because he knows his development team. He knows the kinds of players they’re looking for long-term. There’s an organizational strategy, and even if the deal doesn’t make so much sense to the public, Hoyer has internal security.
Feasel has none of that. He has no organizational plan. He’s just the guy answering the phone until the next guy shows up. If another GM wants him to dole out further punishment to the Colorado fanbase by trading away Story or Jon Gray, they better make it worth his while.
If I’m another GM, Gray is the guy that I would target. He’s done well enough so far this season (2.54 ERA/3.94 FIP), but there’s no guarantee that he’d even get a qualifying offer. The Rockies would probably be happy grabbing a couple extra decently ranked prospects to better set up the next GM. It’s a small boost for the next guy, but better than nothing, and I doubt they sell less tickets just because Gray’s not in the rotation anymore. He doesn’t have the marketing appeal that Story does.
Remember, Feasel’s job these next few months is to do what he does best: create a clean pocket. He wants to set up the next GM with as much space and time as possible to succeed. While that’s not a concept Dick Monfort seems to grasp, hopefully Feasel has enough pull to protect Monfort from the pressure he can’t see coming.
Photo by Jennifer Linnea Photography (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jenzbie/) | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)