How Jeff Bridich Derailed the Colorado Rockies

Story posted May 1, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Adam Babetski

On April 26, 2021, Jeff Bridich announced that he was stepping down as the General Manager of the Colorado Rockies.

Bridich’s resignation, a face-saving term for what was likely a firing, symbolically ended an era of Rockies baseball that began with promise and ended as a smoldering heap of ash.

Bridich inherited an organization on the rise in 2014. The major league team featured stars such as Troy Tulowitzki, DJ LeMahieu, Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado, a core of players either in or entering their primes. The team’s highly rated farm system contained future MLB players such as Trevor Story, Tommy Kahnle, David Dahl, Jon Gray and Raimel Tapia.

After years of disappointing finishes, the Rockies finally broke through in 2017, when they were defeated by the Diamondbacks in the Wild Card game. Bridich responded to their success by signing a trio of relief pitchers - Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee and Wade Davis -  to contracts totalling well over 100 million.

The Rockies’ home ballpark, Coors Field, is known as a hitter’s paradise because of its high altitude, but Colorado’s starters often suffer due to the conditions. Bridich failed to acquire an impact starter even though they were in desperate need, and his “super bullpen” strategy bombed immediately, as all three relievers put up ERAs north of five during the extent of their contracts.

The Rockies’ struggling bullpen was bailed out by the surprise breakouts of both Kyle Freeland and German Marquez, two homegrown starters who led the Rockies to within a tiebreaker of knocking off the mighty Dodgers as the NL West champions. The Rockies defeated the Cubs in the Wild Card game but were unceremoniously swept by the Brewers in the NLDS.

Instead of going for the throat that offseason, Bridich’s only notable addition to the team was an aging Daniel Murphy, who was signed to replace the outgoing LeMahieu. While Murphy struggled in Colorado, LeMahieu, who signed an almost identical contract with the Yankees, started the All-Star game, won a Silver Slugger and finished fourth in MVP voting.

Bridich was able to extend Arenado just weeks later, and may have felt that he had finally won the trust of both the team and the fanbase by ensuring that a franchise icon would stay with the Rockies for the rest of his career.

The honeymoon would not last for long, and the relationship between the two quickly began to sour. Arenado publicly called out Bridich and Rockies owner Dick Monfort, whom he said promised him that they would build a winning team around him when he signed his extension.

After two seasons in the gutter of the National League with no reinforcements on the way, Arenado requested a trade, with most of his monster contract having yet to be paid out. Bridich sent him to the St. Louis Cardinals in January for a collection of middling prospects, and had to foot the bill for $50 million of Arenado’s salary just to complete the trade.

In total, Bridich failed to sign a single noteworthy free agent during his eight year tenure that produced a positive Wins Above Replacement, or WAR. His mismanagement of one of the best players in franchise history was the final straw for his time as the general manager, and the Rockies’ ownership did not even give him the dignity of finishing out the season before letting him go.

Colorado now has no choice but to blow it up and recoup what value it can by trading its remaining stars before they leave in free agency. Story, Gray and Blackmon will all be free agents this winter, and the Rockies could be left with a skeletal roster for years to come as they try to replenish their farm system.

In the mountains of Colorado, Jeff Bridich has created a fittingly rocky situation for his successor.

 

Adam Babetski is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email aqb6023@psu.edu.