The Rockies officially promoted Bill Schmidt from interim GM to full-time general manager today, and Schmidt, manager Bud Black, and team president/COO Greg Feasel spoke with reporters (including Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post) about both the hiring and some of the team’s offseason plans.
The chief priority will be adding relief pitching and power bats, according to both Schmidt and Black. Some of that power could come by retaining free agents such as Trevor Story and C.J. Cron, and Schmidt reiterated that the Rox have interest in re-signing both sluggers, as well as right-hander Jon Gray.
Though Colorado was out of the playoff race at midseason, the team controversially held onto Story, Cron, Gray, and most of its other impending free agents due in part to this desire to keep everyone in the fold. In the wake of the trade deadline, Story indicated he was “confused” at not being dealt, and reports from back in June suggested that Story was already planning to move on from the Rockies following the season. Today, Schmidt said simply that Story’s future in Denver is “up to him. He knows how we feel about him.”
As to how the Rockies could retain their free agents, some extra spending appears to be in the works. Roster Resource has Colorado’s current payroll at just over $116.8MM, down from the team’s spending in the $157MM range during the 2019 season. With revenue levels becoming more normalized post-pandemic, Feasel said the Rockies intend to return to that higher spending capacity within two years’ time — “We think we are going to gain ground in ’22, and we think we’ll be back to 2018-19 levels in 2023.”
If Story did leave, his $18.5MM salary from 2021 could certainly be put towards a new contract for Gray and/or Cron. 2022 is also one of the seasons where the money owed to the Cardinals as part of the Nolan Arenado trade dips down; the Rockies only owe around $5.57MM to St. Louis in 2022, before that number spikes to $21MM in 2023, and then $5MM each in both 2024 and 2025.
While the Rox have some cash available, it remains to be seen exactly how that money will be spent, or how Schmidt will operate now that has the full reigns of an organization for the first time in his long career. The lack of activity at the trade deadline didn’t provide many hints about Schmidt’s plans, and given Feasel’s payroll projection, it could be any real serious expenditures are held off until next winter.
The broader question also exists about how much things will really change in Colorado under the Schmidt regime, considering that Schmidt is already a long-time Rockies staffer, and owner Dick Monfort’s insular management style has come under heavy criticism. To this end, some new voices are expected to join the mix, as Schmidt said the Rockies are already looking to increase the analytics department. (An understaffed and sometimes-ignored analytics team was identified by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Nick Groke as one of the Rockies’ many issues in a harsh spotlight and critique of the organization last March.)
When former GM Jeff Bridich resigned in April, the expectation was that the Rockies would conduct an external search for a new general manager or president of baseball operations following the season. According to Feasel, however, Schmidt’s work as interim GM impressed upper management to the point that “he didn’t give us a choice…I mean, how many times you need to be hit over the head with a bat. And he was the right guy for us at the right time.”
Details about Schmidt’s contract weren’t released, and it could be that Schmidt isn’t working under a traditional deal, as Feasel said there isn’t a firm length attached to Schmidt’s role. “We consider him an officer of our club and we think that’s pretty special. His standing is not going to change,” Feasel said.