Rockies Have Finances, Talent For Long-Term Contention
The Rockies took a glance into the future.
They liked the potential of what they could see.
And their belief in the upward direction of the franchise was underscored with the announcement of a contract extension for center fielder Charlie Blackmon that guarantees he will be with the team through 2021 with Blackmon having the option to stay through 2023.
More than that, however, the Rockies sent a message that they believe in the core they have in place. They are encouraged by the prospects on the way. And they are looking to make sure what they have put in place doesn’t begin to fragment.
Translation: The good news about Blackmon can be seen as the Rockies’ way of saying they are serious about finding a way to sign third baseman Nolan Arenado to a long-term deal, too.
Blackmon was more urgent. He could have become a free agent at season’s end. The Rockies still have control of Arenado for this season and next season before he can pursue free agency.
Gut feeling? He won’t be pursuing free agency.
Arenado knows he is going to be rich when he signs his next contract. What he also has made clear is he is going to be with a team he feels has a chance to win. And the feeling is all things being equal he would like to be one of those players who could spend his entire career with one team.
That would be the Rockies.
And the Rockies have the financial flexibility to make it happen.
With the revised contract for Blackmon, they have a payroll commitment for 2018 a tad shy of $147 million. Next year, with second baseman DJ LeMahieu, right fielder Carlos Gonzalez and Adam Ottavino potential free agents, the Rockies are only committed to $83.65 million. Gerardo Parra will likely be in that group, too, but the Rockies do have an option on his contract for 2019. And the Rockies payroll commitment drops to $73.25 million in 2020, creating flexibility in attempting to retain key parts for solving the post-season puzzle.
Get the picture?
The Rockies have a vision, and they have crafted a payroll that has room to make the type of commitment necessary to keep Arenado, who would be just shy of 29 years old when he could become a free agent after the 2019 season.
The Rockies have a young enough roster core that even after the 2019 season, other than Arenado, the only current Rockies who would be in line to become a free agent are catcher Chris Iannetta, Mike Dunn, and Parra (if the Rockies exercise the option for 2019).
The way the Rockies have put their roster together they could sign Arenado to an eye-popping multi-year contract, and still have a reasonable payroll for 2020. They would still have financial flexibility, allowing the Rockies to address unexpected needs that could arise.
They have contract commitments to six players for $73 million, and 11 players who would be arbitration eligible. Chad Bettis and Chris Rusin would be third-year arbitration eligible; Tony Wolters, Tyler Anderson, John Gray, Scott Oberg and Trevor Story would be second—year eligible, and Kyle Freeland, German Marquez,, Antonio Senzatela, Pat Valaika would have the leverage for the first time.
In looking ahead, the Rockies can actually envision a 2020 roster in which potential voids could be filled from within. Scouting director Bill Schmidt and senior director player development Zach Wilson have combined to create one of the game's deeper farm systems. It gives general manager long-range flexibility to address needs from within. That creates payroll flexibility if the Rockies feel the need to pursue a free agent to fill a void, such as the past off-seasons signings of closer Wade Davis, and right-handed setup reliever Bryan Shaw, and re-signing left-handed set-up reliever Jake McGee.
Now, nothing works out as planned. Adjustments have to be made along the way. But there has to be a vision to work off in planning for the future. Bridich plays it close to the vest. Remember that the Blackmon deals were done during spring training and there wasn't even an insinuation of Blackmon being committed long term until a week into the regular season.
But using the current roster, and filling voids from within the organization, the Rockies have an impressive roster potential for 2020. That is what put the Rockies in the position to get the Blackmon situation taken care of, and is what gives the team's fan base reason to feel the Rockies have the ability to address the pending free-agent potential of Arenado.
And there is more talent where that came from. No. 1 ranked Rodgers, and No. 12 Murphy are the only members of the Rockies top 30 prospects, according to Baseball America, on that projected roster, meaning there are reinforcements down on the farm if needs arise.