Ringolsby: Colorado Rockies Aren't Afraid Of Commitment
A year ago, in the opening days of the season, the Rockies announced a long-term deal with outfielder Charlie Blackmon. It was a statement by ownership announcing its commitment to keep the key players in place with a hope a championship awaits.
Then, early in spring training this year, the day after the Rockies announced a three-year contract extension for manager Bud Black that ties him to the club through 2022, the Rockies went a step farther.
The Rockies confirmed the signing of third baseman Nolan Arenado to potential eight-year contract worth $234 million—though he does have the option to opt out after the 2021 season. It is another step in ensuring the homegrown foundation of the Rockies has a chance to make a postseason impact.
"I believe, as an organization, we’ve tried to set a standard of honesty, integrity, trust, passion, love of the game and love of the organization,” Rockies owner, chairman and CEO Dick Monfort said. "(General manager) Jeff (Bridich) and the front office lives it every day. (Manager) Buddy (Black) lives it every day. Our players live it every day.
"Nolan is proof of where this standard will get you in life. He plays the game hard, he works hard, he’s passionate, and most importantly for all you fans out there, he wants to win. And that’s really what we all want to do.”
So far so good.
As Blackmon put it following official confirmation of the deal with Arenado, "I am excited about what this means for the organization. We’re really committed to winning. Any time you have Nolan on the field you have a good chance of winning a ballgame.”
The core of this team is in place.
Consider: The only pending free agents in big league camp were reliever Seung-Hwan Oh and first baseman Mark Reynolds, who is on a minor league deal. The Rockies hold options for 2020 on catcher Chris Iannetta, and lefthanded reliever Mike Dunn.
After the 2021 season, the Rockies next big test will come when starting pitchers Tyler Anderson and Jon Gray, reliever Scott Oberg, and shortstop Trevor Story will possibly become eligible for free agency. The Rockies do hold an option on Ian Desmond.
The statement made by locking up Blackmon and Arenado in back-to-back years underscores the confidence Rockies ownership has in the team that is being put together.
And the fact they gave both players the opportunity to opt out during the contract underscores their commitment to providing a winning environment. If the players do in fact choose to opt out, then that decision would benefit both sides.
It would allow either or both players to look for an opportunity with another organization and would open the way for the Rockies to regroup without having an onerous salary hanging over the franchise in a rebuilding era.
"Nearly 10 years ago we drafted Nolan in the second round, June of 2009,” Bridich said. "We have been able to see him grow from a teenager to a man, and now he is one of the truly best players in the game."
Reader's Choice: The MLB Team Of The 2010s
Mookie Betts or Bryce Harper? Manny Machado or Nolan Arenado? Baseball America readers voted on their Team of the 2010s.
Exactly how good was underscored with the deal he has signed, which has the highest annual average value ($32.5 million) in major league history for a position player.
"There is a chance this makes Nolan a lifetime Rockie,” Bridich said.
And that, said Arenado, is something he would like to see evolve, as well.
"I’d like to be in one organization all my career, like Derek Jeter and Todd Helton,” he said. "Those are two special people.
"It would be pretty cool to be one of those guys who stays with one organization his whole career,” Arenado said. "It just doesn’t happen anymore. I’d like to change that.”
The truth of the matter is, it never happened much, lately or decades ago.
Among the 243 position players to appear in at least 2,000 big league games, just 36 played their entire career with one organization. That’s 15 percent.
Among the distinguished one-franchise position players are former Rockies first baseman Helton (see chart above.)
That desire to join the elite group was part of what led Arenado back to the Rockies.
"I hope it sends a message that not only do we value pursuing a championship,” Bridich said, "but we are trying to do that with the guys who are our best players and have been around in our organization for a long period of time. We try to do well by our players, and we are not afraid to make commitments.”
Could Arenado join exclusive company?
A total of 36 position players in major league history have appeared in at least 2,000 games, all for one franchise. All of these players are enshrined in the Hall of Fame except those with an asterisk.
ASTROS: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio
BRAVES: Chipper Jones
BREWERS: Robin Yount
CARDINALS: Stan Musial
CUBS: Ernie Banks
DODGERS: Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Bill Russell*
GIANTS: Mel Ott
ORIOLES: Cal Ripken Jr.
MARINERS: Edgar Martinez
PADRES: Tony Gwynn
PHILLIES: Mike Schmidt
PIRATES: Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski, Roberto Clemente
RED SOX: Jim Rice, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski
REDS: Johnny Bench, Dave Concepcion*, Barry Larkin, Bid McPhee
ROCKIES: Todd Helton*
ROYALS: George Brett, Frank White*
TIGERS: Charlie Gehringer, Al Kaline, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker*
WHITE SOX: Luke Appling
YANKEES: Derek Jeter (N/E), Bernie Williams*, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig