Reading into the Colorado Rockies’ pursuit of big-name stars

Oct 14, 2021; San Francisco, California, USA; San Francisco Giants center fielder Kris Bryant (23) reacts after taking a called strike during the fourth inning in game five of the 2021 NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies are reportedly very interested in signing star slugger Kris Bryant to a contract.

Such an addition would objectively make the roster, especially the lineup, much better and would signal that new GM Bill Schmidt meant what he said when he took over the reigns and promised to build rather than rebuild.

It would also put a torpedo in the narrative that no high-value player could or would ever choose to play for this franchise, a notion that feels true after the disastrous end to the Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story era but rings more and more hollow the deeper you look into it.

So why is there considerable chatter both locally and nationally that adding Kris Bryant is yet another totally baffling move from a franchise who never makes sense?

Well, it’s mostly context.

Anyone being reasonable knows that Bryant would make Colorado better so the two big questions to ask are “how much better?” and “why would they do this after letting two other star players go?”

Let’s begin with that second one and put aside the personal issues whereby the last two stars for this team had specific issues with the former GM, or even just problems that were unique unto themselves.

Instead, let’s just do some quick and dirty math.

Despite contrary opinion, the Rockies didn’t get “nothing” for Arenado, they got five baseball players and about $148 million in salary relief.

For Story, they will get a compensatory draft pick.

It’s hard to say exactly but Story is likely to earn north of $27 million a year on a shiny new contract somewhere.

Combined, Story and Arenado have been worth an average of 11.6 bWAR per 162 games in their career. That’s $62 million for 11.6 bWAR.

The only way a Bryant deal makes sense then, is if the Rockies can find a way to get more WAR from him and whoever else they can sign with that money.

Bryant’s average bWAR per 162 is 5.3. 

If Colorado can sign him for $25 million a year or less, that leaves them with quite a bit of extra space to get the extra 6.3 WAR they would need to make up for the loss of Arenado and Story.

You also have to consider in that calculation what Austin Gomber and Elehuris Montero will bring this season, likely adding another win or two.

Of course, we don’t necessarily expect the Rockies to spend all the money they saved from moving on from those guys, but there is an avenue here for Schmidt to actually spend less and get more bang for his buck if done wisely. 

By the way, this is all true of Nick Castellanos, Michael Conforto, or any other player the Rockies may be considering.

It looks strange on the outside to see the club let those other players go only to target some guys who aren’t quite as goon but are still seen as “win-now” type moves. But the calculation is actually relatively simple in terms of why this team would think that the assets they got in return for Arenado, plus a star bat, could put them back on the right track. 

That brings us to the question of whether or not Bryant, or any of these guys, makes that big of a difference for the Rockies.

The short answer is that, by themselves, probably not. Colorado is not, on paper, one good-to-great player away from contention. Two of these players added would get an interesting conversation rolling on that front but one doesn’t move the needle all that much.

That said, we need to keep in mind the new 12-team postseason and several interesting splits from the team a year ago.

You see, all this talk about not having a superstar is masking a bit the fact that the Rockies didn’t have a superstar in 2021.

Sure, Story was still on the team but his play was league average at best and he was often injured.

And yet, the club performed much better than they did in 2019 with both Arenado and Story aboard.

Baseball is a game where star power can only take you so far. Those guys only get four at-bats a game and otherwise just have to wait their turn or see if the ball ever gets hit in their direction.

The Colorado Rockies starting pitching is the great equalizer and it looks to be excellent once again.

This club managed 74 wins without a star and with one of the worst bullpens in the league. And there is plenty of talent here on the edge of breaking out.

So no, Kris Bryant doesn’t make the Rockies contenders. He might not even make them a .500 team. 

But if you add a player like him into a mix where the rest of the team realizes their potential, and if his addition is buoyed by more moves to pad out the roster, this team could be well on their way back to relevance.

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