Rockies Focus Is on 2020 Rebound; Not What Might Happen After 2021

© Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Sponsored by Sam's No. 3 -- No. 1 in Denver Dining Delights

In the aftermath of a season that began with post-season aspirations but came to an end with a victory in Game 162 necessary for the Rockies to avoid a last-place finish, general manager Jeff Bridich was asked in a post-season media session if he is concerned about the fact Nolan Arenado can opt out of his contract after the 2021 season.

Bridich couldn't help but smile.

When Arenado agreed to an eight-year, $260 million contract last spring, he received the opt-out clause after the third season, which truth be told is a protection for both sides.

"I was the one who actually pushed for that to be in there," Bridich said. "To Nolan's credit, he didn't have a ton of interest in that initially being in there. It was a priority of his to be in there. I was the one who thought it might be a good idea."

Truth be told it is a win-win situation, something the Rockies had done the year before when Charlie Blackmon agreed to a long-term deal, and most likely would be discussed this off-season if the Rockies, as expected, enter into talks with shortstop Trevor Story about a long-term commitment.

The bottom line is the motivation for Arenado to walk away from the final five years of the deal -- and the remaining five years and $164 million of his contract -- would be the Rockies failure to meet the expectation of being a legitimate contender.

And what many don't seem to understand is that Arenado was not the one who pushed for the clause.

"I was the one who actually pushed for that to be in (the contract)," said Bridich. "To Nolan's credit, he didn't have a ton of interest in that initially being in there. It wasn't a priority of his. I was the one who thought it might be a good deal."

A good deal for Arenado because after the 2021 season he will be 30, and if the Rockies haven't established themselves as a factor in the NL West he will have the opportunity to move on. And a good deal for the Rockies because if they feel they need to go into a major rebuild, opening up an average of $35 million a year in salary for five years would give the Rockies flexibility.

"It comes from the experience of being her for 15 years and living through some of those other contracts, hearing stories about players under big contracts like that elsewhere and some of the realities that can exist," said Bridich.

Contracts like the one free agent Mike Hampton signed with the Rockies prior to the 2001 season -- eight years and what at the time was a record-setting $121 million. Two years later, he was dealt, the Rockies having to take on more than $50 million in salary of other players to get Atlanta to take on Hampton in a three-team deal in which Miami was the middle-man. But even then, the Rockies weren't totally done. Last December, the Rockies made the last of 10 annual payments of $1.9 million to Hampton, whose Rockies contract called for those "retirement" funds.

The Rockies aren't the only team that has been hit with having to assume a financial hit to move a major contract. Just this past season, Arizona sent Zack Greinke to Houston before the July 31 trading deadline, and while the Diamondbacks did get back three of the Astros top 10 prospects, Arizona also had to agree to cough up $26 million over the next two years to help offset the $64 million Greinke is guaranteed the next two years.

Bridich sees a benefit to the player, as well.

"It's giving people time to take a breather at a certain time," Bridich said, "and say, `Is this (contract) right for me? I have one chance to play this game."

For the Rockies, though, the clause is more in good faith than expected reality. They feel they have a basis to contend -- despite the wayward moments of 2019 -- and see Arenado as being a long-term factor in their success.

"If you want a list of issues we need to deal with that is like 775 on the list," said team president Dick Monfort. "I don't think any of us are worried about that at this time. We have other issues. Trevor Story, what is he going to want to do? Ie he going to want to be a free agent?

"I don't think anyone is losing sleep about Nolan opting out or staying with us at the point and time."

No, the focus is more on what needs to be done this winter to get the Rockies back on track, not what might happen two years from now if the Rockies don't rebound.

The Rockies signed Arenado to the eight-year deal because they want him to spend his career in a Rockies uniform.

They suggested the opt-out after three years because they don't want Arenado to feel trapped.

They want him to be in Colorado because he wants to be in Colorado, not because he feels trapped in Colorado.