Entering the last day before MLB Trade Deadline with the 10th-best record in the National League and a full 10 games out of the third and final Wild Card, the Colorado Rockies stood pat.
They made zero deals, not the first time they’ve handled a situation like this, and were the only team in MLB to not find a dance partner with which to improve the future of their franchise.
“We had some communication today with a few clubs,” GM Bill Schmidt of the inactivity. “At the end of the day, we weren’t able to pull anything off that we thought made us better at this point in time and going forward. So, we decided to stay where we are.”
Even with signings José Iglesias, Chad Kuhl, José Ureña and Alex Colomé, in addition to homegrown relievers Carlos Estévez and Jhoulys Chacín set to become free agents at season’s end, Colorado thought it better to keep them for final two months of a fledgling season and get nothing in return then to get creative with another team.
“With some clubs, we threw names back and forth,” Schmidt explained about the depth of negotiations. “Did we get to a point where we’re talking about physicals? No, but we exchanged concepts and what level of prospect or major league player we were going to talk about.”
When Schmidt was named the GM on a permanent basis last October, he moved aggressively to improve the roster in the offseason, investing close to $400 million between player extensions, free agents and new contracts via trades.
It was a refreshing plan of attack for a club that had just lost several of its most beloved players and, with that, the lucrative contracts attached to those of certain caliber.
A few months later, in the first official trade deadline under the new administration, the approach may have been fair, but the result was stale.
Within the Rockies’ clubhouse, the vibe was somewhat serene for players in the final 24 hours before Tuesday’s trade deadline.
Schmidt made it clear a few days prior, saying, “There might be some small things out there. I don’t think there’s anything major.”
When a man who drafted, signed, extended or traded for nearly an entire roster of players says it, then it’s likely to be true.
Last year at this time, the situation was quite different.
Appetites of contending clubs in both leagues were whetted by high-profile names such as Trevor Story and Jon Gray, not to mention players like Daniel Bard and C.J. Cron were bandied about before being extended.
The Rockies dealt only reliever Mychal Givens and kept all other expiring assets.
“Givens had been around a while, I think he kind of knew what was going on,” reliever Lucas Gilbreath said of the difference between seasons. “As a reliever, you bounce around so much. I think he was just like, ‘Wherever I go, I go.’”
Estévez identified feelings at the 2021 trade deadline as being the exact opposite of 2022, minus the setting.
“It was in San Diego, too,” he realized. “A lot of teams were wanting Story. This year is a lot different. You hear rumors, but it is not the same as last year with Jon Gray and all those guys.”
This is the first trade deadline for rookie Jake Bird, who hasn’t felt anything negative or tense among his teammates. On the contrary, the return of familiar faces to the clubhouse like Alan Trejo, Dom Nuñez, Ty Blach, Chad Smith and Ryan Feltner from the taxi squad on Monday helped keep spirits bright.
Last year, however, the buzz in the Albuquerque Isotopes locker room was one of hope for player like Bird. Should a deal go down with their parent club, some room would be cleared on the roster for one of them to be called up.
After Rockies’ fans the world over, you have to feel most for those players stuck in Triple-A right now without an opportunity in the Majors.
Players all understand baseball is a business and that you simply can’t control whether or not a team will trade you. It may also be why players in the minor leagues barely even recognize the trade deadline.
“I don’t really remember it as a big day,” Garrett Hampson offered. “Now I do. I probably pay attention to a lot more stuff than I did then. Before, I was kind of just trying to win that day.”
For Gilbreath, he can actually recall that first moment when recognizing the business side of the game down in Low-A Asheville.
“One of my good buddies, Chad Spanberger, got traded,” said Gilbreath of the Seunghwan Oh trade in 2018. “He got pulled from the game and we all thought it was weird. Baseball is a crazy game and you just try to go day by day.”
For Colorado, the next two days are at Petco Park against the darlings of the deadline, the San Diego Padres.
Though they are the only professional sports team in a small market, they’ve found a way to be like those large market clubs, acquiring superstar players and even eating a bad contract here and there.
There’s no telling how long a club can operate this, especially after it trades away most of their farm system.
But one thing is for sure: it’s fun to watch them try.