The addition of a superstar to the roster of any professional sports franchise is a thing of pure jubilation.
At least that’s been the prevailing thought in almost every instance.
There’s always an exception to the rule.
In that last 13 months, three notable figures on the roster of the Colorado Rockies have departed the only organization they ever knew.
Drafted, developed and delivered on promises of stardom, the trio of Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Jon Gray are no longer residents of Denver.
Arenado butted heads with GM Jeff Bridich over the direction of the club and now neither are with the Rockies: the former cornerstone was traded in February of 2021 and the latter resigned two months later.
Trevor Story, the heir apparent as the face of the franchise, was fully expecting to go elsewhere at some point last year and was so frustrated with the organization that he sat out of the lineup on the trade deadline day.
Then there’s Gray. A young starter that became the de facto leader of a younger group of starters ushered in an era of a pitching first focus for the Rockies. He was pulled from the table in trade negotiation and, despite overtures of wanting to stay in Colorado, left for the Texas Rangers in free agency.
For a club that values homegrown players, this confluence of events is what makes the signing of a superstar from another club such a confusing one.
What isn’t confusing is why a team in search of its next big leader chose to start a relationship with this particular one.
Kris Bryant has a seven-year deal with the Rockies with a no trade clause. Here’s what the team is getting for $182 million.
A Name for the Marquee
Following the loss of Arenado, Story and Gray, only Charlie Blackmon remains a familiar name fans around the sport of baseball may recognize.
The Coors Field faithful will note several promising and beloved players without true start power, but first-time All-Star Germán Márquez and Denver-born Kyle Freeland lead a slew of contributors players still looking to find their ceiling. However, only those two and Blackmon are marketable names for the franchise at this point.
The Blackmon era could be over in 18 months as his contract expires after the 2023 season and the same is true for Freeland.
McGregor Square was budgeted at just below $400 million, according to The Denver Post, and there’s a lot of space that needs to be sold. A new, younger face of the franchise is precisely what helps drive this transaction.
Bryant was the 2015 National League Rookie of the Year and he followed this performance by winning the 2016 NL Most Valuable Player, becoming only the sixth player to ever win both awards within his first two seasons.
He’s also one of just 15 to ever win those two prestigious awards at any point and a World Series on top of that.
His four All-Star Game appearances as a member of the Cubs is the same as Blackmon, who earned the honor only once before the age of 30. Considering Bryant just completed his age-29 season, there’s optimism that the new kid on the block has several more Midsummer Classics in his future.
He’s also got the respect of the clubhouse, which is no surprise for a player of his caliber.
“I’m excited to get to know him,” Blackmon said of his new locker mate. “Excited to play with him. He’s certainly been a productive player and he’s a very good defensive asset, which plays up at Coors Field.”
A lot has been made of Bryant’s ability to play multiple positions.
Excluding pitcher and catcher, he’s covered ground everywhere on the field except second base.
However, nearly 75% of the innings he’s played in the field has come at third base. Manager Bud Black has stated quite clearly that Bryant will play left field.
With Ryan McMahon having been a finalist at the position for the Gold Glove Award in 2021 and considered the best defender at the hot corner by several metrics, it’s not hard to see why he won’t be changing positions.
Bryant has never been a finalist at third base, but he has played in 265 games in the outfield, mostly left. With 10 assists and nine errors, he likely won’t be a Gold Glove Award finalist there either and that’s alright.
It could be that Black utilizes him in center field every once in a while, especially after Bryant started 13 games in the middle of the outfield last season.
He’s played only a few more games at first base than in center field, none since 2020. Anthony Rizzo occupied the position in the Windy City and Brandon Belt in the City by the Bay. More games at first base when C.J. Cron needs a rest could also become a viable option.
At 30 years old and the ability to play on the dirt, Bryant could end up logging more innings at first base when his seven seasons in LoDo are all said and done.
The Las Vegas native has been to the postseason in six of his seven years in MLB. His 185 plate appearances in October are more than the current Rockies roster combined.
In his MVP season, he helped lead the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series in 108 years. By breaking the Curse of the Billy Goat, he guaranteed himself a free meal anywhere in the Chicagoland area.
Wouldn’t it be nice to get the same treatment in his new hometown?
The Giants acquired him last July and Bryant went on to bat .471 in October, racking up a quarter of their 29 hits in a five-game loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS.
“Just so many things make this feel really, really right,” owner Dick Monfort said of the signing. “We’re extremely excited to have Kris with us for the next seven years. And to help us win that elusive World Series that we all are looking for.”
Considering how the organization has talked up a roster that’s been 41 games under .500 over the past three seasons, Montfort and company truly believe Bryant is a vital piece in bringing the Commissioner’s Trophy and subsequent parade to Denver.
Bryant has long been a person who has relished every opportunity to give back to the public at large.
When he received the Players Choice Award as the 2015 NL Outstanding Rookie, his donation of $20,000 went to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Following the Las Vegas shooting that left 58 dead in 2017, Bryant and Bryce Harper recorded a Public Service Announcement to support donations for victims of their native city.
He’s auctioned off multiple specially designed cleats to support the non-profit Wings for Life which funds spinal cord research and has stumped for ALL IN Challenge in fighting food shortages around the world.
His character is one that has been praised by everyone he’s encountered, both on the field and off.
For an organization that has so often valued characteristics of those deemed upstanding, this is perhaps the biggest and best fit for why Bryant has lured away from 29 other teams for so many years.
The only thing left to do now is to sit back and see how it all plays out.
(Photo: Kyle Cooper/Colorado Rockies)