Rockies Notes: Bryant, Schmidt, Pitching, Bard

Kris Bryant looks to be close to returning to the Rockies lineup, as manager Bud Black told reporters (including’s Thomas Harding) that Bryant will return to the team for an evaluation on Monday.  If all goes well, Bryant could be activated from the injured list for tomorrow’s game against the Dodgers.

Bryant’s next appearance will be only his 18th game of the season, as the former NL MVP has twice been sidelined due to lower back strains.  Bryant’s first IL stint cost him just shy of a month of action, and after being reinstated, he played in only two more games before returning to the injured list.  All told, Bryant has made only 73 plate appearances and hit only .270/.342/.333 in his first season in a Rockies uniform.

Getting their prized free agent signing back onto the field is the first step in what the Rockies hope is a second-half turnaround.  Today’s 6-3 loss to the Twins dropped Colorado’s record to 31-42, and the team sits in last place in the NL West.

While the Rockies’ ownership and front office has often been overly optimistic about the team’s chances, GM Bill Schmidt took a more measured tone in accessing his club’s play, telling The Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders and other reporters on Friday that the first goal was “just thinking about getting back to playing .500 baseball.”  In regards to the trade deadline, Schmidt said “we will always listen” to offers from other teams, but the priority is still “to try to win as many games as we can.”

It’s difficult to tell whether or not Colorado’s record could have any real impact on their status as deadline sellers, considering that last year, the Rox opted to retain such pending free agents as Trevor Story and Jon Gray.  If the Rockies are again prioritizing building around their core and not dealing players they think they can re-sign (i.e. how they re-signed C.J. Cron last fall), it could be another relatively quiet deadline for the team.

Case in point, Saunders feels the Rockies could try to extend closer Daniel Bard, since “they love his work ethic and his leadership and he’s become a second bullpen coach.”  If a deal can’t be struck, however, it is possible Bard could be a candidate to be moved by August 2.  Bard is enjoying a terrific season at the back of the Rockies’ bullpen, and is scheduled for free agency after the season, making him a tempting rental pick-up for any contender looking for relief help.

Given Bard’s unusual career path, he might be more open than most pending free agents to signing an extension.  He went more than six full seasons between MLB appearances, as Bard struggled at both the big league and minor league levels, and he also stepped away from the sport entirely for two years.  Bard’s comeback has now yielded three largely successful seasons with the Rockies, and Bard might welcome some long sought-after security in the form of a multi-year commitment to remain in Denver.

Schmidt seemed to downplay the idea of dealing any arms, saying that “I still say that our pitching is our strength, and it’s too hard for us to acquire pitching.  So we still have the core that we are going to build around, going forward.  That hasn’t changed.”  This would seem to rule out the idea of the Rox dealing any starters, and maybe also relievers like Bard or (another scheduled free agent) Alex Colome, though Colome seems likelier to be moved than Bard.

Beyond the hurlers, Saunders figures that veteran infielder Jose Iglesias is the likeliest trade candidate, and that there isn’t much chance Charlie Blackmon would waive his no-trade protection to allow a deal.  (Plus, the Rockies may not have the willingness or ability to deal Blackmon anyway.)  Interestingly, Saunders suggests that the Rox should at least be open to the idea of moving Cron, even though the first baseman is still under contract for the 2023 season.

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