1:05 p.m.: Bard’s contract guarantees him “about $19 million,” Feinsand tweets.
12:52 p.m.: The Rockies and closer Daniel Barde finalize a contract extension, reports MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (Twitter link). The New York Post’s Jon Heyman, meanwhile, reports that the Rockies have already reached an agreement on a two-year extension for ISE Baseball client Bard (Twitter connections).
All summer, all signs pointed to the Rockies not being interested in selling the 37-year-old Bard and rather hoping to keep him through the current season. It now appears that they have achieved that goal.
On paper, Bard seemed like the optimal trade-in candidate: a 37-year-old back-up on expiring contract and in the midst of a dominant season for a bottom-ranked team. However, perhaps more than any other team in the sport, the Rockies march to the beat of their own drum and have made a habit of sticking to conventional trade candidates, even if it means losing key players for nothing, like they did last summer when they declined to trade Jon Gray and surprisingly chose not to make him a qualifying offer.
Rockies owner Dick Monfort has spoken publicly about his belief that the team has what it takes to be a successful club, even though results on the field in recent seasons have largely suggested otherwise. General manager Bill Schmidt, who was promoted from scouting director to GM chairman last year after GM Jeff Bridich was fired, said Danielle Allentuck of the Denver Gazette earlier this month that he doesn’t see himself as a big seller by this year’s deadline , because the organization believes in the talent on the list. Manager Bud Black has expressed similar sentiments in recent days, rhetorically questioning why the team would swap a “Range Rover” (Bard) for a “Honda Accord” (believed to be a package from minor-league prospects).
While it’s certainly fair to question the inherently risky decision to extend a 37-year replacement, it’s also easy to see just how much the Rockies fell in love with Bard in the ninth inning. Returning only to the majors after a seven-year absence would have been a feel-good story in itself, but Bard hasn’t just staged one of the most unlikely comebacks in recent memory — he’s quickly risen among the elite ranks in MLB.
A late-season faint sent Bard’s ERA soaring to 5.21 after the close in 2021, but he’s been an absolute powerhouse in Black’s bullpen this year, throwing to a 1.91 ERA with a 27.6% strikeout rate and one Groundball rate of 53.8%. Bard’s walk rate of 12.2% is noticeably higher than the league average of 9.1% among assists, but his penchant for grounders and making generally weak contact (average exit speed of 87.2 mph) has helped him mitigate damage, that could result from attacks. sometimes spotty control. Bard also averages a staggering 98.1 mph on a sinker that can hit triple digits and make hitters look downright stupid sometimes.
Aids are volatile, as Bard himself has shown with his 2021 and 2022 results, so there’s a high risk this deal will end badly for the Rockies. However, the current version of Bard is a helper like you won’t find anywhere in the league – and the Rockies are clearly confident he can maintain that feat as he nears his 40th birthday.
From a payroll perspective, Bard will add another notable salary to a 2023 roster that could well set a new franchise payroll record before the front office makes a single roster change. The Rox already had $110 million on the books for next year, and that was before factoring in Bard’s new expansion and an $18 million player option that Charlie Blackmon is likely to exercise. Colorado will also owe each of Robert Stephenson, Garrett Hampson, Tyler Kinley, Peter Lambert, Austin Gomber and Brendan Rodgers arbitration raises. All of this should take the team straight to the current franchise record of $145 million or somewhere beyond. Further additions this winter could send the Rockies into all-new payroll territory.
The Rockies will take a lot of flak for their dedication to retaining a core of players that only managed a .445 win ratio from the 2019 season — and based on social media reactions, they already have. And while the team’s resistance to rebuilding and a firm belief that the makings of a contender are there can be fairly questioned, it’s also somewhat refreshing to see a club continue to try to put together a winning club rather than focus on the kind of arduous, multi-year rebuilds that have proliferated the sport in recent years. While that group never breaks through and proves to be a true postseason contender in future seasons, the Rockies are at least trying — and that’s more than multiple teams can say each season.