GREELEY, Colo. -- This time last year, Rockies owner, chairman and CEO Dick Monfort was confident he had a contender.
After a 96-loss season that featured injuries to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, Monfort isn't afraid to express his belief in his club in 2015.
"We were optimistic -- most people were optimistic about our team last year," Monfort said Saturday while representing the organization at the annual Friends of Baseball Breakfast, a fundraiser for the sport's efforts in Weld County that this year had Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry as the featured speaker. "We had some injuries. We had some people fall backward. We had some things happen.
"But we had some people step up. We believe we've got the talent. We've got two premium players in Tulo and CarGo. We've got maybe the best third baseman in the game [in two-time Gold Glover Nolan Arenado]. We've got Gold Glove guys scattered around. You've got some young left-handed hitters that are good. We feel we have the talent to win."
Monfort's contention that the club has the talent to win this year is backed by the team's approach to the offseason.
Chief baseball officer Dan O'Dowd and vice president of Major League operations Bill Geivett left at season's end, but rather than go outside the organization, the Rockies promoted Jeff Bridich from player development director to general manager.
Although the Rockies listened to other teams interested in trading for Tulowitzki, Gonzalez and first baseman Justin Morneau, All-Star talents who have battled injuries in recent years, there was no desire to take less than full value -- a position that has the Rockies hanging onto all three players, and being happy about it.
Instead of going into full-scale rebuild mode, the Rockies re-signed veteran lefty Jorge De La Rosa late last season and added catcher Nick Hundley this offseason in hopes that his know-how and defensive skills accelerate the progress of younger pitchers. While there are bright pitching prospects on the way, and Arenado and outfielder Corey Dickerson have yet to reach their prime seasons, the Rockies believe there is enough to win now and still have a bright future.
"We've got some young kids coming along, young pitchers coming along," Monfort said. "The last couple of years, we've had some really good Drafts. There's no need to blow it up. We want to win. We want to win every year."
The decision to go with Bridich has been met with skepticism from fans and media who believe that not bringing in an outsider means more of the same. But Monfort said Bridich brings institutional knowledge that he feels is important, along with his own ideas.
Although Bridich has not made splashy moves, and repeatedly has said that he is concentrating on being correct rather than grabbing headlines, Monfort said there has been tangible change in the expansion of the role of manager Walt Weiss in roster formation and personnel philosophy.
"Jeff's all about empowering people, and he's really challenged Walt in a lot of ways," Monfort said. "It was Walt and he who interviewed the pitching coaches and decided who were going to be the pitching coaches [Steve Foster, with Darren Holmes as bullpen coach].
"As an organization, we felt we had to have more power in the bullpen, and that's something [Bridich has] set out to do Monfort said, referring to the acquisitions of hard-throwers Jorge Rondon from the Cardinals and Jairo Diaz from the Angels, as well as sinkerballers David Hale and Gus Schlosser on Friday from the Braves. "They're not experienced guys, but we're a lot stronger in the bullpen as far as velocity and impact-type pitchers."
And in case fans want to hear it straight from him, Monfort doesn't mind.
Back in July, Monfort garnered attention by responding to emails from disgruntled fans, but he noted that as recently as Friday, he paid a personal visit to a fan who didn't enjoy an experience for which good money was paid. He wants to continue to be accessible.
"I answer every email -- [now] maybe I answer them a little more careful than I did," Monfort said. "I answer 1,000 emails a year, so my batting average isn't bad. I'm open to discussing the team with anybody that wants to do it."