MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

New manager could be GM Bridich's legacy

Rockies believe young players on verge of reaching top of NL West

New manager could be GM Bridich's legacy

DENVER -- Now comes the true test for Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich.

Three years into his tenure as the head man in the franchise's baseball operation, and with one year remaining on his contract, he has a team of young players that many feel is ready to contend in the National League West next season.

It is up to Bridich to find the field manager who can push the Rockies to that next level.

And this guy will be Bridich's guy.

On Monday, the day after the season ended, the Rockies announced they were in the market for a replacement for Walt Weiss, whom Bridich inherited when he was promoted to general manager in the wake of Dan O'Dowd declining a contract extension. This was Weiss' fourth year as manager.

Weiss also was the Rockies' starting shortstop from 1994-97 and was a special assistant to O'Dowd for seven years before getting out of the game to focus on his family.

Bridich showed at the Trade Deadline he is not afraid to make a bold move. He dealt shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, the face of the franchise, to the Blue Jays for three pitching prospects, which became an uneasy situation when Tulowitzki publicly criticized the organization for not keeping him in the loop on the trade possibilities.

But the trading of Tulowitzki and last off-season's signings of veteran free-agent relievers Jason Motte and Chad Qualls, who struggled in the back end of a bullpen that was the team's fatal flaw in 2016, are only sidelights to Bridich's next decision.

His ultimate stamp on the franchise could be the success of his next manager.

The Rockies have had only seven winning seasons in 24 years of existence, and three of those came in their first five years, including 1995, when in their third season, they claimed the first NL Wild Card and advanced to the postseason more quickly than any other expansion team.

They also earned the NL Wild Card in 2007, when they made their only World Series appearance and were swept by the Red Sox, and in 2009.

They were in contention until the final two weeks of 2010, but in the last six seasons they have the worst composite record in the NL -- 420-552 (.432). Their third-place finish in 2016 was their best during that time.

But more than results on the field, Weiss and Bridich both admitted that after two years it was apparent they were not a good fit.

"It was just best for everyone," Weiss said of his decision not to return.

And Bridich reaffirmed.

"I agree with Walt," he said. "I think it was time to move on."

Where the Rockies will move remains to be seen.

The only thing that seems certain is that pitching coach Steve Foster and bullpen coach Darren Holmes will remain. In their two seasons the Rockies have witnessed the emergence of quality young arms out of the Minor Leagues, and a reintroduction of the curveball as a part of the pitch selection for Rockies pitchers.

They can be credited with the resurrection of starting pitcher Chad Bettis, who had 17 quality starts this year, and development of former No. 1 draft picks Jon Gray, who had 16 quality starts, and Tyler Anderson, an in-season callup, who had 12 quality starts. Those three, along with Tyler Chatwood, who returned in 2016 from Tommy John surgery, will form four-fifths of next year's projected rotation.

The rest of the coaching staff and Weiss' replacement is uncertain.

Bridich, who was the Rockies' farm director before replacing O'Dowd, has a strong relationship with Triple-A Albuquerque manager Glenallen Hill, and there has been speculation since spring that he could be the team's manager in waiting.

There were indications on Monday, however, that since the Rockies appear on the brink of contention, Bridich might feel a need to bring in an experienced big-league manager, and that Hill could be promoted to the big-league coaching staff.

Former Padres manager Buddy Black has become a hot commodity this offseason. There were reports out of Atlanta on Monday that he already has a meeting set up with Braves executives, and he would seem to fit in the Rockies' managerial desires.

Black is laid back, has strong relationships with his players and front office, and as a former big league pitcher has a strong feel for the challenges of that part of the game.

Other outside candidates could include Indians coach Brad Mills, who has been the chief lieutenant for manager Terry Francona both in Cleveland and Boston, previously managed in the Rockies system and managed the Astros (2010-12) early in their rebuilding process.

"We will look at multiple avenues," said Bridich. "There will be internal and external interviews we will want to have."

When the process is over, Rockies ownership and Bridich will be looking for results. "We have a lot of talented players," said Bridich. "The next step is having a successful and talented team."

And it is up to Bridich to find the right manager to guide these young players to that level.

Tracy Ringolsby is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.