Earlier this month, CBS Sports ranked longtime Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story as the 11th best free agent available this winter. As part of Story's capsule, we noted that he "might end up serving as the winter's Marcus Semien, settling for a pillow contract before landing the mattress next year."
Semien signed a one-year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays last offseason. He then moved from shortstop to second base, where he set the position's single-season home-run record (45) en route to a .265/.334/.538 (133 OPS+) line and more than seven Wins Above Replacement. (Semien is again a free agent; this time, he won't have to settle for a one-year pact.)
Anyway, you might wonder: how literal were we being with the Semien comparison? The answer is somewhat. We do think there's a distinct possibility that Story ends up taking a one-year contract, and that he has to switch positions as part of the deal. Additionally, we think there's a fair shot that he has a monster year and returns to the open market next offseason, ready and waiting for his own multi-year agreement.
Let us explain why we think that by highlighting three main factors.
1. Positional questions
This may seem like a silly nit to pick on its face. Story has appeared at a defensive position in 733 games throughout his big-league career; all of them -- yes, every single one -- has been at shortstop. Given that he's generally graded as an above-average defender, he would seem like a safe bet to remain there for the foreseeable future … except for the annoying little fact his arm strength has deteriorated over the past two seasons.
For an example of what we're talking about, watch this play:
Or, if you prefer cold, hard data to anecdotal evidence, check out this chart:
Story missed time last season with an elbow injury. It's possible that an offseason of rest will allow him to get back to his old ways. The counter argument, though, is that his slide began in 2020 -- and last offseason clearly did not give his arm new life. As such, whichever teams pursue him might decide it would be in their best interest to move him to another position.
Keep in mind, this isn't the first time the idea of Story moving off shortstop has surfaced this year. Back at the trade deadline, some team was reportedly interested in sliding him to center field. Maybe that same team has their wish fulfilled this offseason, or maybe someone else plops him down at second base.
It's just not a given that Story will remain a shortstop heading into next season, and that uncertainty won't help his market.
2. The Coors factor
Whenever a hitter leaves the Rockies, there's going to be concerns about their ability to hit outside of Coors Field. Story is no exception; if anything, he's more likely to be questioned about that aspect because of his home/road splits.
Over the last three seasons, Story has hit .316/.384/.589 at Coors and .237/.311/.440 on the road. Dating back to the start of his career, the gap between his home and road OPS is 220 points.
Now, none of that means Story is doomed. Nolan Arenado's career home-road OPS gap was 192 points and he provided the St. Louis Cardinals with plenty of offense last season without the benefit of playing in Coors Field. Matt Holliday, Larry Walker, and others have left Colorado and had no problem hitting.
What it does mean, though, is that teams might hold Story's splits against him as a way to drive down his cost, while knowing darn well that his underlying metrics -- exit velocity and whatnot -- were closer to even than not regardless of where he played.
3. Loaded class
The last factor is the bloated nature of this free agent class. It stands to reason that the more high-grade shortstops there are on the market, the more likely one is to get frozen out. Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Javier Báez are all out there as well, making it easier to foresee Story being left without a seat.
But maybe this proves to be a pessimistic read of Story and his market. Maybe some team is such a believer in him that they sign him for multiple years to play shortstop. That would be an applaudable outcome: he's proven to be a high-quality player who deserves a multi-year deal, regardless of whether it comes this offseason or next.