One name that's been heavily bandied about as we approach the July 30 MLB trade deadline is that of Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story. So should we dispense with further throat-clearing and dive into a brief Trevor Story deadline primer? Yes, we should.
Why Story is on the block
The Rockies are, quite unsurprisingly, not contending this season. At this writing, they're 42-54, and the SportsLine Projection System they have less than a 1.0 percent chance of making the playoffs. Given Colorado's record and the strength of the NL West, that's not surprising.
While the Rockies aren't entirely conventional in their approach to the contending-rebuilding continuum, there's really no reason to hang on to Story. He's in his walk year -- meaning he's slated for free agency this coming offseason -- and there seems to have been very little momentum toward (or desire for on Story's part) a long-term extension. As such, the rational path forward is to trade him prior to the deadline, especially since the offseason trade of Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals greatly diminished the current veteran core. Then again, the Rockies have a long history of not behaving all that rationally when it comes to major personnel decisions. While a trade seems likely, it's also possible the Rockies will opt to retain him and tender a qualifying offer this offseason. That would likely entitle them to draft pick compensation once Story signs elsewhere.
Why teams might want him
He's a plus-fielding shortstop who at the plate has produced at impressive levels over the course of his career. For his career, he boasts an OPS+ of 112, which means his park-adjusted OPS has been 12 percent better than the league-average mark. That's good production for any player, let alone a shortstop who's an asset in the field. Also, let's repeat that OPS+ is park-adjusted, so the fact that Story has played all his home games at a mile above sea level has been accounted for.
Speaking of Coors Field, yes, it boosts a hitter's production at home, but because of the altitude effects, particularly on the breaking pitches he sees, that same hitter will often suffer a production-sapping "hangover" in road games. So while we wouldn't expect Story to put up Coors-grade numbers in any other home yard, we'd likewise expect him to fare better in road games as a member of a team other than the Rockies. This has been the case with any number of genuinely skilled post-Coors hitters, including Matt Holliday, DJ LeMahieu, and -- thus far -- Arenado.
Story's numbers have dipped below his usual standards in 2021 -- his OPS+ sits at 92 -- but, again, that's a reasonable output for someone who mans such a key defensive position. Those numbers may reflect the elbow issues that landed him on the IL toward the end of May, and he may see some improvement as he gets further away from that injury. Story went 0 for 14 after coming off the IL, but since that point has hit a more customary .252/.328/.485 with six home runs and eight stolen bases in 27 games. As well, Story's average exit velocity off the bat is his highest mark since his rookie season of 2016. At age 28, he shouldn't be experiencing any decline in his fundamental skills at the plate. Given all that, teams will likely bet on the track record. His fielding has shown no signs of slippage.
As noted, Story is a pending free agent, which means he's a stretch drive/playoff "rental" for the team that acquires him, at least in the absence of an extension. That lack of team control means the return package required to get Story figures to be quite modest. As for money, Story is owed the balance -- i.e., roughly one-third -- of an $18.5 million salary for 2021.
Which teams might want him?
Chicago White Sox
This seems like an odd fit, given the presence of standout shortstop Tim Anderson on the Chicago roster. However, the Sox are said to be eyeballing Story for second base. There's a need there because Nick Madrigal underwent season-ending hamstring surgery in the middle of June. His primary replacement, Leury Garcia, is best deployed as a utility sort. Story, needless to say, would fill that hole quite well.
It remains to be seen whether the Reds position themselves as buyers leading up to the deadline, given that they're on the fringes of relevance right now. If they do decide to go for it, however, then shortstop is an obvious opportunity for an upgrade with Story. The Reds have tried four different players at shortstop this season, and none of them have performed adequately. Overall, Cincy's gotten a slash line of .226/.298/.372 from the position.
New York Mets
This wouldn't figure to be a position of need for the Mets given that they swung a winter blockbuster for Francisco Lindor. However, a grade 2 oblique strain has landed Lindor on the IL, and his timetable for a return isn't clear. His absence will be measured in weeks and perhaps months. Given the tight margins in the NL East, the Mets may not have the luxury of waiting for Lindor to get healthy. If they soon ascertain that Lindor could miss the majority of the remaining schedule, then maybe they'll emerge as surprise players for Story.
The Athletics are in wild card position right now and still very much alive for the AL West title. They achieved that despite poor production from the shortstop position. Primary shortstop Elvis Andrus this season has batted just .232/.271/.314, and the 32-year-old hasn't had a quality season at the plate since 2017. Andrus also appears to be in decline defensively.
That may not be an exhaustive list of potential trading partners for Rockies interim GM Bill Schmidt, but it's the working list as we work our way toward the deadline.