Welcome to The Opener, where every weekday morning you’ll get a fresh, topical column to start your day from one of SI.com’s MLB writers.
The Rockies managed to lose two games on Thursday by the time most people in Denver had gotten off work. But the losses themselves weren’t the worst news the spiraling club received during its ill-fated doubleheader against the Mets, which dropped them to a league-worst 3–20 in road games. When Jeff Bridich resigned last month, he may as well have planted a white flag for the season on top of Mount Evans for the organization he helped drive into the ground.
The more significant news was shortstop Trevor Story’s removal from the nightcap with right arm tightness near the elbow. Manager Bud Black said he’s day-to-day, and that the pain occurred on a sparkling defensive play in which Story ranged to his left to field a grounder, spun around and threw a dart from the outfield grass to first just in time to nail the speedy Cameron Maybin.
The play highlighted why the 28-year-old is Colorado’s most appealing trade chip, but also how fleeting trade value can be. If this injury turns out to be serious, the Rockies may be unable to deal the two-time All-Star and would then lose him in the offseason for nothing, blowing a key part of their upcoming rebuild. If it turns out to be a more innocuous injury, as seems likely, it should still serve as a wake-up call to team owner Dick Monfort, who’s reportedly reluctant to trade Story after the ugly Nolan Arenado saga. Interim GM Bill Schmidt should be granted approval to get what he can for Story (and Jon Gray, while he’s at it) before another twist of fate leaves the Rockies holding an expired lottery ticket. A deal would also finally let former first-round pick Brendan Rodgers get an extended look at his natural position.
The Brewers opened the shortstop trade market last week with the acquisition of Willy Adames and pitcher Trevor Richards from the Rays for a pair of promising relievers in J.P. Feyereisen and Drew Rasmussen. That removed a prime potential landing spot for Story, who’s on pace for the worst offensive outputs of his career and has been a below-average hitter by OPS+ (95) and wRC+ (89) this year.
Nevertheless, there should be enough clubs lining up to render a worthy return for Story, who’s finished in the top 12 of NL MVP voting in each of the last three seasons. While the demand for shortstops has shrunk, so has the supply: soon-to-be free agents Javier Báez, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager are probably off the market with their teams in the postseason hunt (and given Seager’s hand injury). With that, here are four teams that should welcome Story’s services.
The Elvis Andrus trade has not worked out at all for Oakland (though to be fair, it hasn’t for Texas, either). Andrus ranks dead last out of 151 qualified hitters with a .486 OPS. He’s also been poor in the field, accounting for -6 defensive runs saved. Put it all together, and the first-place Athletics have gotten the worst shortstop production of any team, according to fWAR. The A’s have never been afraid to make a deal and have even rented an offensive superstar from Colorado before, when they acquired Matt Holliday for the 2009 season (that deal, which saw Oakland send off Carlos Gonzalez, didn’t work out at all—but that’s beside the point). This is a perfect on-field fit.
There are a couple of roadblocks; however, the largest being Story’s $17.5 million salary, which even at a prorated amount likely wouldn’t fit into Oakland’s budget. There’s also the matter of the return. The A’s farm system is ranked 26th by MLB.com, and is the only system without a top 100 prospect in MLB.com’s rankings. Perhaps Colorado will take quantity over quality, or maybe a three-way deal could be forged, with Oakland giving prospects to Colorado and a couple of players who could help another contender, with the third team sweetening the package for the Rockies. Oakland GM David Forst may have to get creative and could wait until the deadline to reduce the money they’d owe Story, but a player of his caliber is worth the extra work.
Cincinnati’s roster construction is sort of a mess right now, and the club could use a trade to move some square pegs away from round holes. The Reds tried to move third baseman Eugenio Suárez to shortstop for a while, an experiment that backfired immediately and was abandoned about a month into the season after Joey Votto broke his thumb, necessitating an infield shuffle. Kyle Farmer, who has an OPS below .600, is the current incumbent. The only team to get worse shortstop production than Cincinnati is Oakland; acquiring Story would give the Reds the upgrade at the six they’ve needed for a while.
They have the prospects (five in MLB.com’s top 100) to entice Colorado. The question is whether the front office of the fourth-place Reds (22–26, 4.5 GB in NL Central) will act as a buyer on the trade market. For a small-market team, Cincinnati has already spent quite a bit of money in free agency to augment the lineup with Nick Castellanos, Mike Moustakas and the benched Shogo Akiyama. Cincinnati almost certainly wouldn’t give Story an extension, especially with prospect José García, who’s been tearing up Double A, waiting in the wings. But while the Reds’ biggest problem area lies in their pitching, a deal for Story could help them consolidate their miscast talent to rent a star, much like they did with another Trevor two summers ago.
This would mark quite a reversal after parting with Francisco Lindor during the offseason. But with the AL Central looking more winnable than many predicted—Cleveland is only 1.5 games behind Chicago—a new shortstop could go a long way for the team. Three different players (Owen Miller, Yu Chang, Amed Rosario) have started at the six over Cleveland’s last three days, and none of them inspires confidence. Andrés Giménez, the prized return in the Lindor trade, didn’t look ready for prime time and was sent down to Triple A earlier this month.
Top prospect third baseman Nolan Jones would be untouchable in any deal, but Cleveland boasts four other prospects near the bottom of MLB.com’s top 100 rankings who could work as headliners. The same financial issues that could prevent Oakland or Cincinnati from winning the Story sweepstakes likely apply here, though.
New York Yankees
A few weeks ago, ESPN’s Buster Olney pegged the Big Apple as the destination for Story that makes the most sense from all sides, and I have to agree. There’s a need in the Yankees’ infield, presumed payroll flexibility, another bandbox stadium to tamp down concerns of the Coors effect and a player in DJ LaMahieu who’d vouch for his former teammate and friend. The loss of Luke Voit to a grade 2 oblique strain could serve as the impetus for the Bombers to get a head start on pitching Story to stay in New York long-term.
Gleyber Torres would have to move to second base, at least for this year, but that’s probably for the best given his fielding deficiencies. Rougned Odor, who is 3-for-29 with zero homers in May, could then be used as a bench bat instead of being handed the starting job he couldn’t even hold down in Texas.
Even if the Yankees want to stay below the luxury tax, which couldn’t happen if they took on the entirety of Story’s 2021 salary, the Rockies showed a willingness to pay up for better prospects in the Arenado trade. They’d be well advised to do so again if they want the Story era to have the happiest ending possible.
- Milwaukee’s shortstop upgrade paid off handsomely Thursday. Adames had four hits, including a three-run homer, and threw out San Diego’s potential go-ahead runner at home plate in the eighth inning on a beautiful relay from Jackie Bradley Jr. The Brewers won in extra innings, and almost certainly wouldn’t have gotten the same production from former starter Luis Urías.
- Shane Bieber and Carlos Martínez both took no-hitters into the seventh inning Thursday. It’s only a matter of time until we get another.
- Adolis García is tied with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the MLB lead in home runs. He can take them away, too.
- The Mets’ doubleheader sweep over Colorado gave them a 2.5-game lead over the Phillies and Braves in the NL East. That’s the biggest divisional lead in the majors. Four divisions have a one-game deficit. It looks like we’re in for a hot chase summer.
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