Star shortstop Trevor Story declined an $18.4 million qualifying offer from the Colorado Rockies, according to MLB Network's Jon Heyman.
Story will now hit MLB free agency. Should he sign elsewhere, the Rockies will receive a draft pick as compensation. Many expect the two-time All-Star to ply his trade elsewhere in 2022, so his decision to turn down the qualifying offer wasn't a surprise.
Colorado decided to keep Story through the 2021 MLB deadline, which was somewhat unexpected because the team clearly wasn't going to make the playoffs—the Rockies finished 74-87.
"I'm confused, and I don't have really anything good to say about the situation and how it unfolded," Story told reporters at the time.
General manager Bill Schmidt, however, made it pretty clear the franchise would be happy to watch the 29-year-old leave and collect the compensation pick, per MLB.com's Thomas Harding:
"With the way the system is set up, there's a financial component to it. Depending where the pick is, it's probably a couple million dollars added to your [signing] pool money that you're able to use throughout the draft. So it's just not that player. It might be a couple other players.
“But with that pick, that was where Trevor was drafted. Nolan [Arenado] was in the vicinity, Ryan McMahon—we've had some success. We've had some misses, but we've had a lot of success in those areas."
Following the conclusion of the regular season, Story said he might still be willing to return to Denver. What he identified as a main focus in determining his next destination, however, effectively took the Rockies off the table.
"Winning is at the top of the list, and that's something that has always meant the most to me," he told reporters. "I think this is a chance for me to kind of see where that's at."
One reason Story might have taken the qualifying offer was that it afforded a level of certainty at a time of volatility.
MLB owners and the MLB Players Association might be facing a work stoppage, which would put any normal offseason business on the back burner. And with free agency formally underway, Story is one of multiple prominent shortstops hitting the open market.
Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Javier Baez are all available to the highest bidder, so Story's representatives could have a hard time pinpointing their client's earning power right now.
The Texas native put together a solid 2021 season but was still a level or two below what he delivered in his back-to-back All-Star seasons in 2018 and 2019.
In 142 appearances, he had 24 home runs, 75 RBI and a .251/.329/.471 slash line. Per Baseball Savant, he had a .448 expected slugging percentage and .341 expected weighted on-base average. Those numbers both declined for the third straight year.
Story's home and road splits will likely raise some concerns as well. He has a .972 OPS at Coors Field and a .752 everywhere else in MLB for his career, according to Baseball Reference.
Of course, the same questions surrounded Nolan Arenado, who had 34 home runs and a .494 slugging percentage in his first season with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Story should be able to find a new home before Opening Day, but he may not get the kind of payday that appeared to be headed his way a few seasons ago. Having said that, turning down the qualifying offer shouldn't wind up being a big mistake given both his earning power and the overall state of the Rockies.