Ranking the Top 10 Landing Spots for Trevor Story in MLB Free Agency

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterDecember 12, 2021

Ranking the Top 10 Landing Spots for Trevor Story in MLB Free Agency

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Major League Baseball's free-agent market may be on a break, but that isn't stopping the rumor mill from spinning.

    For instance, have you heard the latest on Trevor Story?

    On Monday, Jon Heyman of Audacy and MLB Network reported that both clubs from this year's American League Championship Series have their eyes on Story. A few days prior, Robert Murray of FanSided noted that another rising power in the American League also has him on the radar.

    This means at least three clubs are after the former Colorado Rockies shortstop, though others certainly fit him well and could make a play for him.

    Let's size up his market value and then count down his top 10 potential landing spots.

What Will Story Be Looking For in Free Agency?

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    If Story had hit the open market after 2020, he could have set his sights on a megadeal akin to the 10-year, $325 million contract that fellow shortstop Corey Seager inked this month with the Texas Rangers.

    He didn't, however, and the nature of his 2021 season complicates his value on this winter's market.

    After starring to the tune of a .909 OPS, 83 home runs, 65 stolen bases and a shortstop-high 15.7 rWAR between 2018 and 2020, Story hit a wall this year. An elbow injury hindered him early, and he hit .251 with an average 103 OPS+.

    The 29-year-old nonetheless rejected an $18.4 million qualifying offer from the Rockies, thereby choosing to bet on himself in free agency. Given the team's baffling handling of him during the summer trading season, Story might also have simply wanted out of Colorado.

    His decision looks even better in the context of the big bucks the market has paid out not only to Seager but also to Marcus Semien (seven years, $175 million) and Javier Baez (six years, $140 million). Even after his volatile 2021 season, Story can aim to land between the latter two players.

    As for which clubs might be willing to pay that kind of money for Story, let's start with his hometown team.

10. Texas Rangers

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    Corey Seager
    Corey SeagerRichard W. Rodriguez/Associated Press

    Irving, Texas, is where Story was born and where he made himself worthy of a first-round draft pick in 2011 with his play at Irving High School.

    His professional journey began a short drive away from the Rangers' home in Arlington. If he wants to bring things full circle, the Rangers might be happy to accommodate him.

    According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, the Rangers met with Story before they dropped $500 million on Seager and Semien. Such huge signings take them out of the running for Story in theory, but maybe not in reality if they fancy him as a third baseman.

    That's where the Rangers have Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who's a gifted defender but not a good enough hitter for the hot corner. Story, on the other hand, has the goods to be a two-way star.

    Yet this is admittedly a reach. Even if the Rangers wanted to stretch their budget further than they already have, Story might not see a homecoming as worth a position switch and a less hitter-friendly home ballpark than he's used to.

9. Toronto Blue Jays

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    Bo Bichette
    Bo BichetteNick Wass/Associated Press

    Before Seager signed with the Rangers, the Toronto Blue Jays made an effort to lure him north of the border, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN.

    This might seem odd given what Bo Bichette did for Toronto at shortstop in 2021. After showing promise in 2019 and 2020, he broke out as an All-Star by hitting .298 with 29 home runs and 25 stolen bases.

    Bichette's defense, however, was shoddy as he led defenders with 24 errors. In spite of their public commitment to him as a shortstop, the Jays have a good excuse to consider upgrades.

    At least to this extent, Story fits Toronto better than Seager would have. For reasons likely related to his elbow, defense was a struggle for him in 2021. As recently as 2019, though, he was among the shortstop leaders with 18 outs above average.

    Yet unlike Seager, Story isn't the left-handed power threat the Jays notably lacked this year. And if they were willing to spend upward of $300 million on Seager, they might as well splurge for a bigger shortstop upgrade than Story: Carlos Correa.

8. Chicago Cubs

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    Nico Hoerner
    Nico HoernerAssociated Press

    The Chicago Cubs know from what Story said in August that he has built-in appreciation for all they have going for them.

    "Man, just from afar, it's such a historic organization, and I can tell you I love playing here," he told reporters. "The fans are great. Just coming here over the past six years, it's a place you look forward to coming, for sure."

    This would be a footnote if the Cubs weren't in the market for a shortstop, but they have a clear need. The position presently belongs to light-hitting Nico Hoerner, who has a disconcerting injury history and is better suited to be a Brock Holt-ian utility player.

    What's more, signing Story would give the Cubs further credibility as a reborn contender following a 91-loss season that saw them break up their previous core. They've taken big steps in this direction by adding Wade Miley and Marcus Stroman to their rotation.

    However, nothing solid links Story to the Cubs. And given how his last two seasons in Denver went, he might prefer a more direct path to contention if they do come calling.

7. Philadelphia Phillies

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    Didi Gregorius
    Didi GregoriusMatt Slocum/Associated Press

    In October, Heyman speculated that the Philadelphia Phillies would be in on the market's top shortstops.

    With good reason. Though the Phillies re-upped Didi Gregorius last winter, his productivity hit a wall, and the team got minus-0.5 rWAR from shortstop in 2021.

    Even if the Phillies have yet to be connected to Story since the offseason began, he fits as the right-handed slugger for which they're known to be looking. As reported by Jon Morosi of MLB.com, that's evident in their pursuit of Nick Castellanos.

    Story, meanwhile, could be forgiven if he likes the idea of calling Citizens Bank Park home. Even if it's not on Coors Field's level in terms of overall hitter-friendliness, it might be comparatively friendlier to right-handed power hitters like himself.

    Still, the unknown is whether the Phillies would sign Story on his terms. As Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported in November, the organization might only pursue a shortstop if one gets "squeezed" by the market. That was possible then, but perhaps less so now in the wake of so many megadeals.

6. Los Angeles Angels

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    David Fletcher
    David FletcherMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Speaking of shortstop-needy teams trying to get over the hump into contention, the Los Angeles Angels match that description as much as the Phillies.

    Shortstop was such a weakness for them in 2021, in fact, that the position ended up dead-last in the majors with an output of minus-1.0 rWAR. The role is in the hands of Tyler Wade, though David Fletcher could also spend time there in a pinch. Either way, not great.

    Though Story is an upgrade on paper, he's an imperfect fit for the Angels in one regard. Angel Stadium is only a good place for right-handed hitters if they have the power to clear their shortened right-field fence. Since he has just 15 career homers to right field, oppo power hasn't been Story's forte.

    It could be, however. As seen in this graph of his opposite-field fly-ball outs, there might be more to Story's power to right field than his results indicate.

    Rather, the bigger hurdle could concern where the Angels' priorities lie. They've mostly had their sights set on pitching this winter, which could still be the case after the lockout even with Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen in tow.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Trea Turner
    Trea TurnerAshley Landis/Associated Press

    Elsewhere in Southern California, it wasn't for lack of trying that the Los Angeles Dodgers didn't re-sign Seager.

    They had strong interest in doing so, according to Passan, but it's no great surprise they didn't get it done. For all their huge spending in the last decade, they've been so cautious in free agency that they've yet to do a deal worth so much as $150 million.

    One bright side is that the Dodgers prepared for Seager's departure by trading for Trea Turner over the summer. He can play shortstop, while the newly re-signed Chris Taylor figures to man second base.

    Still, going from having Seager, Turner and Taylor in the lineup to just two of them is a net negative. Signing Story to play either second base or shortstop would mitigate that, and he might be within the Dodgers' preferred price range.

    But until the Dodgers are tangibly connected to Story, this is strictly hypothetical. And since he's not the left-handed hitter Seager was, it makes more sense for the Dodgers to realize their interest (per Morosi) in Freddie Freeman.

4. New York Yankees

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    Gleyber Torres
    Gleyber TorresFrank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Unlike their similarly deep-pocketed rivals on the West Coast, the New York Yankees decidedly don't have a star-caliber player they can live with at shortstop.

    They thought Gleyber Torres would be that guy, but that experiment ended in September when he moved back to second base. Once he did, it seemed like a given that they would splurge on a big-name shortstop.

    Per Joel Sherman of the New York Post, this has yet to happen because the Yankees are comfortable waiting for a chance to make an opportunistic strike. They might still pounce on Correa or Story, but only if the market pushes one of them to accept a more team-friendly deal.

    If that happens to either of them, it'll probably be Story. Even if he's no Correa, he'd be an instant update for the Yankees at shortstop. And like at Angel Stadium, he'd have a chance to tap into his unrealized oppo power at Yankee Stadium.

    What the Yankees have in common with the Dodgers, however, is that a left-handed slugger is what they need. They, too, should keep Freeman (h/t Heyman) at the top of their wish list.

3. Boston Red Sox

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    Xander Bogaerts
    Xander BogaertsAssociated Press

    With the Boston Red Sox, we've finally reached one of the interested parties referenced in the introduction.

    According to Heyman's report, the Red Sox have Story on their radar. Which is interesting, of course, because they have one of the game's top shortstops in the person of Xander Bogaerts.

    Yet it's no secret the Red Sox are in a precarious position with Bogaerts. For one thing, calling his perpetually low-rated defense "passable" is a kindness. For two, he has an opt-out after 2022 that ESPN's Joon Lee says he's planning on exercising.

    Since it's doubtful the Red Sox would ask Bogaerts to move for Story's sake, signing the latter would likely mean selling him on at least a one-year move to second base. In which case, the hook for him would have to be the chance to take frequent aim at the Green Monster in service of a contender.

    Doable? Sure. But since the Red Sox have also checked in on Correa, according to Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston, it's hard not to wonder if their "interest" in Story is due diligence and nothing more.

2. Seattle Mariners

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    J.P. Crawford
    J.P. CrawfordElaine Thompson/Associated Press

    J.P. Crawford is a Gold Glove-winning shortstop, so you can hardly blame the Seattle Mariners for taking a firm stance that he's their long-term guy at the position.

    Nevertheless, they've been connected to Story at multiple points throughout the offseason. Notably, both before (by Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times) and after (by Murray) they traded for All-Star infielder Adam Frazier.

    Because Frazier can play multiple positions, the Mariners might be thinking they can sign Story as a second baseman. He could just as easily fill Kyle Seager's shoes at third base, which would free up Abraham Toro to be a utility man in his own right.

    Either way, the position switch and T-Mobile Park's more pitcher-friendly dimensions will amount to a tough sell for Seattle. But if Story wants to catch on with a rising contender, he can't do much better than the Mariners.

    They won 90 games without much help from their elite farm system, and their signing of AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray gets our vote as the most impactful move of the winter so far. All this makes the Mariners the exact opposite of Story's last team.

1. Houston Astros

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    Jeremy Pena
    Jeremy PenaMichael Reaves/Getty Images

    Along with the Red Sox, Heyman's report mentioned the Houston Astros as the other American League power with interest in Story.

    The only thing to say is, it's about time.

    The Astros can technically re-sign Correa, but that ship probably sailed when they low-balled him with their most recent offer. Berman reported that to be for $160 million over five years, or about half what Correa will likely end up getting on both fronts.

    However, that money might be enough for Story. And what a fit he would be in Houston. Not just because he's a Texas native who's a better immediate option than Jeremy Pena at shortstop, but also because he's precisely the kind of hitter who could take frequent advantage of the Crawford Boxes in left field.

    As for the Astros' contention timeline, they were last seen in the World Series, and they've brought back two-time Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander. They're about as contender-y as a contender can be.

         

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.

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