Trevor Story is a trust-the-process, stay-in-the-moment kind of guy. But, he admits, he’s peeking ahead just a bit.
That’s perfectly understandable.
The Rockies’ two-time all-star shortstop is fast approaching a huge decision that will define the rest of his career. Plus, the Rockies open their final homestand of the season beginning Tuesday when they host the Dodgers at Coors Field. Those nine games — three each against the Dodgers, Giants and Nationals — will likely be Story’s final home games in LoDo.
“I just recently thought about that,” Story said. “It’s certainly a reality that those could be my last home games playing there. It’s something where I will just try and relish it and be in the moment. I really want to enjoy the time, enjoy the fans, enjoy the ballpark, all of that. Because you just don’t know what’s to come.”
Story, 28, will become a free agent at the end of the season. While the Rockies will extend him a qualifying offer, they have not approached him about a new contract. All indications are that Story will explore free agency. He’ll be looking for the biggest contract of his career, one that could be worth more than $100 million.
As for the possibility of staying in Colorado, Story doesn’t have much to say. “No teams are off the table,” Story said. “That’s kind of the way we’ve looked at it.”
Rockies interim general manager Bill Schmidt gave a predictable response regarding Story’s future.
“We think the world of Trevor as a player, and more importantly, as a person,” Schmidt said. “We’ll see how things play out this offseason.”
For Story, his decision is not just about money. He also wants to be part of a team that projects as a consistent postseason contender, if not in 2022, then very soon after that. Story remains close with former Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, who forced his way out of Colorado and landed in St. Louis via a trade this past February.
Although Story’s Colorado career appears to be coming to a close after six seasons, he’s proud of the way the Rockies’ have transformed what once looked like a disastrous, 100-loss season. The Rockies, 68-78 entering the weekend series at Washington, had gone 28-27 since the all-star break prior to Friday night.
“The way we played lately is encouraging for sure,” Story said. “We are playing freer and a lot looser than we were in the beginning of the year. It’s good to see.”
Story will be entering a free-agent class loaded with quality shortstops. Leading the class are the Astros’ Carlos Correa and the Dodgers’ Corey Seager, but the Blue Jays’ Marcus Semien and the Cubs’ Javier Baez will also compete with Story for a lucrative contract.
Unfortunately for Story, he’s had a subpar season, at least by his standards. He entered the weekend slashing .247/.325/.476, which pales next to his career line of .272/.340/.525. He’s hit 22 home runs and is on pace to finish with 25, a big step down from the 37 homers he hit in 2018 and the 35 he hit in ’19.
Plus, Story injured his right elbow in late May and there are some in the industry who still have concerns about his arm strength.
“I love Trevor as a player, but the contract year always carries more weight than the player’s overall career,” said one longtime major league executive. “With an OPS+ right around the league average, he’ll have to create quite a compelling argument as to why that happened.”
Story’s OPS+ this season is just 102, far removed from his career-best OPS+ of 127 in 2018. OPS+ measures a player’s OPS (on-base percentage, plus slugging percentage) and normalizes the number across the entire league, taking into account such things as his home ballpark’s dimensions or altitude. OPS+ is then adjusted so that a score of 100 is the league average.
“In my opinion, Story should never eliminate the Rockies from consideration, as they might be his best fit at the end of the day, even if it’s a one-year, pillow deal,” the executive added. “He could then go back out with a more desirable (free-agent) class to be part of next offseason.”
Story, however, is one of the fastest and best all-around athletes in the majors. He has 18 stolen bases and 32 doubles, making him one of just six players with at least 20 home runs, 15 or more stolen bases and 30 or more doubles.
And, Story has been playing better of late. Since breaking out of an 0-for-24 slump Aug. 29, he entered the weekend slashing .271/.348/.695 with six home runs in his last 16 games.
“Overall, he’s playing like Trevor,” manager Bud Black said. “In a lot of ways, this has been an uneven year for Trevor. But now I think he’s playing with the freedom and looseness we have seen from Trevor over the years. He’s been in a much better spot, mentally, than he’s been all year. He’s playing with a lot of freedom and he’s letting his skills show up.”
Story is quick to admit 2021 has been a struggle.
“It’s been kind of a challenging year, trying to get to where I feel comfortable on a consistent basis and I just haven’t done that,” he said. “But lately, I’ve felt more consistent with my comfort in the (batter’s) box, and with my defense. So that’s been good. It’s a long season and it’s been a little frustrating, with the aspect of it being up and down, and me not being as consistent as I have been in the past. But there are things I can learn from it, for sure.”
Story is hesitant to give too much weight to the pressure of his contract year, but he admits it might have affected him.
“I think we prepared for it as best we could, but it’s always different when you are in the situation and when you are living in that space, on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “It’s not something I thought a lot about, but having that over my head, maybe it affected me. I’m not going to make that an excuse, but it could have played a part; just the uncertainty of it all.”
Rockies right fielder Charlie Blackmon, Story’s close friend and the acknowledged team leader, said any team, including the Rockies, would be fortunate to have Story in its lineup.
“Trevor is a guy that every organization would want to add,” Blackmon said. “He can beat you with his defense, offense or his speed. He changes the game.”
Asked what he could say to Story in an effort to convince him to stay in Colorado, Blackmon answered: “Trevor knows how I feel about him and how the Rockies feel about him. That’s more than any sales pitch I could give him.”
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