The Texas Rangers have been rumored to covet Trevor Story, the Colorado Rockies shortstop who is a native of the Metroplex, for some time. Story is slated to be a free agent after the season, and a couple of national writers have, in recent days, mentioned the Rangers in connection with Story once he hits the market.
Jon Heyman tweeted several days back that the Rangers, along with the San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies, are “seen as likely to become big players” in this offseason’s shortstop market, which at this point would include not just Story, but also Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa and Javy Baez. I’m still skeptical that the Dodgers let Seager hit the market, and the New York Mets, having just traded for Lindor, I think will work to try to keep him. That being said, there’s going to be a number of really good, star-caliber shortstops hitting the market this offseason, and Heyman mentioning the Rangers as likely players is worthy of note.
The Rangers also make a cameo appearance in Ken Rosenthal and Nick Groke’s piece today at the Athletic, examining the floundering Colorado Rockies and their systemic problems that ultimately led to their trading of superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado to the St. Louis Cardinals last month. Story, and the uncertainty surrounding his future, features significantly in the article, with the authors mentioning that “[t]he Rangers, who had interest in Arenado, seem likely to be among the bidders for Story, a native of Irving, Texas.”
Story has been a legitimate star-caliber player in his time in the majors, putting up 21.1 bWAR over 603 major league games, roughly a 5 win per 150 game pace. Story has finished in the top 12 in the National League MVP balloting each of the past three years. He also has the big home/road splits we are used to seeing from Rockies hitters, slashing .304/.370/.624 at home versus .250/.315/.445 on the road, although there is evidence that Rockies hitters perform better than would be expected based on their park-adjusted numbers with the Rockies. I suspect the success D.J. LeMahieu has had the past two seasons has teams less concerned about the home/road splits for Story, and if Arenado performs for St. Louis this year it will be another positive data point for paying Story.
Its hard to get a good handle on what the market will be like for Story, who turns 29 in November. Between the COVID-19 pandemic’s truncating the 2020 season and skewing the market this past offseason, and what appears to be likely to be several top-tier shortstops hitting the market after 2021, there could be some downward pressure on the market for Story. That being said, George Springer — like Story, a 5 win per 150 guy over his career, but also, at 31, two years older than Story will be when he hits the market — got 6 years, $150 million this offseason, and I can’t imagine Story getting any less than that. Given Story is younger than Springer, another year or two in length is likely, and a higher AAV also seems to be a reasonable bet — we could end up looking at Story’s price being as high as 8 years, $240 million this offseason.
I have no doubt that there are skeptics, folks who say that this ownership group has shown it won’t spend, that this team is terrible and years away from competing, and that there’s no chance the Rangers go after Story, or any other high-priced free agent after the season. And those folks may be right. That said, as I wrote in early January, the Rangers’ plan would appear to be spend 2021 evaluating who they have on hand, figure out who they feel they can count on as part of a winning team going forward and who is not part of the future, and look to add a couple of stars to that group this coming offseason. That puts them in position, if things go to plan, to be a good team in 2022 and be in position to be a serious contender in 2023.
The other issue I suspect folks will push back on, as far as this possibility goes, is the belief that ownership has checked out — that Bob and Ray just wanted to get a new stadium to inflate the value of the team, and that now that the stadium is opened they are going to cash out and sell. The team’s actions of late, and their failure to spend in free agency and decision to go into rebuild mode, is because ownership just wants to reduce payroll to make the team more attractive to a buyer.
And again, that’s certainly a possibility. I’m not going to pound the table and say that those folks are wrong, and that that’s absolutely not why the team has made the decisions it has made over the last eight months or so. But I would note that the decisions the team has made of late in committing to a rebuild and evaluating their young talent is also consistent with, well, committing to a rebuild — something that the team arguably should have done a few years earlier. And given that the team just hired a new general manager in Chris Young — someone who had a very good gig with the Commissioner’s Office, and who was seen as a rising star who would have a number of very good opportunities available to him over the next couple of years — it makes me more skeptical of the “ownership is selling ASAP” arguments. I don’t think Young joins the Rangers, given his other options and potential opportunities, if he thinks there’s going to be a regime change in the near future.