The St. Louis Cardinals aren’t expected to make a splash in the trade market this winter, but if they do, is Tre vor Story a good candidate?
So far this winter, there have been many candidates identified as players who could be traded or who make good trade targets for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Most recently, it was David Peralta or Mike Tauchman. The team has made it abundantly clear that there won’t be any big free agent splashes like George Springer or J.T. Realmuto, but that doesn’t mean the team couldn’t be active in the trade market.
While it is now past the first week of January, there is still a ton left to be ironed out about what the 2021 season will look like. From the DH, to the length of the schedule, to whether or not fans will be allowed in the stands, all of these things are standing in the way of every team except the Mets and the Padres from solidifying their plans. Once those things are more defined, expect things to pick up.
The Cardinals’ biggest need is consistency in the outfield but with Kolten Wong a free agent, another infielder who can play either shortstop, third base, or second base is another place open for an upgrade. An infield of Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong, and Tommy Edman could work, but there is room to upgrade.
The Cardinals are likely going to be looking for cash-neutral trades where neither team has to take on salary, but there is one player out there that the Cardinals could acquire if they wanted to go a little bit bigger. The plan for this type of move is fresh in the mind of John Mozeliak.
Enter Trevor Story.
Story is a 28-year-old shortstop for the Colorado Rockies who is entering his final year under contract before he becomes a free agent. While the Cardinals have been interested in the player playing to Story’s right (Nolan Arenado), that deal doesn’t seem like something that will ever happen at this point.
In Story, the Cardinals would be getting another middle of the order slugger. In his four full seasons in the MLB, Story has hit 35+ homers twice, with his lowest count (24) coming in 2017. As was mentioned before, he’s 28 but will be 28 for the entirety of the 2021 season.
Story has three years of .900+ OPS seasons and two seasons of 20+ stolen bases. He is a two-time All-Star and has finished in the top-15 in MVP voting three times as well. Looking at his advanced metrics from 2019 (the last full season), Story gets consistently good batted ball luck through an extremely high average exit velocity.
Any time you look at a player who has a BABIP between .330 and .360 consistently, there is the concern of regression, but consistently hitting the ball hard as Story does will make up for that. Over the past three seasons, Story has averaged a 122 wRC+ which is only brought down by his 8.4% walk percentage.
In 2020, Story played in 59 games and hit 11 homers, stealing 15 bases while batting for a slash line of .289/.355/.519. Story is remarkably consistent and is a legit five-tool player. In 2018 and 2019, Story’s 5.1 and 5.8 fWAR show his consistency, but also speak to the fact that his skills don’t just come on the offensive side of the ball.
As is shown in the tweet above, along with being a great hitter and baserunner, he also excels at shortstop. The Cardinals lost a lot of their run-prevention potential by allowing Kolten Wong to walk, but adding in Story helps replace that.
Paul DeJong was a stellar defensive shortstop in 2019 but took a backslide in the field in 2020. Story has shown much more consistency at the position and it would make plenty of sense for DeJong to slide over to third base consistently, a position he played in the Minors.
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On the surface, it doesn’t make sense for the Cardinals to make a trade for a rental, but it is exactly the same thing they did before 2019 with Paul Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt was 30 when the Cardinals traded for him, so the price to acquire Story would likely be higher, but it won’t be as high as some of the proposed packages for Nolan Arenado given the fact that Story is a rental.
Story a premium bat and a premium defender at a premium position would warrant a contract larger than Goldschmidt’s, but at just 28 he could be a fixture in the Cardinals’ lineup for years to come.
The biggest barrier in the way of trading for Story is his 2021 salary. In 2020, the Rockies paid to buy out Story’s final two years of arbitration, leaving him with a $18.5M salary this year. This is no small barrier, but if the Cardinals are serious about going after Story after 2021 when he’s a free agent, this might be their best way in.
After the 2021 season, there is going to be a flood of top-tier shortstops into free agency including Story. If the Cardinals are able to bring in Story or even lock him down like they did Goldschmidt, they can corner that market before they are forced to compete with many other teams in free agency.
I don’t think this last point can be understated. The Cardinals have a ton of money coming off the books after 2021, but they have never shown a willingness to dive headfirst into the deep end of the free agency pool. If they want to sign one of the many shortstops that are going to be available, getting Story now might be their only realistic chance.
As of a month ago, the Rockies were “warming up to the idea” of moving Story, and the Rockies should already have a familiarity with what the Cardinals have to offer. Jeff Bridich and the Rockies have proven to be unstable and at times confusing with their decisions. If they are looking to clear up payroll, taking on a slightly cheaper contract like Carlos Martinez‘s in addition to a hefty package of prospects could be a way to make this deal work. The Rockies are falling far behind both the Padres and the Dodgers when it comes to competing in the West too.
Trading for Trevor Story is not the current path of least resistance for the Cardinals, but acquiring him immediately makes the infield defense and lineup light years better. The trade would have to happen with an expectation that Story is interested in signing here longterm, but this is the biggest trade the Cards could go after this winter. Please enjoy this video of Story hitting a ball 487 feet.