DENVER -- The Rockies’ decision to extend a qualifying offer to free-agent shortstop Trevor Story was designed either to be the first step toward retaining him -- unlikely at this point -- or to find their new Story.
The expectation is Story, who turns 29 on Nov. 15, is in line with Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Javier Báez -- free-agent shortstops in line for mega contracts. The qualifying offer is for one year at $18.4 million, one Story is expected to reject (officially, he has 10 days to decide) given that multiple years and much more money will be available. Should Story leave as expected, however, the Rockies will receive a valuable consolation prize -- an early Draft pick.
Under the 2017-21 Collective Bargaining Agreement, a revenue-sharing recipient team like the Rockies will receive a pick in the 2022 MLB Draft should they extend the qualifying offer and the player signs elsewhere. If Story were to sign a contract of at least $50 million, the Rockies will be rewarded a pick between the first round and Competitive Balance Round A. If the player signs for less than $50 million, the Rockies’ pick will come after Competitive Balance Round B, which follows the second round.
What can that pick mean?
In 2011, under the rules of a previous CBA, the Rockies received the 45th overall choice because they lost right-hander Octavio Dotel via free agency. The Rockies used that pick on a high school shortstop from Irving, Texas: Trevor Story.
There are no guarantees with Draft picks, but that’s why the Rockies like collecting them -- and will have four within the first two rounds in 2022. On the 2021 team, Story, second baseman Brendan Rodgers, third baseman Ryan McMahon and right fielder Charlie Blackmon were Rockies picks taken in the first two rounds, and center fielder Garrett Hampson was a third-round pick. Additionally, starting pitchers Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland were first-rounders.
The Rockies, however, are expected to keep the door open just in case Story's value ends up in their range. After a season of extreme payroll tightening that resulted in third baseman Nolan Arenado being dealt to the Cardinals before Spring Training, the Rockies want to gradually increase payroll spending to past levels. With or without Story, the Rockies need to add a couple of bats to the lineup.
They also realize they likely will have to replace Story, and indications are they prefer Rodgers -- drafted as a shortstop -- stay at second base. One way to improve the outfield and at least partly address shortstop is to go after Chris Taylor, who played infield and outfield for the Dodgers while giving the Rockies headaches for years. They also could go defense-minded at short, with Andrelton Simmons and José Iglesias distinct possibilities, while concentrating on offense in the outfield.
In addition, after lengthy consideration, the Rockies did not extend the qualifying offer to Gray.
Had the club offered and Gray accepted, an $18.4 million salary for 2022 would have put him well above that of All-Star right-hander Germán Márquez ($11.3 million), and above the combined totals for righty Antonio Senzatela ($7.25 million) and lefty Freeland (projected by Cot’s Baseball Contracts and MLB Trade Rumors to land at $7 million in arbitration). Circumstances are different -- Gray is a free agent while Márquez and Senzatela signed before becoming free agents and Freeland has not reached that point yet.
Still, the Rockies have a shot at a multiyear deal that keeps Gray’s yearly earnings closer to the range of other rotation members. However, now other teams also are in the bidding, and that could affect Gray’s price tag.
Interestingly, the Rockies did not deal Story at the Trade Deadline partly because new general manager Bill Schmidt, who has run every Draft for Colorado since 2000, valued the compensatory pick. And the team did not trade Gray because he expressed a desire to work out a new contract with the club.