UNDER FURTHER REVIEW – Trade Story & Gray? Maybe, but maybe not

Well, baseball fans, the Home Run Derby and 91st All-Star Game are history. So now it’s time to turn our thoughts to the approaching Major League Baseball Trade Deadline.

We’ve been hearing for months that the Rockies likely will move Trevor Story, and probably Jon Gray, by July 30. But I’m not so sure.

Gray will attract the interest of multiple teams contending for division titles or playoff berths. But Colorado’s home team has spent more than two decades learning that its best hope for a solid starting rotation is developing its own. Now that the Rockies have four starters who learned to pitch by pitching at altitude—Gray, German Marquez, Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela—it seems a stretch to think that one of them suddenly would be deemed expendable.  Also, Gray has said he’d like to stay in Colorado—no insignificant statement coming from a quality pitcher.

In Story’s case, it’s a question of the market for his services. 

Forget about San Diego (Tatis Jr.), the Dodgers (Corey Seager, when he’s recovered from his broken hand), San Francisco (Brandon Crawford, who made the All-Star team at 34), the Mets (Francisco Lindor, who signed a 10-year, $341 million contract in April), Milwaukee (Willy Adames, acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay a month ago), Boston (All-Star starter Xander Bogaerts), the White Sox (former batting champion Tim Anderson), Toronto (All-Star Bo Bichette, Dante’s younger son), and Houston (Carlos Correa, a pending free agent). The Cubs (Javier Baez, another soon-to-be free agent) belong in this group, too. (The latter two teams would have to feel that Story is better, and more worth keeping, than what they have.)

Tampa Bay and Oakland typically don’t pay players the kind of money Story will want in a long-term deal, and Cleveland unloaded Lindor rather than pay him Story-type money. The Phillies signed a free agent shortstop, Didi Gregorius, last off-season, and Washington has a budding star in Trea Turner, who also made the All-Star team. Seattle seems happy with young P.J. Crawford.

That leaves, as the likeliest candidates, the Yankees, who are high on Gleyber Torres but disappointed with his .240 average and three home runs at the All-Star Break; Atlanta, which likes Dansby Swanson, a former overall No. 1 draft pick, but could use the kind of offensive jolt Story might provide; and St. Louis, new home of Nolan Arenado, where Paul DeJong is having a miserable season (under .200) after some productive ones.

As in most deals involving star players (the Arenado debacle notwithstanding), a trade comes down to value received. Gray would figure, at least potentially, to bring a lot, because starting pitching is so hard to find, and several contenders need another strong arm in their rotations. But what do the Rockies need? Reliable bullpen arms should top the list, with a legitimate catching prospect close behind. And that’s the snag. Any trade for Gray, it would seem, will bring only prospects. No contender is going to weaken its bullpen to strengthen its rotation.

Likewise with Story, the likelihood of obtaining Major League-ready talent is remote, especially if he goes to a team that views him as a rent-a-player (someone who finishes the season then becomes a free agent).  And with the shortstop market thin, such a temporary addition seems likely, which means a lower return. 

It could come down to deciding which is better: the best package another team will offer for Story, or a compensatory draft choice if Colorado keeps him for the rest of 2021 then makes him a qualifying offer and loses him to free agency. (Trevor himself was a compensatory pick in 2011, the 45th player chosen.)

Either or both, Gray and/or Story, might well be gone by August 1. But the more likely candidates for trades, it seems, are C.J. Cron, an experienced right-handed power bat who would fit into many American League lineups as either a first baseman or designated hitter, and right-handers Daniel Bard and Mychal Givens, who could strengthen almost any team’s bullpen.

We’ll know in a couple weeks, or less.

Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 13 books, seven of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at info@comservbooks.com.

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