So, is Trevor Story Not a Fall-Back Option for the Chicago Cubs?

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So, is Trevor Story Not a Fall-Back Option for the Chicago Cubs?

Chicago Cubs

Despite all the rumors connecting the sides, and the Christmas wishes from hopeful fans, it would be silly to call the Cubs “front-runners” for Carlos Correa at this point. I do think they’re legitimately in this race, the rumors are wayyyyy too specific for anything less, but at the end of the day, some very big questions remain. Also, generally speaking: lots of teams want very desirable players, so most of the interested teams wind up disappointed. That’s just the mathematical reality of an indivisible human.

So what happens in the more likely event that the Cubs do not land Carlos Correa this offseason? Well, there are some high-quality, relatively low-cost defensive options out there — and with this particular rotation, that would likely be the focus of any Cubs external addition at shortstop. But each of the names Brett investigated earlier this month would be quite a comedown from chasing the best free agent shortstop on the market, right?

The only other free agent option who is in an upper-tier – the kind whose signing, when paired with the Marcus Stroman addition, changes your thinking about the 2022 Cubs’ intentions – would be Trevor Story. No, he’s not Carlos Correa. He’s almost exactly two years older and had some arm injury/throwing concerns last season. His offensive numbers were down, too.

But he’s still one of the better shortstops in baseball and should cost a HECK of a lot less than Correa. And, hey, the Cubs were tangentially connected to Story very early in the offseason. So is he the Cubs fallback option if they whiff on Correa?

Well, no, actually, according to Bruce Levine (via his recent 670 The Score appearance):

“I really don’t [think Trevor Story is a fallback option for the Cubs]. I don’t think that people are that high on Story to give him a long-term deal. He’s had some issues, he’s had some throwing issues, he’s had some arm and shoulder issues. I don’t know what’s Story is going to get. I don’t know where he’s going to go. But I think the possibility for free agency is that he signs a shorter-term deal. If the situation is that Correa signs quickly [after the new CBA] maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he gets a six or seven-year contract. He’s a really good player, but after the year he had and some of the problems he had physically, I don’t think he’s getting a six or seven-year contract.”

I won’t brush off that response entirely, but I’d note that the certainty with which Levine reported on the Cubs-Correa stuff felt like it came with far more conviction than the more speculative-y response he had with respect to Cubs-Story. In other words, the Correa discussion last week felt like A Report; the Story stuff felt like a guess. I’m not sure Levine is planting his flag in the ground saying the Cubs absolutely would never consider Story later in the offseason.

So let’s keep this door open for a moment, shall we? Even if only to discuss the other big free agent shortstop? What are the factors here? What are the concerns?

The obvious upside is that of an above-average defensive shortstop, who runs the bases well, and comes with an above-average offensive career (.272/.340/.523; 112 wRC+ and 158 home runs). All on a potentially under-market deal because of down 2021 season (100 wRC+, defensive questions tied to the arm). There’s some quality upside there!

… the definite downside is that he will still likely command a significant contract, comes with the mentioned risks, and would cost the Cubs draft pick compensation (second-round draft pick, associated bonus pool space, and $500K in IFA money – a price they’d likely be more willing to pay for Correa and/or on a longer deal). But, of course, that’s not all.

There are some fairly massive traditional splits to consider. Correa hasn’t just been better at Coors Field (125 wRC+) than he has been on the road (98 wRC+) throughout his career, he’s also been faaar better against lefties (146 wRC+) than righties (98 wRC+), which isn’t a particularly useful split when you’re talking about an everyday player.

I’m still willing to bet he remains an above-average overall offensive contributor in the short-term (don’t forget the Coors hangover effect, which disproportionately hurts Rockies players on the road). That would make him a well-above average offensive shortstop overall. But the splits are not factors you can completely ignore. What if he’s actually trending downward, and the splits are just going to make that trend even sharper in the years ahead?

Ditto the defense. What if those arm issues that affected his throws don’t go away as he approaches 30? What if they get worse? Sure, the Cubs need offensive firepower, but they also desperately need to improve their infield defense given the skillset of the front three in their rotation. Story will probably be a plus defensive shortstop, but he’s not without his red flags.

Still, at the end of the day, Story is likely going to cost FAR less than Carlos Correa. And if the Cubs can get creative to minimize the cost of signing a qualified free agent, Story might not be a terrible short-term, high-upside play, if he goes for a deal like that. In fact, if it’s a short-term deal, he kind of matches the bigger picture idea of adding Marcus Stroman, Wade Miley, Yan Gomes, etc., and seeing how things go in the first half of 2022 before re-evaluating.

Ultimately, I think I wind up somewhere like this: If the Cubs are serious about adding Carlos Correa, who comes with his own red flags (injury) and risks (extreme cost), and we believe they are, then I don’t see why they wouldn’t consider Trevor Story as a lower-cost, lower-upside Plan B? That’s not entirely rhetorical, mind you, because the Cubs may have some internal calculation that has simply ruled Story out completely. But absent something like that, you’d presume – after Correa signs – there is some price tag at which the Cubs would deem Story too good of a deal to pass up. In the end, isn’t that actually what is guiding a lot of their maneuverings in the current moment?

Brett Taylor contributed to this post.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami