12:15pm: Story has already turned down at least one nine-figure offer from a team that wanted him to change positions, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. Story’s strong preference has been to remain at shortstop — a desire that the Twins can clearly accommodate if they’re comfortable with Story’s price tag.
12:30am: The Twins have completed a whirlwind series of trades over the past 36 hours, shipping out Mitch Garver, Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa (briefly acquired for Garver) and prospect Chase Petty (their top pick from last summer’s draft) while acquiring Sonny Gray, Gio Urshela, Gary Sanchez and a pair of pitching prospects. It’s a dizzying gambit, but it’s quite likely that Minnesota is only getting started. That frenzy cleared roughly $41MM from the Twins’ books, and their 2022 payroll is at a projected $94MM presently — about $40MM shy of their franchise-record.
One area the Twins could look to spend some of the money saved in that Donaldson swap is back at shortstop, where they briefly filled a need via the acquisition of Kiner-Falefa before sending him to the Yankees in tonight’s Donaldson blockbuster. To that end, Dan Hayes of The Athletic reports that the Twins have been in touch with the representatives for free-agent shortstop Trevor Story.
That Kiner-Falefa’s time with the Twins proved to be only a day was surely music to the ears of Story’s agents. The Yankees had made clear that they planned to eschew a big-name signing at shortstop, instead preferring a more short-term bridge to top prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza. The trade of Kiner-Falefa not only gives the Twins a potential opening at shortstop — though it should be noted that Urshela can handle that position if needed — but also freed up some additional money to spend.
Looking past the $94MM projected on their 2022 books, the Twins only have about $39.5MM in guarantees on the 2023 ledger. They’ll quite likely pick up the $12MM option on the newly acquired Gray, but even still, that leaves ample room for another weighty salary — particularly since Minnesota will have a fairly light arbitration class in 2023. By the time 2024 rolls around, the Twins have less than $20MM in guaranteed money on the books. Again, that number will jump due to arbitration and, more notably, the $10MM and $10.5MM options they hold on Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco. Even with those contracts, a Story-sized salary could easily be accommodated.
The 29-year-old Story had something of a disappointing season overall, as an elbow issue impacted him at the plate and dragged down his throwing ability in the field. That said, Story’s .251/.329/.471 slash and 24 home runs in 595 plate appearances were still solid, and he has a track record of strong production on both sides of the ball. Dating back to 2018, he’s a .281/.348/.532 hitter with 107 home runs and 85 steals in 2166 plate appearances. Hitters who call Coors Field their home tend to have pronounced splits that draw the ire of skeptics, but Story has been about 17% better than league average with the bat since ’18 even after weighting for his home park (117 wRC+).
Defensively, Story’s 2021 was something of a mixed bag. Both Defensive Runs Saved (+9) and Ultimate Zone Rating (+3.6) felt he was characteristically strong with the glove, but Statcast’s Outs Above Average pegged him at a career worst mark of minus-7. Outside of that one OAA mark, though, Story has a sterling defensive reputation and the gaudy metrics to match. He ranks seventh in all of Major League Baseball, regardless of position, with 69 Defensive Runs Saved dating back to 2016. His 15.4 UZR in that time isn’t quite so dominant but still ranks 41st among all big leaguers, and OAA feels he’s been a strong defender outside of 2021 (+18 dating back to 2016).
As previously alluded to, Minnesota needn’t necessarily feel obligated to make a big splash at shortstop. Urshela can man the position at a satisfactory level, and they have minor leaguer Jose Miranda, who exploded into top-100 prospect territory with a massive .344/.401/.572 showing between Double-A and Triple-A in 2021. Miranda is knocking on the door to the big leagues as it is, and his best position is widely considered to be third base. That said, there’d be little harm in getting him a further look in the Majors, and the depth afforded by having each of Urshela, Story, Polanco, Miranda and Luis Arraez would be enviable.
Whether Story ultimately lands in Minnesota, the Twins will apparently be involved in the bidding to an extent. The largest free-agent contract the Twins have ever given out was Donaldson’s four-year, $92MM contract, and Story could well topple that mark this winter, wherever he signs. With Donaldson off the books, Byron Buxton signed to a seven-year/$100MM contract and a generally clean payroll slate after the ’23 season, Minnesota can afford to make a splash on just about any free agent that’s left on the market. That doesn’t make them any kind of lock to ultimately sign Story or another big-ticket free agent, but the Twins are making things interesting after laying largely dormant prior to the lockout.