Projecting Trevor Story’s Value at the Trade Deadline
You might have noticed that the Rockies are in a tailspin, which makes the likelihood of a Trevor Story [21.1]
trade very high.
You might have also noticed that Story’s estimated median trade value on our site remains high. This is despite the fact that the season is in full swing, which means a team that traded for Story would not get the value of the draft pick tied to a qualifying offer at the end of this season (because the rule is that you can only QO a player if he’s been on the team the full season). That means his value should have dropped with the removal of that draft pick value, right?
Not necessarily. Let’s work it out:
Our pre-season estimate of Story’s field value was $36M. Based on that number (which will change as time goes on, but let’s use it as a benchmark for now), we can estimate that a theoretical acquiring team trading for him on July 30 would receive:
- 2 months of production = 36/3 = $12M (in field value)
- Plus: 1 potential bonus month of production = $6M
- Total = $18M
If Story is traded at the deadline with two months remaining, he figures to be worth $12M on the field in those remaining two months. But any team acquiring him at that point has designs on the playoffs, which is another potential month of production (which we call the “October Bonus”). So they’re really bidding for three months of Story’s services, not just two. Therefore the field value is potentially as high as $18M.
In addition, there is a higher marginal win value for his services, as each win means more to a contending team than it does to a non-contending team. This gets complicated, and varies by team, but for now, let’s just use 10% as a placeholder.
- High marginal win increase = 10% = $19.8M
Meanwhile, Story is making $18.5M in salary this year. Prorated at the deadline, he’ll be owed $6.2M (rounding up) for August and September. But another hidden aspect of the October Bonus is that, if that acquiring team makes the playoffs, they won’t have to pay Story for that month — players in the post-season get paid by the league out of a playoff pool. So essentially, the new team is getting his October services for free.
So his on-paper surplus value is: $19.8M (field value for three months) – $6.2M (salary for two months) = $13.6M.
That’s the floor. But keep in mind, the seller (Colorado) is also losing the QO draft pick in any Story deal. We estimate the value of that pick at $9M (which is on the high side, and assumes a position player is chosen over a pitcher, who tends to come with more injury risks).
So, from the Rockies’ point of view, they would be giving up:
- Surplus win value of the production given to acquiring team = $13.6M
- Compensation for loss of draft pick = $9M
- Total = $22.6M
This is similar to a stock market transaction, where there’s a gap between the bid price and the ask price. The Rockies’ ask price is, theoretically, 22.6; the acquiring team’s bid price is 13.6. So that is the range.
This is where market forces come in. If there are no bidders, the price would fall dramatically, perhaps even below 13.6. If there is one bidder, that team would insist on its bid price (13.6); but as soon as there is more than one bidder, the price rises as the bidders compete in what is, effectively, a blind auction.
It’s not hard to imagine there will be more than one bidder for Story. And if one of those bidders is a large-market team that can absorb the remainder of his salary without blockers (such as being unconcerned about going over the luxury tax limit or having to get ownership approval), then it’s highly likely his price will rise to the upper limit of the range.
And we haven’t even considered ancillary benefits, such as a potential increase in ticket sales; the potential positive effect on the clubhouse; and good PR. Those factors are largely unquantifiable, but nonetheless potentially real, and could likely influence a club inching higher in its bid.
So who are the potential suitors? At this early stage of the season, it’s too soon to tell. There are small-market teams who could use an upgrade at SS (Reds, A’s), and who could potentially afford Story’s pro-rated two-month salary at the deadline, especially since, at that point of the season, it’s probable that more fans will be in the stadiums and those teams will see a revenue increase.
There is increasing clamor in the New York media, and among fans, that the Yankees should pursue Story as an upgrade over Gleyber Torres (who would presumably move to 2B). Joel Sherman of the NY Post went so far as to suggest a straight-up Torres-for-Story trade, with Colorado kicking in money to cover Story’s salary (and thus keeping NY just under the luxury tax threshold). That would seem, on paper, to be a ridiculous overpay, but stranger things have happened.
More likely, the Yankees would consider a bid in the 22.6 range at the deadline, and maybe if the Rockies covered Story’s remaining salary, it would lift the deal up to 28.8 — possibly higher if the Yankees really want to win the bid — especially if they sense that they’re bidding against another heavy hitter (say, the Padres, if Tatis’ injury is still a problem at that point).
Either way, we anticipate a robust market for Story’s services at the deadline, which means we expect his price to be on the high end of its range. And that’s why his value on BTV remains high.