Rockies extend qualifying offer to Trevor Story, but not Jon Gray

Aug 5, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story (27) fields and throws to first for an out as starting pitcher Jon Gray (55) looks on in the fourth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies have extended a one-year, $18.4 million qualifying offer to free-agent shortstop Trevor Story, the club announced on Sunday.

Story finished the season strong, possibly erasing any speculation about him accepting the qualifying offer rather than immediately testing the market. The 28-year-old, two-time All-Star hit a somewhat pedestrian .251/.329/.471 in 2021, but he upped that production to .267/.345/.525 in September. And, after not looking like himself defensively for much of the early part of the season, Story recovered to accumulate nine Defensive Runs Saved.

Nov. 17 marks the date on which Story must decide whether to accept the offer. Though it’s unlikely he’ll do that, the presence of Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Marcus Semien will make things tougher for Story on the free-agent market than they might be in a different year without so many quality shortstops available. It’s worth noting that among this group of free-agent shortstops, only Correa has averaged a higher career WAR per 162 games than Story.

Curiously, the Rockies opted not to extend the qualifying offer to starting pitcher Jon Gray. The club has been in extension talks for quite a while with Gray, with the two sides unable to come to an agreement on terms to this point. Colorado most recently is said to have offered Gray a deal somewhere in the neighborhood of three years and $38 million, a figure at which his representation balked.

Not extending the offer to Gray is strange considering Rockies GM Bill Schmidt’s own comments about the team’s ability to draft well in the compensation rounds. The Rockies will gain one of those picks should Story reject the offer and sign with another team, and the same could have been said about Gray. Instead, he won’t have that compensation stink on him when he begins negotiations with other teams, and that alone could bring more suitors to the table. That, of course, doesn’t exactly help the Rockies’ leverage in negotiations.

The only way the decision regarding Gray’s lack of qualifying offer makes sense is if the club is basically already in agreement with him on an extension and said deal simply hasn’t been made official for whatever reason. Otherwise, it’s a bad look because even if Gray would have accepted the $18.4 million offer, he likely would have been worth it from a dollar value perspective. The 30-year-old right-hander has averaged around 3 WAR in his five full seasons, and the current value per WAR across baseball is just shy of $8 million.

Gray posted a 4.59 ERA with 9.5 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 149 innings in 2021. The 2013 first-round pick has struck out more than a batter per inning while maintaining an ERA that sits seven percent better than league average during his career.

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