The shortstop position for the Athletics has been a black hole in 2021, with former MVP finalist Marcus Semien now manning the infield for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Not having gotten the production out of longtime division foe Elvis Andrus many in the organization were hoping for, there is one solution that not only could set the A's up for a World Series run this season, but also potentially could be a critical long-term move for the team.
Enter Trevor Story.
The 28-year-old is in the final year of team control with the Colorado Rockies, and is expected to spurn the lowly organization in favor of free agency this offseason.
After leading MLB in steals and triples during the truncated 2020 MLB season, Story is hitting .257 with five home runs and 23 RBI in 51 games this year. An All-Star in 2018 and '19 (there was no All-Star game in 2020), Story also won the NL Silver Slugger award in both '18 and '19 at the shortstop position, before some guy named Fernando Tatis Jr. busted onto the scene last season.
Outside of a few appearances by Vimael Machin and Chad Pinder, the shortstop position in Oakland has been handled by Andrus on a regular basis in 2021. The veteran was expected to step in and at least somewhat fill the significant gap left after Semien and the A's couldn't come to terms on a contract extension.
Instead, Andrus is hitting just .207 and hasn't provided any pop (zero homers, eight RBI) to the A's lineup. The shortstop position as a whole for the A's has the lowest on-base percentage (.264) of any spot in the lineup, and also is the only defensive position that hasn't connected on a home run in 2021.
The man Andrus replaced, Semien, now is hitting .289 (15th in the AL) and has 13 home runs and 33 RBI for the Blue Jays.
It was reported last week that the A's are "monitoring" Story after he came off the injured list, and they won't be the only squad hoping to acquire him before the trade deadline. Story is among a number of big-time shortstops expected to be free agents after the season.
The A's could wait, hoping Andrus can turn it around or the rest of the lineup can pick the position up enough to maintain the slim margin for the division lead.
But for a franchise that hasn't even made it to the AL Championship Series since 2006 -- despite six playoff appearances in that span -- a major move must be made.
The Rockies are 14 games out of first place in the NL West, and appear to be entering a significant rebuild over the next few years after shipping out Nolan Arenado in February.
Even if the front office doesn't want to pay top-dollar to ink Story to a long-term contract, a midseason trade for the right price could be the transaction that takes this lineup over the top.
Nick Allen, Logan Davidson and Robert Puason offer future potential at the shortstop position in the minor leagues, but none of those players above will have an impact on the lineup in 2021.
Story has a powerful bat, especially for a middle infielder, and is a solid defender. Over each of the past four seasons, he has finished 12th or better in NL MVP voting.
If Colorado is under the impression that they will lose him for nothing after the season if he isn't traded, they should be willing to accept a trade without multiple top-of-the-line prospects.
We've seen the A's be aggressive in the past without championship results, as 2014 saw Oakland acquire starters Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija in July. That postseason run ended in the Wild Card game against the eventual AL champion Kansas City Royals.
Regardless, shortstop is the A's most grave position of need, and Story likely is the best shortstop that could be a trade candidate this summer.
If Billy Beane and the A's want to snap the lengthy title drought, and bring a championship back to Oakland, maintaining the status quo with the roster shouldn't be an option.