It's a bizarre but ultimately simple truth: the better Trevor Story performs and the more the Rockies think he can be a long term contributor to the club, the less they can justify placing him on the 25-man roster to start the season.
MLB Rumor Central: Trevor Story the shortstop in Colorado? - Doug Mittler / ESPN
Story's spring has even caught the attention of ESPN, although it's possible they're only putting a microscope on him because he's a piece in a larger story that's almost certain to be brought up by the Player's Union at the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. Right now, a star player can only enter free agency after six years of service time. Clubs have used this rule to gain what essentially amounts to a seventh year before free agency by keeping players in the minors for three weeks to start the season. At the end of the "sixth year," they end up with something along the lines of "five years and 159 days of service time (expressed at 5.159 years of service time)."
Thomas Harding has been bombarded with this topic on Twitter:
Asked several times. Not even a hint that they'll play that game with him. It hasn't happened much here int he past. https://t.co/aKsRb1Pmmm— Thomas Harding (@harding_at_mlb) March 15, 2016
At the end of the day, the team can't give Harding a proper scoop here if they're trying to get an extra year of control. This is one of those things where the clubs have to say one thing publicly and then do another, which is a road Jeff Bridich has already ventured down multiple times.
The Rockies' problem here is that the more they think of Story, the less it makes sense for them to gamble away complete control of his age 29 season in 2022. If Story breaks camp in a major league uniform, it either says that the Rockies don't think very highly of his long term ability (not a good enough player for long term control to matter), or that they truly believe they're likely to fall on a playoff spot bubble this year and need every win they could get. Either way is a bad sign for the team long term, because it either suggests they don't have that great of a player in Story or that the front office is delusional when it comes to properly evaluating where they are in the success cycle.
If the team is smart, every home run Story hits this spring should put him one step closer to Albuquerque.
It's a weird system, and players will continue to complain, but no matter where they set up the cutoff for years of control, players being promoted near that boundary (wherever it happens to fall on the calendar) will be held back. As a fan, I personally like the way the system is right now. It creates a separate day away from opening day to focus on big call ups in late April.