3 scary free agents Red Sox should avoid signing this offseason
Red Sox should worry about Story’s splits
This year’s free-agent class is loaded at the shortstop position. You might be thinking, “Wait, the Red Sox already have a shortstop!” You would be correct, as Xander Bogaerts is among the elite at the position. That doesn’t mean they can ignore the talent available in this market. Bogaerts has the ability to opt out of his deal after next season. While he’s expected to stay in Boston, perhaps with a new extension, Bogaerts is also open to the idea of switching positions if it helps improve the roster.
If the Red Sox were going after another star shortstop, now is the time to pounce. There are plenty of appealing options hitting free agency this winter but the one I would be most cautious of is Trevor Story.
The Colorado Rockies shortstop has been excellent through his first six major league seasons, hitting .272 with an .863 OPS. The two-time All-Star is a perennial 20/20 threat with 35+ homer upside and a pair of Silver Slugger awards on his resume.
Story enters free agency on the heels of his worst season since 2017, the year before he broke out with his first All-Star campaign. He hit .251 with an .801 OPS, 24 home runs and 75 RBI. Solid production but not the type of numbers that fit his superstar reputation.
The biggest red flag is the boost that Story gets from playing his home games at Coors Field. He still hits like an elite player in the thin air of Colorado, posting a .296 average and .880 OPS at home this year. He’s essentially a replacement-level hitter on the road, where he hit .203 with a .717 OPS. Story has had massive home/road splits for his entire career so this isn’t an outlier from a down season.
Story’s career 112 OPS+, which is adjusted for park effects, ranks ninth among shortstops with at least 2,000 plate appearances since 2016. That places him above-average but not quite at the level other metrics suggest. His 102 OPS+ this year was barely above-average.
While Coors Field inflates offensive production, Rockies hitters are at a disadvantage on the road. It’s harder for pitchers to control breaking balls in Colorado where the ball doesn’t move the same way. Rockies hitters tend to feast on fastballs at home but are then unprepared when they face a wider arsenal on the road. We’ve seen Nolan Arenado and DJ LeMahieu continue to thrive after switching teams despite concerns about their home/road splits during their time in Colorado. Perhaps Story will follow that trend by remaining an elite hitter if he moves to another ballpark.
Is that a risk the Red Sox want to take when Story is coming off a down season?
The Rockies will undoubtedly extend a qualifying offer to Story, which means the Red Sox would be penalized a draft pick if they sign him. That has to be factored into the cost on top of the long-term deal he’s expected to demand.
There are some shortstops worth pursuing even if it means asking Bogaerts to switch positions earlier than he expected. Story isn’t one of them.