Red Sox free agency rumor is a Story to follow when the lockout ends

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 26: Trevor Story #27 of the Colorado Rockies bats during a game against the San Francisco Giants at Coors Field on September 26, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 26: Trevor Story #27 of the Colorado Rockies bats during a game against the San Francisco Giants at Coors Field on September 26, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

Free-agent Trevor Story would improve the Red Sox infield

Trevor Story is among the best remaining bats on the free-agent market so it’s no surprise that the Boston Red Sox have some level of interest.

On the latest episode of Audacy Sports’ “Big Time Baseball” podcast, MLB Insider Jon Heyman revealed that the Red Sox have checked in on Story.

"“Story, I have heard three teams — Seattle, Houston and Boston. So it would be interesting to see with Boston. Obviously he could start out at second base potentially, and we’ll see what goes on from there.”"

The Astros appear likely to lose Carlos Correa and could view Story as a more affordable replacement. Seattle made a surprising leap that fell just shy of a Wild Card spot this year and could be eager to make a splash that puts them back in the postseason hunt. Story makes a lot of sense for either team but the inclusion of the Red Sox as a potential finalist is more unexpected.

Xander Bogaerts is entrenched at shortstop in Boston but he has the option to opt-out of his contract after the 2022 season. Proactively signing another shortstop in a strong market for the position provides the Red Sox with insurance in the unlikely event that Bogaerts bolts in free agency next winter. Heyman suggests that Story could potentially take over at second base next season, then slide back to his natural shortstop position in 2023 if Bogaerts leaves.

Bogaerts is expected to opt-out seeking a richer deal but it would be shocking if he did so with the intention of signing elsewhere. He’s made it clear that he wants to remain in Boston and the Red Sox consider him to be a cornerstone of their franchise.

Locking in both Bogaerts and Story to long-term deals provides the team with some flexibility. Story could stick at second base if he adapts well to the position change. Bogaerts is open to the idea of a position change at some point down the line. Moving him to second to allow Story to play shortstop would benefit an infield defense that desperately needs an upgrade.

Story tied for fifth among major league shortstops with nine defensive runs saved this season while Bogaerts was near the bottom with -5 DRS. Since 2016, the 69 DRS that Story has produced ranks third at the position while Bogaerts is last among qualified shortstops during that span with -47 DRS. There’s no question who the better defensive player is.

His defense would be a welcome upgrade for the Red Sox but his bat is even more appealing. The two-time Sliver Slugger had a down season by his standards, hitting .251 with a .801 OPS, 24 home runs and 75 RBI for the Colorado Rockies. He recovered from an early power drought to produce a .506 SLG and .843 OPS in the second half. Story was bothered by elbow inflammation and trade rumors early in the season so there’s reason to buy into his strong finish when he posted a 127 wRC+ after the trade deadline.

From his breakout campaign in 2018 through 2020, Story hit .292/.355/.554. He smashed 35+ homers in two of those seasons and led the league with four triples last year.

Story also provides some speed on the base paths. He isn’t lightening fast by any means but he stole 20+ bases in three of the last four years. The exception was during the shortened 2020 season when he led the league with 15 steals. The Red Sox were severely lacking in base running threats this year, finishing last in the AL with 40 steals. Story swiped half of that total on his own and would provide another element to improve the offense.

The concern with Story will naturally revolve around his massive home/road splits. He’s a career .303/.369/.603 hitter at Coors Field but owns a disappointing .241/.310/.442 line on the road.

Those splits could be a red flag but they also must be put into the proper perspective. Many hitters perform better at home in ballparks they are more comfortable in, with the support of the crowd behind them and when they aren’t worn down by travel.

That’s particularly true for Rockies hitters, who have more disadvantages to deal with on the road. The ball moves differently in the thin air of Colorado. Not only does that boost offensive stats by allowing the ball to travel further, it also forces pitchers to rely more heavily on the fastball since their breaking balls aren’t quite as sharp. When Rockies hitters go on the road, they need to adjust to a steadier diet of breaking balls that they weren’t seeing often during their last homestand.

Assuming that Story is a product of Coors Field is oversimplifying the analysis. DJ LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado faced similar concerns when they switched teams but both proved they can remain productive hitters outside of Colorado.

The Red Sox could be willing to bet that his right-handed bat would perform just as well taking aim at the Green Monster at Fenway Park. It would be an expensive bet to make though. MLB Trade Rumors predicted Story will receive a six-year, $125 million deal. Signing Story would also cost the Red Sox a draft pick, although that penalty is easier to swallow since they’ll receive an extra draft pick for losing Eduardo Rodriguez to the Tigers.

Boston still has interest in re-signing Kyle Schwarber but Story provides similar offensive upside along with a valuable defensive upgrade. If either he or Bogaerts is willing to switch positions, Story would be a better fit than the defensively-limited Schwarber.

We’ll need to wait until after the lockout to see how this pans out but the pursuit of one of the top free-agent shortstops is a story to watch this offseason.

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