The Red Sox lost Xander Bogaerts. Then failed to sign Carlos Correa. And now Trevor Story’s 2023 is in jeopardy.
The Boston Red Sox were already facing questions regarding their infield alignment before the situation turned into a trainwreck with news that they are likely to open the season without Trevor Story.
The team announced Tuesday that Story underwent a successful internal bracing procedure of the right ulnar collateral ligament. The elbow surgery is essentially a modified Tommy John surgery that has a shorter recovery period, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan. While the Red Sox have not revealed a timeline, players generally miss between 4-6 months.
That means the Red Sox should expect to be without their star infielder for at least a month or two to begin the 2023 season. According to Alex Speier of The Boston Globe, Chaim Bloom was asked about a timetable for Story’s return when he addressed the media this afternoon. His response that he didn’t “want to bank on” Story playing at all next season is alarming.
Injuries limited Story to 94 games in his first season with the Red Sox. His production was disappointing, with a .238 batting average and .737 OPS, although a limited spring training due to his late signing was the primary culprit for his slow start. He still tallied 16 home runs and stole 13 bases, which would have put him on pace to challenge for a 20/20 season if he had stayed healthy.
Beginning Year 2 in Boston on the injured list, potentially setting him up for another slow start, won’t do Story any favors in terms of shedding the free agent bust label.
The temporary loss of Story’s services will put more pressure on Bloom to dive into the trade market to fill the void in the infield. The departure of Xander Bogaerts in free agency created a hole they couldn’t possibly fill, but at least they conceivably had the option of Story sliding back to his natural shortstop position. The Red Sox could’ve then targeted a second baseman or centerfielder, with the versatile Kiké Hernández capable of filling either position. Now, the Red Sox may need to consider adding two players. Hernández gives them some flexibility, but he can’t cover two positions.
Miami Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas has been a rumored trade target. He brings an excellent glove to the position but his bat leaves a lot to be desired — he hit .236 with a .605 OPS last season. His defense is valuable, but the Red Sox should aim higher for a better bat to bolster a lineup that lost Bogaerts and will be missing Story for a significant chunk of the season.
Bloom confirmed that Story had been preparing to play shortstop ever since Bogaerts signed with the Padres. He began experiencing elbow soreness while ramping up last month, which is why the issue is being addressed so late in the offseason.
Whenever Story is ready to return, it remains to be seen if he’ll be capable of returning to his old position. When the Red Sox signed him last year, there were lingering questions about the strength of his throwing arm due to elbow soreness that he dealt with during his final season in Colorado. While some viewed the signing as a preemptive strike at finding Bogaerts’ replacement, others saw his transition to second base as a necessity. Those concerns about whether or not Story can still handle shortstop will only grow louder. The hope is that surgery will help Story put the elbow issues behind him, but there’s no guarantee that the procedure will allow him to rediscover the arm strength required to play shortstop at a high level.
Players report to spring training next month and the Red Sox still have their work cut out for them in finalizing their roster. It’s unclear how much they can expect out of Story in 2023 or which position he will play if he can return. Bloom was already planning on adding to the middle infield, but the need has been amplified in the wake of Story’s surgery.