Red Sox Rumors: Elvis Andrus has left the building
After the departure of Xander Bogaerts in free agency and off-season surgery for Trevor Story, the Boston Red Sox find themselves thin up-the-middle heading into spring training. Based on their roster moves this winter, the team seems content to head into the 2023 season with Kiké Hernández and Christian Arroyo as their double-play combination with Adalberto Mondesi, Yu Chang, and some promising youngsters like Enmanuel Valdez providing depth.
Given these players' injury history and inexperience, many pundits expected the team to add another middle infielder via free agency with Elvis Andrus and José Iglesias commonly identified as targets. On Sunday, Andrus took himself off this list as he signed with the Chicago White Sox.
My initial reaction to the Andrus signing with the "other" Sox was disappointment. The Red Sox were bridesmaids again after a winter of repeatedly being "interest kings". It's not hard to see why Andrus would be a good fit for the Red Sox on the field. The 34-year-old finished 2022 with a 3.0 bWAR, 17 home runs, and .707 OPS.
Andrus is also known for his short-stop defense though he has had some decline after age 30. Given the uncertainty of their current middle infield situation, Andrus seemed like he would be a more reliable option for the Red Sox.
Elvis Andrus, once rumored to be a Red Sox target, signs with the other Sox
Additionally, Andrus signed a 1-year, $3M deal which seems like a low-risk high-reward contract for the White Sox. The Red Sox could have added this salary and stayed well below the first competitive balance tax threshold. Lastly, he seems willing to switch to second base and this positional versatility would have given Alex Cora versatility in lineup construction and enabled him to capitalize on matchups.
Despite my initial reaction to Andrus signing with the White Sox, I was able to eventually shut off my reactionary limbic lobe and think through this. Andrus signing with the White Sox seems to be a matter of them being a better fit for him rather than mismanagement or frugality by the Red Sox. Andrus is signing a prove-it contract with the White Sox. To prove it, he needs to play.
The Red Sox have the promising Mondesi returning from injury with several young players knocking at the door. The White Sox can offer him consistent playing time whereas the Red Sox will make him earn playing time against competition. He is also returning to a team and city that he has already played for. This familiarity will increase his chances of success.
I am also taking this as a sign of hope that Trevor Story is able to return from injury in the second half of the season. Story underwent surgery on his throwing elbow this offseason. He recently described his timetable for return, in a discussion with MassLive's Chris Cotillo: “I think best case, I’m back at some point in the second half and, worst case, I don’t play this year." He further emphasized that he is optimistic about the earlier option.
If the Red Sox feel Story is returning, they would not be an ideal spot for Andrus who is trying to maximize his playing time.
Though the knee-jerk reaction of Elvis Andrus signing with the White Sox is to fault the Red Sox for failing to sign him, fans should remember that it "takes two to tango". The White Sox seem to be the better fit for Andrus as they can guarantee consistent playing time in a familiar environment. As such, it is not surprising that he chose the "other" Sox.