The Boston Red Sox, who have experienced a number of unpleasant events this summer, learned of a new one on Tuesday when they revealed that infielder Trevor Story will miss the majority of the 2023 season due to an elbow procedure. After Xander Bogaerts left, Story, the starting second baseman from the previous season, was supposed to go to shortstop.
For the Red Sox, timing couldn’t be worse. High-caliber shortstops made up the majority of this winter’s free-agent class, all of whom have signed as of Tuesday night. (Carlos Correa, for example, had deals with three different teams on three separate occasions.) That means Chaim Bloom, the top baseball executive for Boston, will have his work cut out for him in the upcoming weeks as he attempts to improve a middle infield that, at least initially, is expected to consist of Christian Arroyo and Enrique Hernández (who has never been used as a primary shortstop in the majors).
To whom and where might Bloom and the Red Sox look in order to address their shortstop issue? Five prospective choices have been identified below.
1. Elvis Andrus, unsigned player
Andrus, in our opinion, makes the most sense for the Red Sox. He recently had a breakout season at the plate, batting.249/.303/.404 (103 OPS+) in 149 games played for the Athletics and White Sox, respectively. Of course, there are explanations for why he is still out there on the open market while all the other big free-agent shortstops have secured jobs. In particular, Andrus is a 34-year-old whose past performances indicate he is very unlikely to replicate his offensive output from last season going forward. He still maintains his reputation as a solid defender, and the Red Sox aren’t skipping on total-package shortstops to sign him to a one-year contract.
2. Joey Wendle, Marlins of Miami
Wendle and his Marlins colleague Miguel Rojas have already been mentioned in connection with the Red Sox in rumors. Wendle is familiar to Bloom from their time together with the Rays, so we’re giving him this space. (Does this sort of thing even matter in these situations? No one knows.) Wendle’s first season in Miami was underwhelming, but his prior two seasons saw him bat above average. In the meantime, even if and when Story returns late in the summer, his defensive versatility would make him a continued fit for the Boston squad. Wendle and Rojas are both upcoming free agents, so the Red Sox may find it difficult to justify the deal if the Marlins demand a young player with little cap value (such, say, first baseman Triston Casas) in exchange.
Taylor Walls of the Tampa Bay Rays 3.
Keep the “Florida-based infielders Bloom has hired before” concept in mind. Walls, a switch-hitter, has played in roughly 200 big-league games and has produced some offensively dismal numbers. The good news is that his defense depends solely on your chosen metric. He is viewed as a Simmonsian talent by certain publicly available metrics, such as Defensive Runs Saved, but he is viewed negatively by others, such as Statcast’s Outs Above Average. The Rays have previously been known to consider him to be a better defender than Wander Franco. They might be open to moving him within the division if they have changed their minds about it or if they can no longer stand his bat.
4. Jose Iglesias, unemployed
The top non-Andrus free agent choice is Iglesias. He has previously completed two trips with the Red Sox, one of which was as a second baseman during the end of the 2021 season. At this stage of his career, he probably ought to remain on that side of the bag, but the Red Sox are not in a position to become avaricious. For what it’s worth, Iglesias has recently been a far more effective hitter than you might anticipate given that he doesn’t hit the ball hard or walk frequently (98 OPS+ in the Pandemic Era).
5. Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jorge Mateo
Mateo, a second light-hitting shortstop who is currently playing for the American League East, will round up our discussion. The Orioles have a plethora of young infielders entering or getting close to The Show, so it seems sense that they might want to offload some of their excess in the upcoming months. Mateo would be an obvious choice to go after just finishing what may be considered his most productive big-league season to date. Now, keep in mind that we’re still referring to a season in which he registered an 81 OPS+ when we say that he had his most fruitful big-league season. Nonetheless, he did steal 35 bases (on 44 attempts) and he does have a good glove. The secondary skills are solid here, in other words; just don’t expect him to regularly make contact (much alone hard contact) or mind the zone.