The Boston Red Sox, no stranger to unfortunate developments this offseason, encountered another on Tuesday when they announced that infielder Trevor Story will miss a significant chunk of the 2023 season after undergoing an elbow procedure. Story, last year’s starting second baseman, had been expected to take over at shortstop following Xander Bogaerts‘ departure.
The timing couldn’t be worse for the Red Sox. This winter’s free-agent class was brimming with high-quality shortstops; all of them have already signed as of Tuesday night. (Heck, Carlos Correa had reached agreements on three different occasions with three different teams.) That means Boston’s top baseball executive Chaim Bloom will have his work cut out for him over the coming weeks as he looks to improve upon a middle infield that, at least for the present, is slated to include Enrique Hernández (who has never served as a primary shortstop in the majors) and Christian Arroyo.
Just where and to whom might Bloom and the Red Sox turn to solve their shortstop problem? Below, CBS Sports has highlighted five potential options.
In our estimation, Andrus is the most logical fit for the Red Sox. He’s coming off a resurgent season at the plate, having batted .249/.303/.404 (103 OPS+) in 149 games split between the Athletics and White Sox. Of course, there are reasons why he’s left standing in the open while all the other notable free-agent shortstops have found places to hang their hats. Namely, Andrus is a 34-year-old whose track record suggests he’s highly unlikely to repeat last season’s offensive performance heading forward. Still, he continues to uphold his reputation as a good defender, and it’s not as though the Red Sox would be bypassing total-package shortstops to sign him to a one-year deal.
The Red Sox have already been linked on the rumor mill to Wendle and Marlins teammate Miguel Rojas. We’re giving this space to Wendle because Bloom is familiar with him from their shared time with the Rays. (Does that kind of stuff actually matter in these cases? Who knows.) Wendle had a disappointing first season in Miami, but he’d been an above-average hitter in each of the previous two seasons. Meanwhile, his defensive versatility would make him a continued fit for the Boston roster even if and when Story returns late in the summer. We’ll note that Wendle and Rojas are both impending free agents, which could make the math hard for the Red Sox to justify if the Marlins demand a young, cost-controlled talent (like, say, first baseman Triston Casas) in return.
Let’s stay with the theme of “Florida-based infielders Bloom has employed before.” Walls is a switch-hitter who has put forth some wretched offensive numbers in nearly 200 big-league games. On the bright side, his defensive performance hinges entirely on your metric of choice. Some publicly available measures, like Defensive Runs Saved, see him as a Simmonsian talent; others, like Statcast’s Outs Above Average, think he’s bad. In the past, the Rays have been known internally to view him as a superior defender than Wander Franco. If they’ve pivoted from that stance, or if they simply cannot stomach his bat anymore, then they might be willing to move him within the division.
4. José Iglesias, free agent
Iglesias is the best non-Andrus remaining free-agent option. He’s done two tours with the Red Sox already, including as a second baseman late in the 2021 campaign. He probably should stay on that side of the bag at this point in his career, but the Red Sox are in no position to get greedy. For what it’s worth, Iglesias has been a far more productive hitter as of late (98 OPS+ in the Pandemic Era) than you would expect given that he doesn’t hit the ball hard or walk often.
We’ll end with Mateo, another light-hitting shortstop already employed within the American League East. The Orioles have a bevy of young infielders arriving in or nearing The Show, so it reasons they might look to move from their surplus over the coming months. Mateo, fresh off what qualifies as his most productive big-league season to date, would be a logical candidate to go. Now, when we write that he had his most productive big-league season, be mindful that we’re still talking about a year in which he posted an 81 OPS+. Nonetheless, he did steal 35 bases (on 44 attempts) and he does have a good glove. The secondary skills are strong here, in other words; just don’t expect him to consistently make contact (let alone hard contact) or mind the zone.