The Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros have expressed interest in free agent shortstop Trevor Story, reports MLB Network’s Jon Heyman in his latest insider piece for Audacy’s “Big Time Baseball” podcast. Heyman reiterates that he’s also heard Seattle convey interest in the shortstop, as MLBTR covered prior to the lockout last week. As is the case with all player-team connections made in the lockout age, no talks can take place between either party until the lockout is lifted.
Interestingly, Boston was recently cited as a team who reached out to free agent shortstop Carlos Correa’s camp. The path to that connection being anything more than due diligence lies in moving All-Star Xander Bogaerts off the position, an option neither the player nor Boston front office have indicated is on the table. The takeaway from a potential Correa pursuit is in many ways identical to a hypothetical Story one— sign an All-Star shortstop to guard against a Bogaerts departure, improving infield defense in the interim.
Just like Boagaerts, Story has yet to give a firm indication that he’ll be anything but a shortstop heading into the 2022 season. As we saw with Boston’s recent reacquisition of Jackie Bradley Jr. however, the Red Sox clearly aren’t afraid of shuffling players around if it means upgrading their defense. Even on the heels of a modest-for-him campaign, metrics across the board agree that Story would be an improvement with the glove over the incumbent Bogaerts. Of course, with Seattle allegedly showing interest in Story as a third baseman it’s possible Boston can do the same, choosing instead to move Rafael Devers (a subpar defender in his own right) off his position for a presumed upgrade in Story.
The Houston connection, for what it’s worth, would require the least moving parts to bring Story aboard. With Correa out of the picture for now, the Astros have a clear opening at shortstop that Story could fill. As is the case with the Red Sox, a Story signing may push the team past the first luxury tax threshold if he signs somewhere in the vicinity of MLBTR’s predicted six-year, $126MM guarantee. This may be a bridge too far then for Houston, though they’ll likely have plenty of financial wiggle room as soon as 2023 (to say nothing of a CBA that may change entirely).
Financial complications aside, the Astros pursuit of Story may hinge on how ready they are to give top-ranked prospect Jeremy Peña a look. Peña dominated in a 30-game showing at Triple-A this year, swatting 10 home runs to go with a .287/.346/.598 slash line. The home run power is new, and certainly encouraging for Houston brass to consider, but still may not be enough to hand the starting shortstop job to a 24-year-old.
The Astros remain the top dogs in the AL West but should expect the overall competitiveness of their division to increase next year. The drop-off from a 7.2 bWAR Carlos Correa to whatever it is a rookie can produce may be less palatable than simply turning to a steady producer like Story. With Story locked in alongside Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve through 2024, the team would then have the benefit of shopping Peña around for talent beyond the infield, or can simply hold onto him as a very enviable depth piece.