The Red Sox were known to be looking for middle infield help even before news broke earlier this week about Trevor Story’s internal brace surgery on his right elbow, which could keep the shortstop on the injured list for most (or potentially all) of the 2023 season. In the wake of Story’s surgery, two names have surfaced on Boston’s radar, as USA Today’s Bob Nightengale writes that the Sox have interest in both Jurickson Profar and Elvis Andrus.
In terms of being a replacement for Story at shortstop, Andrus is the cleaner fit, as the veteran could simply step right into a regular shortstop role. Apart from 25 games as a DH, Andrus has exclusively played shortstop in the other 1914 games of his 14-year Major League career. Public defensive metrics are a little mixed on Andrus’ glovework (+4.7 UZR/150 and +3 Outs Above Average in 2022, countered by a -4 Defensive Runs Saved score), but all in all, Andrus still looks like he can provide at least acceptable defense even at age 34.
At the plate, Andrus has been inconsistent at best over his career, but he did enjoy a lot of success in a late-season cameo with the White Sox in 2022. Released by the A’s in August, Chicago signed Andrus as a replacement for the injured Tim Anderson, and Andrus responded with a very solid .271/.309/.464 slash line and nine home runs over 191 plate appearances with the Pale Hose. His overall 105 wRC+ for the season and his 3.5 fWAR were Andrus’ highest totals in either category since 2017, and his 17 homers was the second-highest total of his career.
Despite this nice performance, there hasn’t been much buzz about Andrus on the open market this winter, as teams are perhaps more focused on Andrus’ age, his ability to replicate his 2022 numbers, and his more unspectacular recent track record before last season — Andrus accumulated a modest 4.3 fWAR combined from 2018-21. Still, there was some speculation that Andrus’ market wouldn’t really pick up until the “big four” free agent shortstops (Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, Dansby Swanson) were off the board, and teams still in need of shortstop help could turn to Andrus as more of a stop-gap option.
The Red Sox technically fit this description given their loss of Bogaerts, and Boston had shown at least some level of interest in such infield trade targets as Amed Rosario, Paul DeJong, Joey Wendle, and (before he was dealt from the Marlins to the Dodgers) Miguel Rojas. All of these players would’ve been eyed for the shortstop job, as the Sox could’ve then stuck to their initial plan of using Enrique Hernandez mostly in center field, or at least as a player who could be bounced around the diamond rather than someone primarily locked into a shortstop role.
Profar’s addition would create some lineup shuffling, and likely result in Hernandez getting more time at short. Profar hasn’t played shortstop since 2018, and while he was once a multi-position type, 2022 marked the first time that Profar played exclusively at one position, as the Padres deployed him only as a left fielder. The newly-signed Masataka Yoshida has already been tabbed for left field duty in Fenway Park, so the Red Sox could move Profar (who turns 30 in February) around to the other outfield positions, or possibly second or first base.
MLBTR projected Profar for a two-year, $20MM deal this winter, and the Yankees and Astros have both shown some interest in his services at various times this winter. Two weeks ago, MLBTR’s Anthony Franco broke down Profar’s potential market and some teams that might emerge as fits, though the Red Sox weren’t cited due to the assumption that Yoshida had filled the outfield need. Of course, injuries can instantly bring new teams into the mix, and Profar’s market could further expand if teams do see him as a candidate for positions beyond only left field.