3:10pm: Bloom didn’t provide a specific timeline on Story for the upcoming season, noting that a return is possible “but it’s not something at this stage we want to bank on,” per Alex Speier of the Boston Globe. Bloom also said Story was preparing to play shortstop before aggravating his elbow, per Speier.
2:50: Red Sox infielder Trevor Story had internal brace surgery on his right elbow yesterday, per a release from the team. “Boston Red Sox infielder Trevor Story yesterday underwent a successful internal bracing procedure of the right ulnar collateral ligament (elbow),” the statement reads. “Dr. Keith Meister performed the surgery at Texas Metroplex Institute in Arlington, Texas.” Chris Cotillo of MassLive. reported the surgery shortly before the official announcement and adds that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom will speak at 4pm Eastern/3pm Central.
The club has not provided a timeline on Story’s expected recovery, with that information perhaps to come when Bloom speaks. Until that information comes out, we can only speculate on the timeline, but it’s worth pointing out that the UCL is the same ligament that is replaced in Tommy John surgery. The internal brace procedure is generally considered to be less invasive and allow players to return quicker, but the recovery period still usually takes months. For one recent example, outfielder Eli White underwent the procedure while a member of the Rangers last year, with the club announcing at that time that White was expected to miss six months. Each player is unique and will have their own responses to different injuries, but it seems fair to assume that Story is slated for a significant absence of some kind.
For Story, there have been concerns swirling around his throwing arm for some time now. He made 11 throwing errors while with the Rockies in 2021, with some scouts expressing trepidation about this throws after that season. Statcast’s new arm strength leaderboard ranked Story as averaging 79.1 mph on his throws from short, a mark that placed him 52nd out of 58 shortstops to make at least 100 throws that year. That was a noticeable drop from 2020, when Story was at 82.3 mph and ranked 22nd out of 34 shortstops who made 100 throws.
Despite those concerns, the Sox signed Story to a six-year, $140MM deal going into 2022. At the time of the signing, Story was expected to play second base in deference to shortstop Xander Bogaerts, but it was also seen as a possible safety net for a Bogaerts departure. Since Bogaerts had the ability to opt out of his deal after 2022, the Sox would then have the option of sliding Story to the other side of the bag to replace him.
The position change gave Story and the Sox a year to evaluate things, with Story making shorter throws from second. He averaged 76.1 mph on his throws last year, which was another drop from the year before and placed him 61st among 70 second basemen to make 100 throws on the year. On top of that, the Sox indeed saw Bogaerts opt out of his contract and sign with the Padres this winter.
Though Story’s timeline is still to be determined, it seems like the Sox will now have to figure out how to navigate their middle infield without Bogaerts or Story, at least for a few months. If the club decides to stick with internal options, they could go with Enrique Hernández and Christian Arroyo, though Hernandez seemed ticketed to be the everyday center fielder, so they would have to figure out a solution there. Jarren Duran would be an option to take over in center, though he struggled in 2022 by hitting just .221/.283/.363. There are some other infielders on the roster such as David Hamilton and Enmanuel Valdez, though they’ve only recently been added and have no major league experience.
It’s also possible the club could look for external upgrades. The top free agent options are all off the board, assuming today’s Carlos Correa deal with the Twins is the one that finally gets across the finish line. Elvis Andrus, Josh Harrison and Andrelton Simmons are some of the middle infield options still on the board, if the Sox decide to go that route. On the trade market, there are some players who could be available, such as Isiah Kiner-Falefa of the Yankees, though an inter-division trade might be tricky. Amed Rosario of the Guardians has been mentioned as a speculative candidate, as has Nick Madrigal of the Cubs. The Sox and Marlins have reportedly discussed Joey Wendle and Miguel Rojas in trade talks, so perhaps those discussions could be revisited in light of today’s news.
However the Sox approach it, it seems fair to say that they have been dealt a blow for 2023. Despite being hurt in 2022, Story still hit 16 home runs in 94 games and slashed .238/.303/.434. One silver lining of the surgery is that there’s at least an explanation for his diminished arm strength. If the surgery is successful in repairing his ligament and he’s able to get back into form, perhaps he can take over the shortstop position later in the year. Story’s contract runs through 2027 but he has the ability to opt out after 2025, with the Sox then able to negate the opt-out by tacking on another year and keeping him through 2028.