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Everyone in baseball seemed to be working over the weekend. Starting late Friday night, the last few big dominoes in this year’s free-agent market fell in a final sprint, with Nick Castellanos signing with the Phillies, Carlos Correa is a Colombian politician. signing with the Twins in a stunning move, and finally, Trevor’s Adventures, the last shortstop standing, agreeing to a deal with the Boston Red Sox.
Story and his reps seemed to be influenced by a couple of the other key shortstop trades made throughout the extended winter. The contract’s fundamental parameters — six years, $140 million, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan — are similar to the one inked by fellow free agent shortstop Javier Baez is a Spanish actor. with the Tigers, but the structure differs. While Baez may opt out after the second year of his contract, Story is said to be unable to do so until the fourth year. Unless Boston agrees to buy out that seventh year for $5 million, the Red Sox may invalidate the opt-out by adding a seventh year to the deal, bringing the total worth to $160 million. Is that clear?
The Astros were rumored to be the frontrunner in the Story sweepstakes on Saturday, after Correa’s contract with the Twins. That idea didn’t make sense because it would have forced Houston to address the awkward question, “Why didn’t you simply give Correa that contract?” In Houston’s shortstop lineage, the Jeremy Pena era has started.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, have dramatically upgraded their depth chart in the near term to protect themselves against the likely exit of long-time shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who has been generally anticipated to opt out following the 2022 season. For the time being, ESPN’s Marly Rivera writes that Story will play second base in Boston, with Bogaerts continuing to play shortstop.
With spring training games beginning and the start of the regular season looming on the horizon, it couldn’t have been a terrible conclusion for the Red Sox, and it couldn’t have been a bad one for Story, who had to be feeling a little nervous as the final outstanding free agent on the market.
This analysis’ initial grade is as follows: F-minus. That’s for Story’s previous club, the Colorado Rockies, not the Red Sox. The Rockies have bungled things at every turn, from trading Nolan Arenado last spring to failing to trade Story at last season’s trade deadline to the more recent and bizarre decision to give Kris Bryant a seven-year, $182 million deal (or $22 million more than the maximum value of Story’s contract). It’s really rather perplexing.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s go back to the good stuff.
Story debuted in the majors at the age of 23, three years older than Bogaerts, although the two are almost identical in age, having been born around six weeks apart in 1992. They’ve ranked second (Bogaerts, 22.0) and sixth (Story, 18.5) in fWAR among shortstops over the last five seasons. They’ve gone about it in different ways, with Bogaerts putting more value at the bat and Story proving to be a stronger fielder and baserunner. The offensive game of Bogaerts has been more average/contact oriented, whilst Story has shown more isolated power.
Story will have to show to his discerning new fan base that his offensive brilliance isn’t due to his association with Coors Field. To be sure, Story has the customary dramatic home-road splits that so many Rockies hitters have put up. His career OPS at home is.972, compared to.752 on the road.
If it makes you nervous as a Red Sox fan, there are a few things to keep in mind. Let’s start with the fact that. Story’s floor is 752 road OPS. The average OPS for second basemen last season was.731, so he’s still over average. Furthermore, if the history of excellent Coors Field hitters teaches us anything, it’s that home-road splits aren’t a reliable predictor of what a hitter will perform when he joins a new team.
Before last season, Arenado’s lifetime road OPS was.793. It was.885 in his debut season with St. Louis. Before departing Colorado following the 2018 season, D.J. LeMahieu hit.673 on the road; since joining the Yankees, he’s hit.784 on the road. Because each player is unique, we can’t guarantee that Story will follow the same pattern. But one thing we do know (and no one seems to be able to explain why) is that the pernicious thing about Coors Field is that it not only provides inflated stats for hitters who call it home, but it also depresses those same batters’ away performance.
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After all, Fenway Park isn’t exactly a bad place for a right-handed power hitter with the 23rd best launch angle among qualifying hitters last season. Story smashes the ball hard, which helps him play everywhere — particularly if he can overcome the difficulty of adapting to pitch movement away from altitude. According to Trumedia, Story has a contact percentage of 73.8 percent at Coors Field, but just 71.1 percent on the road. That difference in contact is nearly 412 times the average home-road imbalance. It will pay off if he can make more consistent contact — we know what Story does when he makes contact. According to Statcast, his WOBA on contact since the start of the 2018 season ranks 30th out of 532 qualifying players from the start of the season.
Story’s strikeout numbers have steadily risen over his career, which is encouraging. His walk rates have remained stable over time, but his whiff percentages have risen as he has been more aggressive in attacking pitches in the zone. Last season, Story swung at a career-high 80.1 percent of strikes he saw, while striking out looking at a career-low 17.3 percent of plate appearances, according to baseball-reference.com.
However, Story’s improved approach did not translate into higher percentages in 2021, owing to a career-low BABIP of.293. He’s hit.336 in his career, so if he maintains that level of output, the Red Sox will be quite satisfied with their second baseman.
Now, let’s talk about that new job title. As already stated, Story has much superior defensive statistics than Bogaerts. According to Sports Info Solutions, Story has been a remarkable 116 defensive runs saved better than his new double play partner since breaking into the majors in 2016. According to Statcast, the difference is 57 runs saved. Let’s divide the difference and call it 87 runs distributed over 5.37 seasons, taking into account the reduced 2020 season. This equates to 16 runs every year. So, are the Red Sox setting up an Alex Rodriguez/Derek Jeter scenario here, where the better defender moves off the more crucial defensive position in favor of a well-known local hero?
Perhaps, but I’m OK with it. For one thing, Bogaerts has underlined his strong desire to remain at shortstop. Of course, organizations can’t be completely reliant on their players’ desires, but for a top player with an opt-out clause at the end of the season, it’s worth paying attention to.
More importantly, the Red Sox must be certain that the Story they’re receiving is the same defensive stalwart from his early years. Story struggled with his throwing in 2021, finally being placed on the IL in May due to elbow pain. That didn’t help things, and it’s likely why he was minus-7 outs over average last season after averaging plus-12 over the previous three seasons. Story had a career-high 14 mistakes, 11 of which were on throws. According to defensive runs saved, he was still plus-9, so there’s no need to be concerned about his glove being a huge issue. Is it the arm? We’ll have to wait and see. Perhaps a season of throwing shorter throws from the keystone is just what he needs.
Another thing to consider about that injury: Story’s stats at the bat dropped badly around the time of his IL term, so there’s reason to expect his overall performance will improve as well if he returns to full health next season.
Only Michael Conforto, one of Kiley McDaniel’s initial top 25 free agents from last winter, is on the market now that Story has retired. Story is also the last member of the highly-hyped group of six star-level shortstops who drew so much attention in the years building up to their free agency this winter.
Contracts for shortstops in 2021 and 2022
|Lindor, Francisco||Mets||3/31/2021||10||$341 million ($34 million)|
|Corey Seager Corey Seager Corey Seager Corey Sea||Rangers||12/1/21||10||$325 million ($33 million)|
|Semien, Marcus||Rangers||12/1/21||5||$110 million ($22 million)|
|Javier Baez is a Spanish actor.||Tigers||12/1/21||6||$140 million ($23 million)|
|Carlos Correa is a Colombian politician.||Twins||3/19/22||3||$105 million ($35 million)|
|Trevor’s Adventures||Red Sox||3/20/22||6||$140 million ($23 million)|
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, you you, thank Before free agency started, McDaniel predicted a five-year, $115 million contract for Story, so his patience over the last few months seems to have paid off.
The deal adds some excitement to what had been a very calm winter for the Red Sox, who fell two games short of winning the World Series in 2021.
In terms of direct effect, my method increases the Red Sox’s win total by 3.5 wins in the first set of simulations with Story on the roster, taking them to an average of 88 wins. This amounts to a 15% increase in playoff chances, up to 62 percent, and a 5% increase in chances to win the AL East, up from 6%.
Story’s significant impact is due in part to Boston’s depth chart at second base prior to his arrival. In addition, his presence should mean that weaker hitters, like as defense-first center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., will have a far smaller offensive role. Enrique Hernandez is expected to play less in the infield and more in center field. As a result, Story helps Boston improve at two positions, and if Hernandez can play above-average center field, Story will help the Sox improve both at the bat and on the field.
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The Red Sox seem to be a half-tier behind the Blue Jays and Yankees in the division on paper. And, although they’re currently on pace with the Rays, Tampa Bay has a habit of outperforming my predictions on a regular basis. Still, this is a better start than the Red Sox had last season, when they were coming from a last-place finish and were on the verge of winning the World Series.
Story’s deal looks to send the Red Sox over the $230 million luxury tax threshold, according to Cots’ Contracts. It’s getting close, and money can still be shifted. What’s less relevant is whether this means Boston will have less flexibility throughout the season if it wants to enhance a weak place on the roster or cover for an injury.
The arrival of Story stabilizes Boston’s outlook in the long run. The future of Boston’s infield arrangement is unknown. After Bogaerts departs, Story might return to shortstop. Bogaerts may remain, but he’d be moved to third base, displacing Rafael Devers. Perhaps Bogaerts can be persuaded to switch places with Story. Alternatively, all three players might continue in their current positions for many years. The most significant thing is that Boston now has a larger pool of high-level talent to work with.
It is not risk-free to sign a story. There are also the strikeouts to consider. There’s also the issue of throwing. There’s also the ever-suspicious Coors Field influence. These dangers preclude me from awarding the Red Sox an A or an A-, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like the move.
With all due respect to Conforto, who may be a valuable contributor for a fortunate club, Story’s signing with Boston essentially puts the free-agent season to a close, and in an exciting way. Opening Day has never seemed closer after an offseason that seemed to go on forever.
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