Not every bargain costs $5 million. What if there's a $25 million steal out there? Might Chaim Bloom be tempted?
The signing bonanza that preceded the expiration of the CBA didn't make every last free agent rich. Some recognizable names remain unemployed, and one of them in particular could find himself in that sweet spot that makes him attractive to the Red Sox.
Trevor Story of the Rockies was supposed to cash in this winter as part of the best free-agent shortstop class ever. A year ago, the two-time All-Star looked like one of the top names on the market alongside Houston's Carlos Correa and Corey Seager of the Dodgers.
He had just followed up consecutive 35-homer seasons with a league-leading 15 steals during the COVID-abbreviated 2020 season. With 30-30 potential and the glove to stay at shortstop, the 29-year-old seemed poised to name his price.
Then came 2021. Story regressed in nearly every way, setting a career-low in home runs (24), batting just .251, and posting an .801 OPS that barely qualified as league average when adjusted for Coors Field.
Middle infielders got bleeping paid last week, but Story wasn't one of them. He remained on the sidelines while the Rangers committed nearly half a billion dollars to Seager and Blue Jays second baseman Marcus Semien. He watched the Tigers shell out $140 million for Javier Baez. He's lucky that Francisco Lindor signed a huge extension with the Mets, because he would've trailed him in line, too.
Boston Red Sox
When free agency resumes, Story won't be the best shortstop available. That distinction goes to Correa, a 27-year-old All-Star and Gold Glover who'll be looking to top Seager's 10-year, $325 million haul.
That could leave Story as the odd man out of this free-agent class, but there's a model that could prove mutually beneficial to him and the Red Sox.
We mentioned Semien earlier, and he's the model. Two years ago he delivered a horrible season with the A's before entering free agency. The Blue Jays signed the 30-year-old shortstop for one year and $18 million, move him to second base, and then watched him explode.
Semien not only set a career-high with 45 homers, but he finished third in the MVP voting for the second time in three years and claimed his first Gold Glove. The Rangers did not let the fact that he just turned 31 dissuade them from signing him for seven years and $175 million.
Much like Adrian Beltre a decade earlier in Boston, Semien used an American League East layover to re-establish his value en route to a massive payday in free agency (also, coincidentally, with the Rangers).
Might this be a path to Story making a pitstop in Boston? Until the Red Sox bestow a nine-figure contract, we should assume they won't play in that market; it's unlikely they'd start with Story, who possesses prodigious power, but has struck out as many as 191 times in a season. But a one-year deal at a high average annual value, with Story moving to second base, would give the Red Sox one of the best offensive infields in baseball alongside Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, and it would allow him to hit the market again next winter at age 30, one year younger than Semien is right now.
The impediment to this plan could be the Yankees, especially if they decide they don't want to enter the Correa sweepstakes. They've already struck gold with one Rockies castoff in second baseman D.J. LeMahieu. Perhaps they'd like to pan those waters again. The Phillies need a shortstop, too, and old friend Dave Dombrowski shouldn't be discounted.
But the way the offseason is shaking out, there's at least a chance that Story loses this game of musical chairs. And if that's the case, maybe the Red Sox can give him a place to stay in 2022 until he gets back on his feet.