Tomase: Story injury the latest blow in Red Sox offseason gone wrong originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The you've-gotta-be-bleeping-me moment came early in Chaim Bloom's media teleconference on Tuesday. All we knew for sure was that Trevor Story had undergone elbow surgery that didn't involve the names Tommy or John. Rapid Googling suggested he might be sidelined anywhere from four to six months.
But it couldn't actually be that bad, could it?
"I certainly would not rule out a return sometime during 2023, but it's also not something at this stage that we want to bank on," Bloom said.
When the best you can suggest about reactivating a player is, "Maybe this year, shrug emoji?" it's fair to say the situation is unfolding sub-optimally. Put another way: Welcome to this endless Red Sox winter. You do not get nice things.
With a better roster, the Story news would be unwelcome, but not devastating. He hit .238 in only 94 games last year. I happen to think he made more of an impact than those numbers suggest, but that's still production the Red Sox should be able to replace while he recovers from the bracing procedure that will reinforce his right ulnar collateral ligament instead of completely rebuilding it.
Except the Red Sox were counting on Story to offset the losses that really devastated the offense, chief among them double play partner Xander Bogaerts. Most of us suspected the day Story signed last spring and agreed to shift to second base that his stay would be temporary, so widely was he regarded as shortstop insurance.
When Bogaerts took his Silver Slugger and two World Series rings to San Diego for $280 million last month, Story seemed like the logical replacement, given his own All-Star pedigree in Colorado.
It was ominous, then, to hear the Red Sox refuse to commit to him, saying they liked his defense at second base (which was tremendous, in fairness) and adding that they wanted to keep their options open. Even with shifts banned and second-base range mattering again, no one would prioritize second over shortstop, all else being equal.
The issue was Story's arm. The velocity on his throws dropped significantly in 2021, ranking towards the bottom of all shortstops. And though he exhibited tremendous range and hands in his Red Sox debut, he didn't exactly possess a Howitzer. It just so happens that he mostly didn't need one to throw out guys from short right field.
The Red Sox had hoped that time off would fix the issue, which wasn't unreasonable. Players try to avoid surgery whenever possible, and a rest-and-rehab regimen offered the best hope of Story being available for opening day. When he resumed throwing before Christmas, however, it became time for Plan B.
"(Surgery) wasn't something we were contemplating at the end of the season," Bloom said. "Obviously recognizing that his throwing has not been what it was in the past, everything when we did the physical and we signed him looked good and he felt good throughout the season. What he experienced in this incident was something new."
So now a Red Sox season that already feels like it's slipping away spirals even further. With Bogaerts and now Story gone, Bloom faces the unenviable task of trying to rebuild the middle of his infield barely a month before the start of spring training.
Maybe that means placing a call to old friend Jose Iglesias or declining veteran Elvis Andrus. Maybe it means moving Gold Glove-caliber center fielder Kiké Hernández to shortstop and weakening themselves elsewhere up the middle. Or maybe they can rush prospect Ceddanne Rafaela, which Bloom clearly wants to avoid.
Every option feels bad, which is what happens when you've left yourself so little margin for error that an injury to a player who missed nearly 70 games last year feels catastrophic.
The Story news dropped just hours before the Red Sox announced an 11 a.m. Rafael Devers press conference on Wednesday. The team's new $331 million man should be the centerpiece of a positive week of news, but this just hasn't been that kind of winter for the Red Sox.
Maybe next year.