Tomase: Story vs. Baez is the battle of $ 140M shortstops, so who ya got? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

They were born two weeks and many thousands of miles apart in the fall of 1992, and now they’re linked by an impressive number: $ 140 million.

Javier Baez and Trevor Story would normally have been the cream of the free-agent shortstop crop, but not this winter. That distinction went to Corey Seager of the Dodgers and Carlos Correa of ​​the Astros. The former cashed in for 10 years and $ 325 million from the Rangers before the lockout, and the latter set an annual salary standard by agreeing to a three-year, $ 105.3 million contract with the Twins after it ended.

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Baez and Story formed bookends of their own. Both signed for six years and $ 140 million – the former as one of the first big free agents to come off the board in December, and the latter as one of the last to sign in March.

That symmetry means they’ll inevitably be compared, a juxtaposition that’s only heightened by the fact that Story’s Red Sox are in Detroit finishing a series with Baez’s Tigers. Only Baez is playing, and he’s delivering. In addition to a game-winning homer that saw him practically jump out of his shoes attacking a Ryan Brasier fastball on Monday, he added an RBI double in Tuesday’s 5-3 loss.

Story, meanwhile, hasn’t played since Saturday and is unlikely to appear in Wednesday’s finale. He told the Boston Globe he has been battling a case of food poisoning.

Because both are 29 and former All-Stars with extensive experience at shortstop, where Baez won a Gold Glove and Story has been a finalist, the question will be unavoidable over the next few seasons: which team got the better deal?

There’s no point in drawing any conclusions now. Baez had a full spring training after signing in December. Story arrived late, and then left camp for the birth of a child. He appeared in only five Grapefruit League games before going 0 for 5 on opening day vs. Yankees right-hander Gerrit Cole. He may not feel locked in until May, and that’s OK.

It was natural to wonder this winter which way the Red Sox would go. Because Baez hails from Puerto Rico and played for Red Sox manager Alex Cora at the 2017 World Baseball Classic (where Cora served as GM), Baez was linked to the Red Sox early in free agency, but by that point the club had already set its sights on Story, a more consistent offensive performer and arguably a slightly better all-around player.

Baez made sense, though, given his versatility, as well as the fact that he’s a proven second baseman, with over 300 games there.

There were reasons to be leery in free agency, though. He never walks and he led the National League in strikeouts last year with a career-high 184. Advanced metrics suggested he had lost some of his trademark bat speed, as well as a step defensively. Because he’s not particularly disciplined, teams feared he’d struggle with higher velocity in his 30s.

What’s clear after watching Baez for just a couple of days is that he remains one dynamic player. He made a diving stop to rob long-time friend Christian Vazquez on Tuesday, and the 93 mph fastball he hammered from Brasier was nearly four feet off the ground.

That’s in keeping with his career, where he made a name for himself as one of the flashiest infielders in baseball with the Cubs, shuttling between second, third, and short. He also exhibited tremendous power, twice topping 30 homers.

It’s worth noting that Detroit paid Baez to stay at shortstop, whereas the Red Sox asked Story to shift to second base in deference to incumbent Xander Bogaerts. Story hasn’t had much of an opportunity to showcase his skills yet, though he’s certainly aggressive and take-charge in the field, where he ranged from second base to make plays at short and in right field through two games.

The Red Sox remain confident he’ll show off his wide-ranging skillset once he settles in. He possesses Gold Glove potential at second and 20-20 potential at the plate. He gets on base, he’s a good teammate, and he’s excited to play in Boston.

Whether that’s enough to outperform the energetic and experienced Baez should make for a worthy subplot over the next six years.


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