FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox manager Alex Cora recruited free agent Trevor Story. So did shortstop Xander Bogaerts. Yet the Red Sox’ efforts to reel in the middle infielder, who signed a six-year, $140 million deal, were abetted by a former member of the organization.
Former Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks, now an analyst for NESN and CBS, has known Story for more than a decade, since the two worked out in the offseason following the 2011 season (Story’s first professional season after being taken by the Rockies with the No. 45 overall draft pick) in Frisco, Texas.
As Story went through the free agent process, Middlebrooks — who was drafted by the Red Sox in 2007 and played for them from 2012-14 — wasn’t shy about offering a recruiting pitch.
“I was selling it for days,” Middlebrooks said. “I laid it out. I said, ‘Look, New York smells like garbage and they have rats the size of Shetland ponies. You don’t want to go there. You don’t want to go to California. The taxes are absurd. You’ll lose all your money there. In Houston, they have hurricanes. The perfect place to go is Boston.’
“I made that joke to him. He got a kick out of that,” added Middlebrooks, clarifying that he bears no ill will toward those other cities.
“But I said, in all honesty, I told him I played in five places. If you want the best experience in baseball as a player, you have to experience playing as a home player at Fenway Park in front of Red Sox Nation. There’s nothing better than playing against the Yankees on a Sunday night or playing in the postseason. You can’t beat it.
“I played other places. I went from a place like Boston to San Diego, where they didn’t care about baseball at the time. And that was tough. Like, I missed the pressure to win. I missed walking down the street the day after a game to go get breakfast and the guy asking me why I swung at the 2-2 slider in the dirt. I missed that, that passion.
“And I explained that to him, just saying, ‘If you want the best experience, and you want to make some of the best memories you’ve ever made in your career, go play in Boston.’ ”
Story elected to do just that. Despite being asked to change positions, he signed on with the Red Sox, for whom he’s expected to add a combination of power, strong up-the-middle defense (once he adjusts to second base), and speed.
Story’s deal will pay him $20 million in 2022 and 2023, $22.5 million in 2024 and 2025, and $25 million in 2026 and 2027. It includes a $25 million club option with a $5 million buyout for 2028.
He has the right to opt out after the 2025 season. If he does, the Red Sox can retain his services by guaranteeing the option year — meaning $25 million salaries in 2026, 2027, and 2028.