When Craig Breslow, one week into his tenure with the Red Sox, advertised Alex Verdugo was being discussed with other teams in trades, there was little question that the 27-year-old was not long for Boston.
Still, the form that Verdugo’s departure took represented an eye-opener.
Breslow dealt Verdugo to the Yankees in exchange for three arms: Greg Weissert, a righthanded depth reliever; Richard Fitts, a Double A righthander who may have a chance to be a back-of-the-rotation starter; and Nicholas Judice, a 6-foot-8-inch righthander in the lower levels who represents a bit of a lottery ticket, but with a chance to emerge as a late-innings reliever.
The Sox view the trio as providing potential depth that they lack in the upper levels. Evaluators from other organizations saw the return as modest, with little pain on the part of the Yankees in dealing from their deep pool of pitchers.
When viewing the trade in the context of the 2024 major leagues, the scales tip considerably in favor of the Yankees. Verdugo was an everyday outfielder who provided decent offense, albeit one whose ability against lefthanders has withered — he hit .220/.311/.298 against southpaws last year, compared with a .279/.329/.464 line against righthanders. He put the ball in play and covered a lot of ground in right field. Setting aside the headaches he caused with effort-related issues — and that seemingly made a trade inevitable — he was a solid if unspectacular contributor. He gives the Yankees a desperately needed lefthanded bat who can put the ball in play.
If he plays well — a possibility, given the motivations of the slight of being dealt and free agency after the 2024 season — the Yankees could end up with the best player in the deal as well as a draft pick next winter (if Verdugo plays well enough to receive and decline a qualifying offer). If Verdugo ends up getting dealt to the Padres as part of a package to land Juan Soto — one evaluator suggested that San Diego has had past interest — then outrage could follow.
That said, the Red Sox made the decision based on how Verdugo fit into their roster. And while he showed the ability to perform at a near-All-Star level in the first three months of 2023, his overall performance was decent but hardly irreplaceable. With an outfield already crowded with lefthanded options Masataka Yoshida, Jarren Duran, and Wilyer Abreu, the Sox will entrust most of their outfield at-bats to players who have a chance of a long-term future with the team.
Duran’s dynamism in particular showed game-changing potential, while Abreu’s performance in September suggested a player who is capable of coming close to Verdugo’s offensive performance of the last three years. Verdugo was good enough to start for the Red Sox but not so good as to become a fixture — a notion that became clear when the team declined to explore a long-term deal with him in his four-year tenure.
And there’s the possibility that the Sox could upgrade their outfield situation. They have Rob Refsnyder as a righthanded option and also have Ceddanne Rafaela as part of their outfield equation (though likely not on Opening Day). The Sox could use Verdugo’s departure to make a push for a righthanded hitter who can add some thunder.
While Breslow told reporters in Nashville on Wednesday morning that he’s comfortable with the team’s outfield group, several righthanded options — Teoscar Hernández, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler, and Hunter Renfroe, among others — could be fits. One major league source suggested the Sox have remained primarily engaged on starting pitching, with a potential pursuit of outfielders likely to wait until their rotation takes shape. Still, it is early enough in the offseason that the Sox could still become more balanced in his absence, depending on the next moves they make with a roster spot and the money that had been earmarked for Verdugo.
Such balancing efforts shouldn’t be taken for granted: The Renfroe-for-Jackie Bradley Jr. deal with the Brewers never was followed with a complementary move, resulting in a 2022 of poor outfield production.
In short: Dealing an everyday player to the Yankees represented a gutsy first step for Breslow. But the measure of the deal can only be taken after the subsequent steps of the offseason give greater direction to what the Red Sox are doing.
Read more about the Alex Verdugo trade
- Red Sox trade Alex Verdugo to Yankees for three pitching prospects
- On Baseball: By trading Alex Verdugo, Craig Breslow clears the air for Red Sox
- Here’s a look at the pitching prospects the Red Sox got from the Yankees for Alex Verdugo