While Alex Verdugo has some fond memories of his tenure with the Red Sox, the newly acquired Yankee still feels like his former team didn’t go all-in on winning during his four years in a Boston uniform.
“I thought they were in a rebuilding process,” Verdugo said during his Yankees’ introductory press conference Thursday. “I thought [former chief baseball officer] Chaim Bloom did a really good job of rebuilding the farm system, getting guys in, and getting young, fresh people in. And I think that’s ideally what the goal was. I think they used him [as a scapegoat] when they weren’t winning to get rid of him.”
Verdugo was the key piece in the Mookie Betts trade, and the Sox missed the playoffs in three of his four seasons while also finishing in last place in the American League East in those three years. The Sox made a run to the AL Championship Series in 2021, but ultimately lost to the Astros in six games.
“I think ‘21 was the exception,” Verdugo said. “We had guys that were all clicking, and we played really well. And I felt like in ‘22 and ‘23, both years we were at that fringe where we needed a couple of key pieces, and we never went for it. It was definitely frustrating because playing there in ‘20 with no fans. Then ‘21, great year with fans. Just going to the playoffs, like, that was Boston baseball that I remember. And then ‘22-23 were just letdowns, man. You don’t see Fenway.”
Verdugo’s time with the Red Sox brought mixed results. He was solid on the field as pretty much a league-average player, batting .281/.338/.424 with a .761 OPS and 43 homers in four years. He was elite in right field this year, finishing second for the AL Gold Glove. But commitment issues, something that has followed Verdugo since his days with the Dodgers, creeped in during the ‘23 season.
Verdugo was benched twice this year by manager Alex Cora: once in June for not hustling out a grounder against the Guardians and again in August for showing up late to Fenway prior to a contest with the Blue Jays.
“I think for me, it just toughens me up,” said Verdugo on what he learned from those moments. “It made me realize some things. I think the biggest thing is I had several players and kind of veteran figures reach out to me and help me through some stuff.”
Verdugo’s relationship with Cora came into question much of this season. At the end of it, Verdugo intimated that he didn’t like how those instances were handled, believing they should have stayed in-house.
When asked how excited he is to play for Yankees manager Aaron Boone, Verdugo referenced Boone’s ejection in ‘19 when the manager screamed at the home plate umpire, “My guys are savages in the box.”
“He’s yelling at the umpire, and I mean that’s something I want to see out of my [manager], man,” stated Verdugo. “I want to see some fires and fight for the guys. I think just instead of airing people out, have their backs, and I’m really excited for this fresh start.
Verdugo admitted that he was angry when the Red Sox first traded him, relaying that he couldn’t believe that the team traded him to a rival. But he said Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Anthony Rizzo all reached out to him shortly after, making Verdugo a bit more comfortable.
Verdugo immediately shaved, he said, just so he could get used to what a clean face looks like given the Yankees’ no-beard policy. He’s also been working out in a Yankee hat, saying that he needs to get used to that look, too.
“I just want to go to this organization, and I’m just wanting to work hard,” said Verdugo. “I want to prove maybe a lot of these he-said-she-said things wrong. I want to show them that, we’re all people, man. We’re all humans. And you know, yeah, we make mistakes. But how do we learn from it? How do we bounce back from it and how much stronger do we get from that?”