Boston Red Sox: Is Alex Verdugo Enough?

FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 15: Alex Verdugo #99 of the Boston Red Sox speaks to the media during a press conference during a team workout on February 15, 2020 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 15: Alex Verdugo #99 of the Boston Red Sox speaks to the media during a press conference during a team workout on February 15, 2020 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

Is newly acquired Boston Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo enough of a return for perennial American League MVP candidate Mookie Betts?

It’s too often in the history of our game that a blockbuster trade is looked at as one-sided or a changing of the guard is overlooked too soon. One fan is outraged that his home team would trade the best player the franchise has seen in years. Another tries to say the return wasn’t nearly enough while another one is merely upset because he just invested in a jersey he now has to hang in his closet.

The reality of any trade or transaction throughout any sport is this-your team will not please everyone and not every trade will work out in your favor. Heartbreak ensues and betrayal is felt from fans as they watch their favorite player head to another team. When the Boston Red Sox traded Mookie Betts for outfielder Alex Verdugo the question that arose was simple- which side of history is he going to be on?

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Verdugo was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers along with catcher Connor Wong and shortstop Jeter Downs in exchange for perennial MVP candidate Mookie Betts, starting pitcher David Price and cash considerations in a successful attempt for Boston to cut payroll as well as fetch a return for Betts.

Short of getting top prospect Gavin Lux as any deal involving him was occluded by Los Angeles, Boston believed Verdugo was the next best thing.

Betts, who is a free agent after this season, is expected to sign for upwards of $300 million, a contract that appeared much too rich for Boston to make a competitive offer. Despite multiple efforts to retain him and make him a member of the Boston Red Sox for life, Betts was adamant about testing the free-agent market. But who can blame him?

As one of the top players in the game today he has fully earned that right. Although the trade helped the team stay under the luxury tax threshold for this upcoming season, there is little doubt that Boston will miss Betts’ talent both at the plate and roaming right field.

Betts hit .301/.374/.519 during his six seasons in Boston while playing in four All-Star games and leading Boston to a World Series in 2018, a season in which he took home American League MVP honors. Garnering a return for Betts before he was expected to test free agency at the end of the 2020 season was both economical and logical. But was the return enough?

As one era ends another begins and it’s needless to say that the 23-year-old Alex Verdugo has big shoes to fill. After being drafted out of high school in the second round of the 2014 Amateur Draft, Verdugo arrived in the Major Leagues in 2017, had a cup of coffee in 2018 just before becoming a mainstay in 2019. While hitting .294/.332/.475 with 12 home runs and 43 RBI’s over 106 games last season, “Dugie” was quickly making a name for himself.

Now even though these metrics speak to the ability of Verdugo, they only offer a mere glimpse of what Verdugo could be capable of over a full season. A deeper look into his peripherals suggests Verdugo’s on base and power numbers should continue to rise in the hitter-friendly A.L. East as evident by his .341 wOBA and 43.7% hard-hit rate. As is the case with most trades, optimism is key and Verdugo’s numbers though good offer little insight into the trajectory of his career as his sample size is minuscule. However, at the time of the trade Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom had this to say about the outfielder he acquired.

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"“Alex Verdugo is a really talented baseball player on both sides of the ball,” Bloom said. “He can really hit and it’s not just power. He’s a really good hitter. Defensively, he can play all three positions. Tremendous arm, really showed himself last year in a very impressive full season debut. Showed himself as a very talented player.”"

Although the Boston Red Sox fan base not only deserves but expects excellence year after year, the departure of Betts and arrival of Verdugo should not mean we get to compare the two of them. One is a seasoned veteran, the other is entering his sophomore season, with hardly any dirt in his spikes. What we are able to do however is expect a solid performance from Verdugo with some growing pains as we remind ourselves that he is only 23 years of age while we welcome him to Boston.

After all, he’s going to be there for a while as he doesn’t become a free agent until 2025. Due to the fact that he’s used to the big stage in L.A., there are little doubts that Verdugo will be able to handle this tough media market. We know that if he opens the season 0 for 10, he’ll immediately be targeted while Connor Wong and Jeter Downs quickly become the means of justification for the trade.

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A clear overreaction by the media, Alex Verdugo must be ready for that kind of criticism. However when he performs well in this market he is going to be treated as less than a God but more than a man, receiving praise from all while Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom sits in his suite with an “I told you so” grin on his face.