It has taken over three years, but the Boston Red Sox are finally getting value in their trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Right before the coronavirus pandemic shut down in March of 2020, Boston GM Chaim Bloom sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles for Jeter Downs, Alex Verdugo, and Connor Wong. Downs was an up-and-coming prospect that the Red Sox were hoping to be a big league player for a long time, while Verdugo and Wong were seen as parts that may or may not work out. Right now they appear to be working just fine in 2023.
Verdugo and Wong are playing a big part early in the 2023 Red Sox season
There is no sugarcoating it, the Red Sox were never going to win the deal. There is no way and will be no way. In what has become a common theme lately, Boston locking up homegrown talent has been an issue. After not paying Betts and trading him, they let Xander Bogaerts walk out the door last offseason to the San Diego Padres. At least they paid Rafael Devers in January.
Betts is a fixture in the Dodgers’ outfield and in the lineup, but Boston is getting value from the deal so far this season. No, not Downs, who was signed by the Washington Nationals in the offseason after the Red Sox designated him for assignment, but Verdugo and Wong.
Verdugo has been a table setter at the top of Alex Cora’s lineup and is second in the team in batting average, right behind Masataka Yoshida. He’s slashing .307/.379/.504 with a team-high 42 hits, a team-high 27 runs scored, five home runs, and 18 RBI. He has three walk-off hits this season, including two in the last homestand against the Cleveland Guardians and Toronto Blue Jays. His walk-off against closer Jordan Romano led off the bottom of the ninth. He’s got a clutch gene that the Red Sox need.
Wong is splitting catching duties this season with Reese McGuire and he has been the better of the two backstops. He’s thrown out seven of the nine would-be base stealers against him and his bat is coming alive at the plate. He’s slashing .257/.313/.459, but nine of his hits have been for extra-base hits (six doubles, three home runs), and two of his home runs were in the same game against the Blue Jays on May 2 in a 7-6 victory. His latest home run was a shot off of Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals Friday night.
Betts playing a key role with Dodgers
Betts has only hit over .300 twice in his career, in 2016 and 2018 with the Red Sox. This year, he’s slashing .250/.352/.489, but it’s been his defense that has stuck out in Los Angeles as he has won two Gold Gloves with the Dodgers and could claim another one this year. He’s even played some middle infield this season for manager Dave Roberts.
Last season, he hit a career-high 35 home runs and drove in 82 runs and this season, he has 10 doubles and eight home runs with 22 RBI. There is no question that the Red Sox lost a generational talent in Betts, but this season Verdugo and Wong are making the trade a little easier (if possible) to swallow.
Verdugo and Wong are playing a big part in the Red Sox’s surprising start, something that doesn’t look like a fluke a quarter into the season.