New York Yankees acquire an outfielder not named Juan Soto

On Tuesday night, the New York Yankees acquired Alex Verdugo from division-rival Boston Red Sox, a move that reminded the fanbase that Juan Soto still has not been traded.

Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays
Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages

The New York Yankees have acquired an outfielder. No, not the one that the entire fanbase has been calling for. Instead, the Yankees swung a deal with their rivals, acquiring Alex Verdugo from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for a three-pitcher package.

Alex Verdugo certainly fills a need as a left fielder, but the move is unlikely to satisfy an insatiable New York Yankees fanbase

Verdugo comes to New York in a bit of a villain role, as he was a vocal part of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry since 2020. The lefty has been solid on offense, with a career 11.1 bWAR in just over five years of service time. Verdugo slashed .264/.324/.421 with 13 home runs and 37 doubles in 2023, appearing in 142 games. However, Verdugo is a platoon candidate, as he has managed a measly .238/.301/.314 slash in 532 plate appearances against lefties since 2021.

Still, teams could do worse than Verdugo in their lineup, as he ranked in the 85th percentile or above in chase rate, strikeout rate, and whiff percentage last season. The strong plate discipline has not translated to strong walk numbers, with a career 7.5 percent walk rate. Defensively, Verdugo has accumulated -10 Outs Above Average since 2021, so the Yankees are strictly betting on the bat here.

Returning to Boston is a pitching-only package, with Greg Weissert, Richard Fitts, and Nicholas Judice switching sides of the rivalry. Weissert is the only one of the trio to appear in a big league game.

The side-winding Weissert was on the edge of the Yankees' 40-man roster, but should play a role in the Boston bullpen in 2024. Weissert racks up ground balls, inducing them at a 50.0 percent rate in limited 2023 action. According to Baseball Savant, Weissert's sinker has a run value of +3, and has above-average vertical and horizontal movement. Refining the cutter and sweeper will be the keys to Weissert's ultimate role, but he can at least be a low-leverage option immediately.

Fitts was a sixth-round draft pick out of Auburn in 2021, where he was a reliever until his draft year. Since entering the professional ranks, Fitts has made all of his appearances as a starter, including 27 at Double-A Somerset in 2023. With Somerset, Fitts pitched to a 3.48 ERA (3.92 FIP), striking out 163 in 152.2 innings. It makes perfect sense for the Red Sox to deploy FItts as a starter as 2024 is his Rule 5 evaluation year. At worst, Fitts could fill a bullpen role thanks to his strong command. A switch could also lead to more velocity, as Fitts has been sitting 92-93 mph as a starter.

Judice was the Yankees' eight-rounder in 2023, a fourth-year junior out of Louisiana-Monroe. Mainly a reliever in college, Judice has yet to pitch professionally, instead being shut down after the draft. At Louisiana-Monroe, Judice's fastball reached the mid-90s, and his slider could project as a plus pitch. The Athletic's Keith Law pointed to a potential vulnerability against left-handers, so a third pitch is likely in the works for player development.

All of the baseball insider industry has made clear that the Yankees acquiring Verdugo does not eliminate them from Juan Soto, as it was clear that multiple bats were needed to upgrade the lineup. Another interesting wrinkle is the potential of swapping Verdugo in the Soto trade to soften the blow of losing multiple prospects. If Verdugo were to stick in New York, it is a fine pickup, and certainly represents a better option than all of the left fielders the Yankees trotted out in 2023.