From time to time in the real world, we’re faced with oddly conflicting situations. There might be a solution that would be ideal to pursue, if not for the realistic hurdles. The hurdles in question aren’t ones that we necessarily endorse; they’re simply there and must be acknowledged as obstacles.
All that being said, one could reasonably assume that a trade between the Yankees and Red Sox would be unlikely. However, that isn’t to say either side would turn away from it, particularly if the opportunity made a lot of sense.
It just so happens that the Red Sox are willing to deal a player that would fit one of the primary needs of the New York Yankees: Alex Verdugo.
At the admission of their own new president of baseball operations, the Red Sox are entertaining offers on Verdugo. With that in mind, we also know the Yankees are looking for a lefty-hitting outfielder, and that’s not even a recent search.
Before addressing Verdugo and the inevitable question of what’s wrong with him — namely, what would primarily lead the Red Sox to consider a deal — the reasons behind the possibility are rather clear.
There is a large commitment from Boston towards Masataka Yoshida, and he more than held his own in his first year in the States. Jarren Duran was a rookie standout in the AL with a 121 OPS+ in center field. Lastly, the team seems willing and proactive in providing opportunities to youngsters such as Ceddane Rafaela and Wilyer Abreu.
Considering all of that, it’s only logical that Boston would shop Alex Verdugo, who’s set to reach free agency after the end of 2024 (much like Gleyber Torres, who both sides reportedly discussed along with Verdugo at the Trade Deadline).
The lack of long-term control means two things. On one side, the Yankees wouldn’t have to pay as much as they would otherwise, for what’s essentially one year of Verdugo, on the other. On the other hand, you’re not finding a long-term answer to the problem, unless you re-sign him to an extension before the season.
As far as the player himself, don’t make any mistakes about what to expect out of Verdugo. That may not be exciting, but in a way, it’s a lot of what this team needs right now: improvement in terms of complementary pieces.
A former Dodgers prospect, Verdugo came over to Boston as the main piece in the Mookie Betts deal, and operating under that shadow is no easy task. The void left by the former MVP was never filled, but Verdugo did establish himself as a reliable big leaguer.
Since 2020, his first year in Boston, Verdugo has missed a combined 53 games spanning four seasons. Now 27, the average was down a tad in 2023 (.264) as he ran the lowest BABIP of his career, but the bat-to-ball skills are there, and while there is not much slug, he’s hit double-digit homers in each of the past three seasons. It’s not as though Verdugo unfamiliar with going yard in the Bronx, either.
On the whole, Verdugo hit .264/.324/.421 with a 98 wRC+, or just a tad below the 102 mark he produced in 2022.
As is often the case, any possible trade depends a lot on how the Red Sox in particular approach the talks. Are they listening to offers in the hopes of finding an ideal proposal, but more than content on holding him, at least until the Trade Deadline? Or is Boston committed enough to playing their young options that they’ll look to offload Verdugo and his imminent raise, entering his final year of arbitration eligibility?
If the latter one is true, then there might be a deal to do here, as the Yankees have about as much incentive as anyone else on the market right now. Owner Hal Steinbrenner might be loathe to give out another a long-term contract to bring in a bat like Cody Bellinger or Matt Chapman. MLB Trade Rumors estimated that Verdugo is due a pay bump to about $9.2M in his final arb year, which would obviously be less of a commitment.
That being said, if the first option mentioned above is more descriptive of the situation, then the Yankees have little incentive to lend their rivals a hand unless they really, really believe in Verdugo’s bat. There are similar, albeit maybe not as reliable options to pursue in free agency, and elsewhere on the market.