It wasn’t Juan Soto (yet), but the Yankees did manage to splash down with the first significant trade of the Winter Meetings, acquiring outfielder Alex Verdugo from the Red Sox in exchange for Greg Weissert and minor leaguers Richard Fitts and Nicholas Judice. It’s only the seventh swap between the two teams this century, and we’ve got plenty of coverage up on the home page as we speak. Here, let’s take a look at what the rest of the baseball world had to say about it deal.
As speculation swirled over whether Verdugo was destined to be flipped, or included in a potential Soto deal, Buster Olney, Jon Morosi, and Jeff Passan all reported that Verdugo would not be dealt again. Or, at the very least, that he wouldn’t be an impediment to a then-theoretical Soto trade.
There has been a question of whether the Yankees got Alex Verdugo with the idea of flipping him to the Padres as part of the Soto deal. In fact, sources say the Yankees' intention is to keep Verdugo. He'll be part of their outfield mix in 2024.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 6, 2023
Source: Alex Verdugo expected to stay with Yankees in near term, as opposed to being moved to San Diego in a Juan Soto trade that is gaining momentum.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 6, 2023
Stay tuned to @MLBNetwork for live coverage of Soto and the Yankees today. @MLB
The acquisition of Alex Verdugo should not take the Yankees out of the Juan Soto sweepstakes. New York has sought left-handed outfield bats, and Soto is the best one in MLB. You don't stop chasing stars.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 6, 2023
Meanwhile, Bryan Hoch was on the scene at the Winter Meetings to record Aaron Boone’s thoughts on the deal, with the manager most notably revealing that Verdugo had been on the team’s radar “for a while.”
Hoch also wrote up the deal for MLB.com, reporting Boone’s comments on Verdugo’s role in 2024 and giving brief bios of all players involved.
Over at The Athletic (sub required), Chris Kirschner, Jen McCaffrey, and Brendan Kuty teamed up for a more in-depth breakdown of the deal, speculating on the motivations of each side, and where the Yankees might go in the event of a Soto acquisition.
If the Yanks do end up trading for Soto and keeping Verdugo, I’d imagine Judge would play CF. Soto is a very poor defender and Verdugo graded poorly in CF when he last played there. Judge has said he views himself as a CF but the team was hesitant playing him there this year. https://t.co/AF5tpashTH— Chris Kirschner (@ChrisKirschner) December 6, 2023
Keith Law also chimed in from The Athletic with his take on the deal, which can be best described as lukewarm and in which he repeatedly questions why the Yankees would want Verdugo, given the negative clubhouse reputation he seems to have cultivated in Boston.
Passan published his own breakdown on the swap at ESPN on Wednesday night, subtly but notably reporting concretely that Verdugo is expected to be a regular starter in the outfield. R.J. Anderson’s more succinct writeup for CBS Sports said much of the same as Hoch and Passan.
In more depth, Anthony Franco of MLB Trade Rumors wrote about the deal late Tuesday night, taking extra note of the luxury tax implications for both sides. He emphasizes the balance that Verdugo brings to the Yankees lineup in its current form, as well as the impact of the three young pitchers on an arm-starved Boston system. He calculates the Yankees’ payroll at about $11 million short of the second luxury tax threshold,
On the other side of the deal, its reception by Massachusetts media has generally been positive. Tim Crowley of NESN called young Red Sox outfielder Wilyer Abreu the “real winner” of the deal, and also praised the necessary clearance of a very crowded outfield. Pete Abraham’s piece for the Boston Globe described the move as new GM Craig Breslow “clear[ing] the air” for the organization, alluding again to Verdugo’s aforementioned clubhouse issues and his seeming need for a fresh start with a new team.
On Baseball: The first significant move of the offseason for the Red Sox was a subtraction:https://t.co/EBjHQVS2GR— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) December 6, 2023
Those undertones will remain undertones, however, as Abraham also reported that, according to Breslow, the deal was simply a baseball move, and that clubhouse considerations were not a factor.
Breslow says the discipline issues with Verdugo were not a factor in the trade. He said the motivation was to acquire "high upside" arms.— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) December 6, 2023
Now overshadowing the Verdugo deal, of course, is the seven-player swap bringing Juan Soto and Trent Grisham to the Bronx. It’s the first true splash of the offseason, and one that gives us the rare opportunity (at least so far this winter) to see all of the talking heads of the national media world to converge at once on the Yankees. The bigger outlets took multiple stabs at their reaction to the deal.
Franco sums up the opinion of at least the plurality of the baseball world by describing Soto as a future Hall of Famer, and that it’s weird that he’s been traded twice in one-and-a-half years now. He also concludes that it’s likely “a one-year acquisition,” and the question of whether Soto will hit the open market will likely loom over much of the season.
MLB.com | Bryan Hoch: Here we have well-justified reveling in the “tantalizing fantasy” coming true on Thursday night, setting a dramatic tone for Soto’s entrance before diving into the broad details of the trade and reporting on the statements of both teams.
The Athletic | Chris Kirschner, Keith Law, & Ken Rosenthal (Subscription Required): The Athletic had much to contribute to the discourse this morning. Kirschner is buying into a return to the Yankees’ spending days of old, bludgeoning the rest of the league with their payroll. As is his tendency, Law is more tepid, but likes the deal for the team, almost begrudgingly so. Rosenthal engaged in a bit of finger wagging, not calling it a bad deal but chastising the Yankees for making Judge play more center field, notwithstanding that the acquisition of Grisham means that... isn’t entirely true.
ESPN | Bradford Doolittle (Subscription Required) & Alden Gonzalez: Writing for ESPN Insider, Doolittle grades the trade at a “B” for the Yankees, echoing Rosenthal’s concerns about Judge’s defensive position, and Grisham’s supposed redundancy with Verdugo, which doesn’t make much sense either, considering the only things they have in common are being left-handed outfielders. Gonzalez recounts the details of the trade while also speculating on the center field opening available to Fernando Tatis Jr. and pondering on the success or failure of Preller’s bizarre Soto deals.
New York Post | Joel Sherman: Sherman, of course, was ecstatic about the deal for the Yankees, coming off as Yoda-like in waxing poetic about the “balance” that Soto brings to the Yankees organization.
USA Today | Bob Nightengale; As usual, Bob chimes in with a seemingly oblivious frankness that’s almost refreshing. He opens the piece framing the Yankees as “[coming into] the Winter Meetings with a look of desperation,” saw the trade as a win-win — though at a steep price — and concluded with a simple “message delivered.”