NASHVILLE — Alex Verdugo’s tenure with the Red Sox came to an end Tuesday evening when he was traded to the Yankees in exchange for righthanded pitchers Richard Fitts, Greg Weissert, and Nicholas Judice.
Verdugo, the key piece the Red Sox received in the February 2020 Mookie Betts trade, got off to a hot start at the plate last season, but ended the year hitting just .264/.324/.421 (.745 OPS). Verdugo was still a force in the outfield, finishing second in American League Gold Glove voting among right fielders.
“Alex is a really good player. So it’s not surprising that, you know, multiple teams checked in on him,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow said Wednesday morning. “And, you know, we felt like this was maybe an opportunity to take advantage of the chance that we had some guys that we thought could kind of take on those at-bats and those innings.”
Verdugo’s overall tenure with the Red Sox was solid, as he batted .281/.338/.424 (.761 OPS) with 43 regular-season home runs. But he failed to hustle out a ground ball in June, resulting in manager Alex Cora benching him. Verdugo was benched again when he showed up late to the clubhouse during a pivotal series against the Blue Jays.
“You can’t manage 26 guys the same way,” said Cora. “You know, I listened to [new Hall of Fame manager] Jim Leyland the other day, like, if you manage everybody the same way, it’s not going to happen. We have a good relationship. But on the business side of it and the game side of it, I think it’s something that we saw an opportunity to get better in an area that was sort of our weakest point.”
Weissert is the only pitcher from the trade who has reached the majors. He pitched 20 innings for the Yankees in 2023, registering a 4.05 ERA. He also had a 2.90 ERA in 40⅓ innings last season for Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
“Weissert is a guy who’s got a track record of missing bats,” Breslow said. “He’s had some success in the big leagues, and I feel like there’s still some development and growth in front of him.”
Fitts registered a 3.48 ERA in 152⅔ innings with 163 strikeouts for Double A Somerset last season. Breslow believes he can be a starter.
“Those guys, as we discussed, are really difficult to come by,” Breslow said. “The combination of a fastball that’s got some unique shape, and unique characteristics, and then a swing-and-miss slider.”
Judice has yet to pitch at the minor league level. He was an eighth-round draft choice by the Yankees out of Louisiana-Monroe this year.
What’s next for Wilyer
Wilyer Abreu could become the everyday right fielder with the departure of Verdugo. Abreu made quite the impression when called up at the end of last season, batting .316 with two homers and an .862 OPS in 85 plate appearances.
“I think Abreu opened some eyes last year,” Cora said. “I know it’s a small sample size, but I always say if you dominate the strike zone, we believe you’re going to be a good hitter, and there’s an opportunity for him to keep getting better. [He’s] got a shot to be an everyday outfielder with the Red Sox. We’ll see where it takes us.”
A wrap from Nashville
Wednesday concluded the Winter Meetings, and Breslow said he’s satisfied with the process this week despite the lack of movement on the free-agency front . . . The outfield is packed with players who have little service time. Ceddanne Rafaela and Abreu each got their first look in the majors in late August, while Jarren Duran and Masataka Yoshida have roughly a year in the big leagues . . . The Sox are in need of a righty bat with power. Both fall just short of a necessity, according to Breslow. “I would certainly say it’s a priority,” he said. “I think balancing out the lineup is really important.”