The Yankees have acquired Alex Verdugo in stunning trade with the Boston Red Sox

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Texas Rangers
Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

In a move out of left field, the Yankees have acquired outfielder Alex Verdugo from the Boston Red Sox. The team sends out Richard Fitts, Greg Weissert, and Nicholas Judice for the rival outfielder, who spent four years with the organization before being dealt to the Yankees. Verdugo, originally acquired in the Mookie Betts deal, struggled in the second half of the 2023 season, and while his defense and speed took steps forward, it didn’t result in the offensive output he was searching for.

Since being dealt to Boston, the 27-year-old left-handed outfielder has a 105 wRC+ and .338 OBP, and the Yankees hope they can get more out of his bat for 2024.

Yankees Acquire Alex Verdugo, Where Does He Fit in the Lineup?

mlb: game one-new york yankees at boston red sox, alex verdugo
Sep 12, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Alex Verdugo (99) at bat during the third inning against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankee’s plan for Alex Verdugo is peculiar given that he’s traditionally a corner outfielder, but this might not take them out on Juan Soto. Brian Cashman wanted two outfielders, preferably left-handed, and Verdugo definitely fits that mold, but what does this mean for Juan Soto? Nothing so far has indicated that the Yankees are out on Juan Soto, with the report from Jack Curry just 10 minutes before and the reply from Passan that the team is not out on the outfielder.

It seems as if their plan is to play Alex Verdugo in centerfield, where the team can add a much-needed left-handed presence, but his defense in centerfield back in 2021 (-5 OAA) was certainly spotted. One could suggest that his sprint speed improvements should allow him to handle centerfield well, but this is certainly an interesting move nonetheless. Verdugo is likely a better bat than Kevin Kiermaier or Manuel Margot, and he’s only a one-year rental, but concerns regarding his defense out there are more than just.

Now, let’s talk about the departing Yankees, who are headed by RHP Richard Fitts, RHP Greg Weissert, and RHP Nicholas Judice. Fitts put up a 3.48 ERA, spending all of Double-A with the Somerset Patriots, and showing an ability to throw strikes reliably and get swings-and-misses. Weissert was a solid reliever this past season for the Yankees, with great stuff but spotty command, and likely was a 40-Man Roster casualty. Nicholas Judice was the Yankees 8th Round Pick in their most recent draft, and has yet to make his professional debut.

MLB: General Manager's Meetings
Nov 7, 2023; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman speaks to the media during the MLB General Manager’s Meetings at Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Cashman might have also acquired Verdugo to rotate with Aaron Judge in centerfield, who Jon Heyman is reporting could be their go-to option as Jasson Dominguez rehabs from their injury. The Yankees are adding a contact-hitting outfielder with a swing made for Yankee Stadium if he can pull his flyballs reliably to right field, as he’ll add to his home run total dramatically. Another angle of this batted ball profile comes from the low chase rate, as the Yankees would be getting a patient hitter who can fit at the top of their lineup.

Verdugo’s aforementioned .338 OBP could appeal to the Yankees, as they try to put a hitter who has groundball issues in situations where he’d often have no runners on. Strikeouts are also something Verdugo has avoided, with a 15.5% strikeout rate with Boston and only one season with a strikeout rate above 20%, but it’s still a risk for a few reasons. He has struggled to lift the ball in the air and hasn’t historically hit for much power, although that could change in the Bronx with right field.

He also had a 98 wRC+ this past season, a reflection of a terrible summer slump where he looked zapped of his early-season power. If the Yankees get a wRC+ closer to his projected 106 number on FanGraphs, this deal could prove valuable for the Yankees, and at the very least they get a boost against right-handed pitching. His career 115 wRC+ against righties after the Yankees were helpless in those matchups in 2023 should give them more production, but they can’t be done, and it’s being reported that Juan Soto remains their crown jewel for the Winter Meetings.