Alex Verdugo is on the Boston Red Sox and will be subjected to scrutiny comparisons with Mookie Betts. An unfortunate and unfair outcome of a trade.
The passion over the departure of Mookie Betts has certainly escalated into another emotional dimension to which we rarely venture. The consensus is the Red Sox received far less than anticipated for Betts and that is certainly not an argument I will pursue since it will be ongoing for a considerable length of time.
The other aspect of the transaction is the departure of David Price and the Red Sox shoveled half his salary into the hopper to get Price hustled out of town. To paraphrase an old divorce saying: “The reason it cost so much is it is worth it.” I will not miss the tumultuous and temperamental Price.
Analysis of the deal can be broken down to sending Betts to the Dodgers for Alex Verdugo who will replace Betts in the outfield. The cautionary term is “replace” since anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of baseball knows that by any measurement this is certainly not an even swap. The other piece is a pitcher, one Brusdar Graterol who came from the Twins to the Dodgers and to Boston. A two for two with hefty cash considerations.
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If one uses a baseball standard of the best trades are the ones that help both teams this does not pass that litmus test at least in the area of talent as in replaceable talent. But what I will concentrate on is the poor hand that was dealt to young Mr. Verdugo. Not stamped with his name but the guy we got for Betts. Welcome to the pressure cooker!
Comparisons in baseball are well-known and just think the Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra, and Alex Rodriguez regional debates on just who was supreme at shortstop? Or digging into my baseball past when New York City was blessed with Willie Mays, Duke Snider (very underrated), and Mickey Mantle, just who was the alpha male in center field?
The comparison will now migrate into the 2020 season as Red Sox fans will intensely check box scores to see just how Betts is doing. Verdugo will be in a place no one should envy since the inevitable conversation will turn to Mookie would have had that line drive or stolen base or scored on that hit. And if the Red Sox flounder the possibility exists that the more unreasonable Red Sox fans will take their frustrations out on the innocent.
Verdugo is not the proverbial chopped liver, but a decent outfielder who is better with the bat (.294) than the glove (-6.4 UZR/150). Naturally, the defense for Verdugo has never been in the splendid range of Betts and Fenway Park has a way of finding the flaws quickly. What Verdugo has to do is the Trot Nixon or Brian Daubach approach and that is become a dirt dog. Red Sox fans will excuse a bundle of personal misfortune if a player consistently hustles to the nth degree.
Verdugo has been placed in a vice of scrutiny and that is the unfortunate result of such a historic trade and – hopefully – the environment will stay positive for Verdugo. The Boston market can also be notoriously hostile to those who do not meet expectations, be they individuals or teams. Red Sox fans can easily recite players who quite frankly they could not stomach – did I mention Price? We collectively can be a forgiving bunch or can hold a grudge with the best of them.
As outfielders go, Verdugo would have been a fine addition if the Red Sox were just expanding the position and Betts had remained. Or Verdugo would have been a palatable replacement for Jackie Bradley Jr. if JBJ had been cut from the herd. Verdugo is young and has decent power – a good but far from a great player.
Any comparison to Betts will just be inconsequential and I will most certainly refrain from doing such. As a team, if the Red Sox collectively manage to be firm contenders – and they have the horses – the loss of Price and Betts will be mitigated and the furor directed at the pecuniary of ownership will subside.