Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo isn’t here to replace Mookie Betts.
Friday night saw Alex Verdugo hit two home runs, helping the Boston Red Sox to a 5-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. Verdugo’s big night came just two days after recording his first home run in a Red Sox uniform in their previous game against the Rays.
There’s no doubt about the fact that Verdugo is among their most dangerous weapons in the lineup right now, as well as being a force in the field. After putting on a display at the plate, Verdugo robbed Travis Shaw of a four-base knock in the ninth inning with a tremendous grab over the bullpen wall.
It was an important win for the Red Sox and a great night for Verdugo, who was quick to hush down Mookie Betts comparisons in his interview following the victory. After being asked why replacing Betts hasn’t seemed to affect him, Verdugo responded:
“Because I’m not replacing him, you know what I mean? Yeah he played here, but this is a game, this is a business. He decided to go elsewhere. I’m not replacing him. That’s what you guys say, that’s what everybody else says. I’m going out there and playing right field, I’m playing my game. I don’t think about Mookie. I think he’s a great player, he did a lot for Boston, he’s going to do a lot for the Dodgers, but I think about me being here and what I’m going to do and what I’m going to bring to this team”.
The comparisons are obviously going to be there when you’re trading away a franchise player like Betts, especially when you hit two homers and make a terrific play out in right field where Mookie pulled off amazing plays night after night.
However, it’s unfair to keep bringing this up to Verdugo. He’s trying to progress himself and has shown that he wants to be here in the way that he plays. Before these three home runs were hit by him this week, you could tell what player you were getting with his ability to grind out base hits and his aggressive base-running, that is going to be a vital asset for this rebuilding team.
What he doesn’t need is that extra pressure, especially coming from post-game interviews following a terrific performance by all accounts. You can tell that he’s already fed up about the talk surrounding him “replacing” Betts with his answers to the questions that he was asked. He highlighted the fact that he isn’t a Mookie replacement.
After talk over him playing the same position as Betts came up, Verdugo said:
“You guys see me going into right field replacing Mookie. I don’t see it like that. I see I’m playing right field for Boston. That’s it. Just another team, another organization, gotta go out there, gotta compete and do what you do. Same way he’s doing it over there, we’ve got to do it over here.”
Verdugo’s answers were intelligent and correct. He knows that baseball is a business and that he hasn’t been brought in here to replace Mookie. I don’t think anyone is expecting Verdugo to come in and hit .346 as Betts did in 2018, or score 135 runs like in 2019. That’s just not how trades work in MLB. This trade wasn’t a like-for-like swap, it was Boston trying to get something, anything, back for a superstar player that they had no real intentions of bringing back in free agency.
That’s why any trade would’ve been made. It was made and it was torn apart by fans, and rightly so. If you have a player of Betts’ talent you do what you can to at least try and get him to stay in Boston. The front office didn’t do this and there wasn’t going to be any trade out there that would’ve seemed fair. You get a couple of prospects back in Jeter Downs and Connor Wong and you get an MLB proven right fielder to take the place of Betts in Verdugo. That’s take Betts’ place, not replace Betts. There’s a difference.
No one was going to come in and replace Betts in a rebuilding year, but you have another option coming into that right field spot who looks very promising in Verdugo and that’s a positive you can take from a sad situation.
Verdugo has been one of the brights spots of this 5-8 start for the Red Sox and has already earned his spot in the everyday lineup. There’s going to be some rotation with Kevin Pillar and so on, but with Andrew Benintendi struggling to hit the ball, Verdugo’s venom with the bat will be integral to this Red Sox team who will take any runs that they can at the moment to try and outweigh their horrendous pitching abilities.
It’s not going to be an easy route back to the top for this side, but having Verdugo at their disposal straight off the bat brings good things on both sides of the game. He knows why he’s in Boston, and that’s to play his game, not replace another player’s game. He’s had a solid start and he certainly has the potential to turn into a great player for this franchise.