Well, I don't think anyone saw this coming. Alex Verdugo getting traded to the Yankees Wednesday night is the first truly noteworthy deal that Craig Breslow has done since taking over as chief baseball officer, a move that hopefully shows that Breslow isn't afraid to move aggressively in the market. Considering Verdugo's average production and bearing the weight of being the centerpiece of the Mookie Betts trade, perhaps it is for the best that the Red Sox found a deal to get some return for Verdugo, instead of letting him walk in free agency next offseason. However, this does mean that there's a glaring hole in the Red Sox lineup now, with our everyday right fielder taking his talents to the Bronx.
The Red Sox do have corner outfield options in their system already, with Wilyer Abreu showcasing some talent at the backend of last season, but it seems like external options are going to be more thoroughly considered for the everyday role, with the the Red Sox being reportedly interested in Lourdes Gurriel. With this being said, there is one name on the market that, if the right deal can be made, should absolutely be considered to replace Verdugo in right field. A name that has showcased elite hitting prowess, can be a true star, and is used to being part of a massive trade in the past: Juan Soto.
Now is the time where we cross our fingers and hope the Yankees' trade for Soto falls apart at the one-yard line due to shaky medicals. Because we absolutely should get involved.
The Boston Red Sox should absolutely go after Juan Soto
For those who might be unfamiliar, Soto is a generational talent at the plate. One of my favorite pieces of information to look at is the "Similar through Age X" box on Baseball Reference, because it can give a good frame of reference as to where a player sits in the history of the game at their current age, and Soto's similarity box is a fantastic group of names. Anytime you are being compared to Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Trout, Frank Robinson, and Miguel Cabrera (among other legendary players), you're doing something right.
Ever since Soto broke onto the scene as a 19-year old with the Washington Nationals, baseball fans have been mesmerized by his ability to control the strike zone, his all-field power, and most importantly, the Soto Shuffle. Now 25, Soto is going to be entering his 7th (!) season in the Majors next year, a contract year that will lead to him getting an obscene payday in free agency (thank you for your service, Scott Boras). I'm sure plenty of people are going to wonder why the Red Sox should consider trading for a guy that may spend one year here, and then leave in the offseason. To that, my dear readers, I say: Juan Soto is just that good.
The website Baseball Savant has a great Illustrator tool that allows users to look at all types of batted ball and pitch data, and scope out hypotheticals with stadium overlays that would show what the outcomes would be if every ball put into play occurred in this given stadium. I decided to take a look at how Juan Soto's 2023 season would look at Fenway Park, and he looks like he could have ended up with an historic season based on the chart Baseball Savant generated. The main thing that the chart shows, in my opinion, is that Soto can hit the ball absolutely anywhere on the field, so the worries of adding another lefty bat to the lineup should be discounted because Soto is the kind of hitter that can turn the Monster into his best friend 81 games out of the year. When David Ortiz is calling for the Red Sox to pick up Soto, that should be a good enough sign that he's a great player.
The biggest thing that people are going to be hung up on when it comes to Soto is going to be the price that the Red Sox are going to have to pay in player capital for him in a trade. It's going to have to be quite the prospect haul to make it worth San Diego's while, so don't be surprised -- if the Yankees fall of and a deal happens -- when names like Miguel Bleis, Nick Yorke, Wikelman Gonzalez, and maybe one of the guys in the majors already like Ceddanne Rafaela, Wilyer Abreu, or Bryan Mata get roped into it. A lot of people worry about trading away a prospect too soon for someone, and it's definitely a tight line to walk trying to consider expected performance from someone in the majors already with an established pedigree vs. the "what if?" nature of working with prospects. However, when the guy you're trying to trade for has finished in the top 10 of MVP voting four times in six years already, and seems to be on the bounce back from a tough stint in San Diego, it's hard to justify not going after him. One year of elite Juan Soto can be worth more than combined performance from some of these prospects, since we don't know if they'll actually pan out in the Majors.
The Red Sox are in a really good spot to go after Soto right now. They have one of the best farm systems in baseball, so there's a plethora of young talent to choose from in making a deal. They also have a new executive looking to make a big impact right away, an ownership group with deep enough pockets to spend on a potential new contract next offseason, and they just sent one of the major suitors of Soto someone that is an everyday option in Soto's preferred position. The main focus of the offseason should continue to be a focus on starting pitching for the Red Sox, but when there's a chance to get a generational player like Juan Soto, even if it's just for a season, then the Red Sox need to act like the big-market team that they truly are, and go after him.