Mookie Betts trade finally paying Red Sox some dividends

The 2020 Red Sox-Dodgers trade has given Boston some solid starters
Sep 23, 2019; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (50) at Tropicana
Sep 23, 2019; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (50) at Tropicana / Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers wanted another star, and they got one in Mookie Betts. Betts was the best all-around player I have ever seen in the Red Sox uniform. You do everything possible to keep a franchise player of that magnitude, but history is what it is.

The return was Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, and Connor Wong. The Red Sox also got rid of half the contract of David Price -- two remaining years at $32 million. This is not the first time Boston unloaded some payroll on the Dodgers.

The Red Sox went to California to find an angel, but the Dodgers came to rescue them. The Red Sox dumped the salaries of Adrián González, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto. The return was a group of baseball non-entities, but the Red Sox shed about a quarter of a billion dollars in the process.

The howling over Betts continued, especially with the Dodgers winning a World Series and Betts racking up MVP votes, Silver Slugger Awards, All-Star appearances, and Gold Gloves.

The Dodgers didn't let Betts escape and signed Mookie to a 12-year contract for what appears to be the GNP of a small nation. Meanwhile, in Boston, the returns for Mookie were under RSN's watchful and critical eye. Things were not going well.

The first casualty was Jeter Downs, the versatile and promising prospect who failed miserably. Downs did nothing in Worcester (AAA) in 2021 and 2022, hitting under .200 in both seasons. A short trial with Boston in 2022 produced a .154 batting average. The team had seen enough, and Downs was designated for assignment. That left Verdugo and Wong and more remorse in RSN.

Verdugo is no Betts, but very few are. What Verdugo is to me is an almost All-Star with a high baseball intellect, above-average defensive skills, and a noted ability for the clutch hit and defensive play. Trot Nixon with slightly less power and the ability -- unlike Trot -- to hit lefty pitching.

Connor Wong and Alex Verdugo have been solid Red Sox contributors from the Mookie Betts trade

This season Verdugo is trending as he has in his previous three seasons with Boston. Defensively Verdugo is picking it up a bit, as reflected with 11 defensive runs saved and a 12.4 UZR/150. Verdugo has mastered the quirky right field at Fenway Park, and any defensive positive is welcomed with this edition of the Red Sox.

Verdugo has sent out feelers for a contract extension which the Red Sox will consider. Verdugo is in his mid-life of baseball at age 30, and you would expect a few more seasons like what he is producing this season.

The surprise is Wong, who did not impress me with short stays in Boston (2021-2022). Wong's bat appeared to be just a decoration, and his footwork at catching was not vintage Tony Pena. I initially thought that Wong - a converted infielder - would be another baseball experiment gone sour, but now I enjoy the helping of crow as this kid is doing the job.

With catching, you think defense first, and anything else is just a plus. Massachusetts native Jim Hegan was a .228 career hitter and a multi-All-Star directing that great Cleveland staff of the 1950s. If you worship at the altar of advanced metrics, Wong is now rated among the top defensive catchers in the AL.

With the emphasis on a running game, thanks to rule changes, Wong has the arm and the results to keep a lid on the opposition piling up steals. Reese McGuire had 24 stolen bases against him in 26 attempts, so you see the value in that aspect of the game.

With McGuire injured, Wong has taken an extended duty as the number one backstop and has not disappointed. The negative with Wong's offense is 33.7 K% and 5.9 BB%, but hitting you make a mistake, and Wong can punish it. His six home runs and 19 doubles stand out.

The trade is starting to show some positives, especially with the playing of Wong. Verdugo is a solid player, and Wong is on the path to being a steady and reliable catcher. What many viewed as a nothing return is now a something return. Then there are the savings from Price.

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