Price for Red Sox to extend Alex Verdugo is Verdu-going up

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Deal or no deal for Red Sox?

On the first day of spring training, Verdugo informally approached ownership and expressed a desire to remain in Boston after his contract ends. Verdugo is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2024 season. The Red Sox could offer a long-term extension now to buy out a season and a half of pre-free agency arbitration time. An earlier deal could provide Verdugo financial security while lowering the overall contract price for the team. So what type of contract might it take to for the Red Sox to extend Verdugo?

The Bryan Reynolds extension with the Pittsburgh Pirates might be a starting point for negotiations. The outfielder signed an 8-year contract $106.75 million extension last month. Like Verdugo, Reynolds is a talented outfielder who was slated to hit free agency in more than a year. However, both Verdugo and the Red Sox will note that the comparison between the players is not entirely apples to apples.

For example, Verdugo might argue that he is a year younger and has less time until free agency than Reynolds. The Pirates were buying out two future seasons of arbitration time before free agency while Verdugo has only one more season after this one before free agency.

The Red Sox might counter that Verdugo has never had the peak single season of production of Reynolds. For example, in his best season in 2021, Reynolds batted .302 with .912 OPS and 24 home runs. Reynolds accumulated 5.9 bWAR that season while playing in the All-Star Game. Though Verdugo is on pace to eclipse those numbers this season, he has not yet achieved those heights during his career. Before this season, Verdugo averaged about 2 bWAR per season.

Given this uncertainty, the Red Sox may offer Verdugo an extension with a lower number of years and total contract dollars. This would lessen the team's risk especially if this season’s performance is an outlier. However, Verdugo is on pace to achieve Reynolds' 2021 numbers this season. If he does, he will have an argument to be paid like or better than Reynolds. Every day he continues to produce this season, Verdugo is making his case for a larger contract.

Verdugo’s performance off and on the field and propensity to thrive in the big moment might make him a player the Red Sox can build around long-term. Time will tell if the Boston Red Sox view him this highly and if the player and team will attempt to reach a contract extension before he hits free agency after the 2024 season. With his performance this season, his price tag seems to be going up every game. 

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