The Boston Red Sox made an enormous move on Tuesday evening, sending shockwaves throughout Major League Baseball.
Boston has traded everyday outfielder Alex Verdugo to the New York Yankees in exchange for right-handed pitchers Richard Fitts, Greg Weissert, and Nicholas Judice, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN.
It's a rare deal for many reasons, with perhaps the biggest being a lack of trades between these two teams in their extensive histories. Boston and New York have made just seven trades over the last 50 years, and perhaps none as major as this one.
Verdugo has been a centerpiece for the Red Sox ever since they acquired him in the Mookie Betts trade nearly four years ago. While he wasn’t necessarily on the trade block, there had been rumblings about a potential deal involving the 27-year-old ever since last summer’s trade deadline.
This offseason, BSI covered various reports surrounding Verdugo’s trade availability, including the chance that he’d be moved, the Yankees’ steady interest, and three potential landing spots in the National League.
Through 142 games in 2023, Verdugo slashed .264/.324/.421 with a 7.5 percent walk rate, 15.4 percent strikeout rate, 98 wRC+, and 2.0 fWAR. He provided a very steady presence in right field, which now becomes a major void in Boston.
Alex Verdugo is heading to the Yankees in a Winter Meetings stunner
Boston didn’t find an outfield replacement in the return package, but they did drastically improve their organizational pitching depth with three promising pitching prospects.
The headliner in the package is Fitts, a 23-year-old former sixth-round pick. Through 27 starts at Double-A last season, he posted a 3.55 xFIP, 39.5 percent ground ball rate, 9.61 K/9, and 2.53 BB/9. The top pitches in his repertoire are the fastball and slider. He can hit 97 mph with the heater while creating impressive sweeping action with the breaking ball. Although he hasn’t played beyond Double-A yet, there’s a chance he could reach the majors by the midpoint of the 2024 campaign.
Weissert, 28, spent parts of 2022 and 2023 in the majors. He’s a reliever with a nasty slider and solid track record. Through 20 innings out of the big-league bullpen last season, he amassed 9.9 K/9, 3.6 BB/9, and a 50.9 percent ground ball rate. Boston didn’t enter this week’s Winter Meetings with a major need for relief pitching help, and adding Weissert likely rounds out the bullpen to the point where the Red Sox won’t make any major signings there.
Judice is a bit of a question mark. Drafted in the eighth round last summer, the reliever was immediately assigned to the FCL Yankees and hasn’t pitched in a pro game. Nevertheless, positive reviews on the right-hander have started to circulate throughout baseball. Last spring, Joe Doyle of FSS PLUS tweeted about Judice’s mid-90s velocity and impressive slider. The right-hander checks in at 6-foot-8 and instantly becomes a name to watch within the Red Sox’ farm system.
Ultimately, it’s clear that the Red Sox had one goal here: bolster the pitching department. Interestingly, rather than focus on one particular style of arm, they added different types of hurlers. Between the three pitchers heading to the Red Sox, there is plenty of variety in terms of experience, level, and role. One similarity among the three? A strong slider.
Of course, losing Verdugo creates an immediate hole on the big-league roster, one that probably can’t be filled with internal options. There’s no doubt that Boston does have depth in the outfield; they will not be in panic mode after this deal. However, it’s unlikely that Rob Refsnyder, Wilyer Abreu, Ceddanne Rafaela, or Jarren Duran can play right field on a daily basis. Don’t be surprised if new Chief Baseball Officer Craig Breslow makes a splash at the position via free agency or another trade.