Red Sox trading Alex Verdugo would be unbelievable twist in Dodgers-Mookie Betts deal

Thomas Carannante
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 5: Alex Verdugo #99 of the Boston Red Sox walks up to bat during the ninth inning of a game against the Tampa Bays Rays on October 5, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 5: Alex Verdugo #99 of the Boston Red Sox walks up to bat during the ninth inning of a game against the Tampa Bays Rays on October 5, 2022 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /
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When the Los Angeles Dodgers traded for Mookie Betts back in 2020 in a deal with the Boston Red Sox, the baseball community at-large viewed it as highway robbery for the consensus best team in the National League.

To this day, that viewpoint stands … as fact. And there could be another offseason development that further drives the argument in the Dodgers’ direction — if that’s even possible.

The Red Sox, who received players Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs and Connor Wong in exchange for Betts and half of David Price’s albatross of a contract, aren’t exactly headed down the right path after that deal.

They were an embarrassment in 2019 (their final year of Betts) and 2020 before experiencing a 2021 ALCS run that was proven to be a fluke when they finished 78-84 and dead last in the AL East this past year.

Injuries certainly altered the Sox’ trajectory, but they still had a core of All-Star-caliber players who should’ve provided enough of a push to finish over .500 … and not 21 games behind the Yankees in the division. Verdugo was supposed to be one of them, alongside Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and JD Martinez. Instead, he’s been barely above league average in various important offensive categories.

Could the Red Sox trade Alex Verdugo just three seasons after getting him from the Dodgers?

That’s now resulted in some uneasy offseason topics in Beantown. Bogaerts and Martinez are free agents. Devers’ extension talks aren’t going as fans had hoped. And Verdugo could be … traded?

Here’s what Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com wrote about the possibility of the Red Sox dealing Verdugo:

"“But Chaim Bloom has a long to-do list this winter and has shown a desire to be creative with his moves in the past. That’s why the possibility of Verdugo being traded before Opening Day shouldn’t be ruled out …“The rationale behind a potential deal is simple. If the Red Sox don’t think Verdugo, who they have seen up close for three seasons now, is ever going to develop into a star (or at least a considerably above average player), then they could look to get something for him now. Bloom has enough financial flexibility to be able to trade Verdugo, who is projected to make $6.9 million in arbitration next year, and replace him with an outfielder acquired via free agency or trade. There’s plenty of precedent for that kind of move. Bloom traded Benintendi two years ago and Hunter Renfroe in an ill-fated deal last December.”"

Manager Alex Cora said Verdugo needed to take the “next step” in 2023 after this season concluded. You might look at Verdugo’s batting average in Boston (.288) and feel like he’s been productive enough. But with a trade involving Betts, the Sox were undoubtedly expecting more than a .768 OPS, 108 OPS+ and 30 home runs in 351 games. Verdugo’s 53-game 2020 was impressive, but it held no weight. The Sox were awful, he was playing without a single ounce of pressure, and the season’s length was cut by 66%. In his next two full seasons in Boston, there just wasn’t enough of an impact (3.4 total WAR). Outside of killing the Yankees — which does have a ton of value in Boston — Verdugo’s been the fourth- or fifth-best hitter on the team.

If the Sox move him, their Betts trade with the Dodgers earnestly might go down as the undisputed worst in MLB history. In that scenario, with Wong and Downs left to show for the return for a generational talent, Chaim Bloom and Red Sox ownership would’ve tag-teamed an all-time shortsighted decision that’s gotten worse and worse by the day.

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