Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Yankees’ Alex Verdugo calls out Red Sox, his former team, over roster building: ‘We didn’t have the pieces’

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Thanks to a scheduling quirk, the AL East rival Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will meet for the first time this season later this week, when the two clubs play a three-game weekend series at Fenway Park. They won’t see each other again until early next month. The new, more balanced schedule has really spread out these division rivalry series.

The upcoming series will be the first trip back to Fenway Park for Alex Verdugo, who went from the Red Sox to the Yankees in a rare trade between the two rivals this past offseason. New York sent three pitching prospects to Boston for Verdugo, who has authored a .261/.317/.432 line with excellent defense in 2024. He slashed .281/.338/.424 in four seasons with the Red Sox.

Verdugo is not sure whether Red Sox fans will boo him or cheer him this weekend — “I’m open to whatever they do,” he recently told MassLive.com — but he does know he wanted the team to do more at the trade deadline in recent years. Here’s what Verdugo said about the Red Sox’s competitiveness and decision-making at the last few trade deadlines, via MassLive.com:

“I really loved the organization,” Verdugo said. “I really loved wearing the Red Sox jersey and playing for my teammates. It was more of just wanting to be in a winning atmosphere. When we won in ’21, that was one of the most fun years of my life and it’s because we had a winning team. We went to the ALCS. When you’re winning in Boston, those fans and everything, it feels special out there. 2021 was my favorite year. The other years were good but it just felt like we were fighting a little bit. We didn’t have the pieces that we needed. To not get them at the trade deadlines was a little bit tougher, too.”

“I think they were trying to play the long game or re-amp the minor leagues, get some new prospects in,” Verdugo said. “It would have been nice to see a little bit more initiative when I was there, just to try to force winning.

The Red Sox were 52-52 and three games out of a wild-card spot on the morning of the 2022 trade deadline, and they both added (Tommy Pham) and subtracted (Christian Vázquez) at the deadline. Last season they were 2.5 games out of a wild-card spot on deadline day and made only a minor deal for infielder Luis Urías. Boston’s deadline approach was a bit half-hearted.

The Red Sox moved on from lead executive Chaim Bloom last September, in part because ownership had grown impatient with his slow approach to team-building. New CBO Craig Breslow had an active offseason, albeit more of a low-key one with fewer big names. How he acts at the deadline remains to be seen, and will depend on how the team performs between now and then.

Verdugo, 28, joined the Red Sox in the Mookie Betts trade in February 2020. That led to unfair expectations, though Verdugo didn’t do himself many favors during his time in Boston. Last season he was benched for poor baserunning and showing up late, the latter of which is a much bigger issue. By the end of 2023, it was clear it was best for all to move on, and the trade was made.

There have been no such issues in New York this year — Verdugo will be a free agent this offseason and it behooves him to be on his best behavior — though Verdugo did seem to take a shot at Red Sox manager Alex Cora during his introductory conference call in December. “I’ve seen the way he’s had his players’ backs,” Verdugo said about Yankees manager Aaron Boone.

With Verdugo’s help, the Yankees are atop the AL East at 46-21. The Red Sox are in third place at 33-33. They’re 1.5 games behind the third wild-card spot.

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