For much of the 2023 MLB season, the Boston Red Sox have exceeded everyone's expectations, and hung around in the American League wild card race. There's still time for them to find a way into the playoffs, but after a demoralizing sweep at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays, it's beginning to feel like that dream is no longer possible.
Pretty much everything that could have gone wrong against the Blue Jays did. They were thoroughly outplayed by Toronto, and the front office's failure to do much of anything at the trade deadline seems to be having a negative impact on the locker room. While that is true, things may have been different had the front office decided to trade Alex Verdugo before the deadline struck.
Verdugo's name had been floating around in rumors prior to the deadline, and his grumpy demeanor compounded with his ice cold slump at the plate made him a perfect trade candidate. Instead, Verdugo has stuck around and continued to be grumpy, and it's clear that the Red Sox are already regretting their failure to move on from him at the deadline.
Red Sox missed perfect opportunity to unload Alex Verdugo
On the surface, it doesn't seem like Verdugo is having all that bad of a season for the Sox (.275 BA, 8 HR, 41 RBI, .775 OPS). He's been steady in Boston's revolving door of outfielders, and while he doesn't post gaudy stats, he finds his way on base, and generally is helping produce runs on offense.
That unfortunately doesn't paint the whole picture of Verdugo's season. Since the start of July, Verdugo has embarked on a massive cold stretch (.184 BA, 3 HR, 9 RBI, .564 OPS), and those numbers would look even worse if it weren't for a three-hit outing in Boston's embarrassing 13-1 loss in their series finale against Toronto on Sunday.
Verdugo has been in a complete free-fall for the past month-plus now, and it doesn't seem like that's going to change anytime soon. He's made it clear he was aware of his name popping up in trade rumors, and he wasn't particularly thrilled about that. Now he's stuck on a team that was openly looking to trade him ahead of the deadline.
While Verdugo has shown some signs of life since the deadline, he was involved in another weird incident where he was left out of the lineup for Boston's 5-4 loss to Toronto. Manager Alex Cora continually said that Verdugo needed to make himself “available” on a daily basis, and did not seem to be pleased with something that Verdugo did (or didn't do) behind the scenes.
The hope was that the end of the trade rumors would help Verdugo get back on track, but so far, he's only really continued to prove that the front office was right in trying to trade him away. Verdugo is getting outperformed by every other outfielder on Boston's roster, and is bringing down a locker room that had been riding high before the trade deadline.
Verdugo only has one year of arbitration left on his contract, meaning this would have been the perfect time to move on from him before potentially losing him for nothing after the 2024 season. Everything lined up perfectly for the Red Sox to make a somewhat surprising move, but the front office, led by Chaim Bloom failed to capitalize.
We've already spent a lot of time harping on Bloom for another lackluster trade deadline, but he may have created a situation where nobody wins with Verdugo. He's clearly unhappy with something, whether it be the front office for trying to move him, or Cora for calling him out in the media, and it's getting to the point where having him around isn't resulting in anything positive for Boston.
The Red Sox have four other outfielders in Masataka Yoshida, Jarren Duran, Adam Duvall, and Rob Refsnyder who have all been playing much better than Verdugo as of late, and aren't causing problems in the clubhouse. Verdugo is already losing his grip on his starting job, which is just another reason why trading him would have made more sense for all parties involved.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen, and now the Red Sox are stuck with Verdugo for the remainder of the season. Maybe he can save face and turn things around with a solid finish to the season, but as of right now, it's clear that he is at the center of the problems that are currently plaguing Boston. They had a chance to avoid this situation, but now that they are here, there's not much they can do with Verdugo anymore.