After a challenge from the team last season, Alex Verdugo arrived at Boston Red Sox spring training leaner and in better shape with an invigorated energy to prove himself. This strong offseason of work has translated on the field as Verdugo is in the midst of a stellar performance this season. The right fielder has expressed an interest to remain in Boston after his contract ends after the 2024 season and his price tag seems to go up every day.
Verdugo joined the Boston Red Sox in 2020 with the “distinction” of being one of the players traded for generational talent Mookie Betts. Fortunately for Verdugo, Red Sox fans are quick to move on and have completely forgotten about this trade! All kidding aside, Verdugo has had to live with the pressure of being part of the Betts deal throughout his career. He did not let this pressure faze him and quickly endeared himself to Red Sox fans with his passion, character, and grillz.
A photo with Alex Verdugo, Hirokazu Sawamura, and George W. Bush might be the most random picture of all time. pic.twitter.com/Ktyt7NGXUz
— Thomas Carrieri (@Thomas_Carrieri) August 23, 2022
This energy around the bases. Heart of the team. Carrying the damn team. pic.twitter.com/zbBGOw6xPu
— Steve Perrault (@Steve_Perrault) June 16, 2021
However, his performance on the field has been more mixed. Verdugo batted .308 with 6 home runs and .844 OPS in the Covid-19 shortened 2020 season. He followed this up by batting .289 in 2021 with 13 home runs and .777 OPS. After a solid first two seasons with the Red Sox, Verdugo failed to take the next step last season when he batted .280 with 11 home runs and .732 OPS.
This prompted manager Alex Cora to identify Verdugo as the player he felt needed to take the most significant leap for the 2023 season telling Chris Cotillo of MassLive, “We’re going to push him hard this off-season to get back to playing faster, to playing quicker”. Cora felt Verdugo was hitting for average but needed to work on his defense and baserunning skills. The question was how Verdugo would respond to this challenge.