Whether he likes it or not, Alex Verdugo will be remembered as the centerpiece of Boston’s return in the Mookie Betts trade.
The 23-year-old outfielder came to the Red Sox in the blockbuster deal that sent both Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers. While Verdugo isn’t the only player the Red Sox acquired in the deal, he is the only big league ready player, and it was clear throughout the process that Boston’s chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom wanted him in the deal no matter what.
So how does Verdugo feel about being part of the Betts trade?
“Obviously Mookie Betts is one heck of a player,” Verdugo said Saturday in his first media availability as a member of the Red Sox. “It’s just an honor to really be in that type of trade for a player like Betts and Price. But with that being said, it’s part of the business., it’s part of the game. It is what it is. And really that doesn’t add any pressure on me. It doesn’t add anything like that. At the end of the day, I’m going to go out there, I’m going to play the hardest I play, and play with the passion and love that I have. I know my numbers at the end of the day will be good, and I know I can play and I’m confident in my ability.”
Verdugo was asked about the idea that he’ll, fair or unfair, be compared to Betts — and how he plans to manage that pressure.
“We’re in the public eye all the time,” Verdugo said. “So everybody has their opinions, everybody will think however they want. But at the end of the day, like I said, I know who I am, I know what I can do on the baseball field. I’m extremely confident in my abilities with everything: Defensively, in the batter’s box, baserunning. I know that I can be a game-changer, and I plan on being an All-Star, having Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers, I plan on that. Like obviously everybody has goals, everybody wants that.
“For me, that’s what helps me is truly being confident in my abilities and knowing that everywhere I’ve gone, even throughout the minors to the Dodgers and working my way up with sporadic playing time to finally getting playing time, it’s something that I’ve always told people, ‘Hey, you guys are going to see it.’ That it. Because at the end of the day, in between the lines, all that matters is you competing against that person. And I don’t care if you’re Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole, if you’re a Cy Young winner, the best. That’s what feeds people like me. It’s that competitive edge, that wanting to be the best.”
Verdugo currently is dealing with a stress fracture in his back, so there’s a chance he might not even be ready for Opening Day. He hit .294 with 12 home runs in 106 games with the Dodgers last season.