As players met down at Fenway South for the opening of spring training workouts on Monday, Red Sox Nation was met with some interesting developments regarding outfielder Alex Verdugo and the outlook of his bank account.
Gabrielle Starr of the Boston Herald reported that Verdugo approached team ownership about the possibility of signing a long-term contract to remain in Boston.
Alex Verdugo wants to stay in Boston long-term.— Gabrielle Starr (@gfstarr1) February 20, 2023
Here’s how he broached the topic with leadership at spring training: https://t.co/n8oxEzX8ND
Now it’s worth pointing out that another tidbit of information, one from MassLive’s Chris Cotillo, calls that inquiry from Dugie “lighthearted” and “informal.” Sorta like using the nickname “Dugie” in the first place, y’know?
While the club believes Verdugo likes playing in Boston and would like to stay longer than the two years he has left before free agency, there was no formal approach about a contract extension. Verdugo, in typical form, was simply setting a high bar for himself with a captive audience of top decision-makers. His representatives haven’t approached the club to talk yet and it’s unclear if they will.—Cotillo
Regardless of how serious the Alex Verdugo contract situation is at this juncture, the conversation surrounding his future is gonna have to be had at sooner rather than later. 2024 will mark his final year of arbitration eligibility; after that, he can up and vanish like a fart in the wind if his heart desires such.
It’s no secret that
the stars are falling from the sky this upcoming season is a huge one for Alex Verdugo. I’m hardly the first person to point that out and I don’t believe I’ll be the last.
Now entering his fourth season with the Red Sox, the 26-year-old seemingly has been enjoying his time in Boston—and those watching him seemingly have noticed that. Despite being put in a tough situation given the circumstances of his arrival, Verdugo has come out the other end as a fan favorite.
The play on the field from Dugie has been solid enough, but not quite spectacular.
His raw OPS figure has declined in both 2021 and 2022 after the year-that-shall-not-be-named. The 108 OPS+ in nearly 1,500 regular season plate appearances for the Sox doesn’t stand out, word to Powerline, due to his lack of consistent, game-breaking power (Verdugo has contributed 30 home runs during that multi-year stretch).
Side note: I’m interested to see if both the rate numbers and the counting numbers climb up for Verdugo at the dish on account of the new defensive shift rules going into 2023. Hopefully more holes open up for him along the right side of the infield and in shallow right field, two parts of the park he peppered in 2022.
Yet the guy has certainly had his moments with the stick and can get on base at a nice clip (he’s logged a career .341 OBP). He’s got cajones of steel and has a tendency to come up big in key moments; as cliché as it sounds, you just can’t teach that.
He also does a good job at limiting bad swings while putting up competetive AB’s; a whole lotta red on his Savant page for Whiff% and K% brings a smile to my face. The defense is fine (and that strong left arm of his doesn’t hurt) but it probably won’t be earning him any Gold Glove honors anytime soon.
So, what does all of that boil down to when it comes to Alex Verdugo?
If you ask me, it means that Dugie’s is a solid player who could very easily continue to provide useful value—if not at a perennial all-star level—for years to come.
He doesn’t even have to be that top dog on a roster; his youth and skill set should translate well for him and whichever team acquires his services going forward. He’s not a guy that I envision breaking a contract record within the next 24 months. Just about any team worth their salt would benefit from having an Alex Verdugo-type on their roster, though: a consistent personality who can offer dependable production and a flair for the dramatic when it counts the most in a game.
The fact that he’s got grills that make him look like Gator from “The Other Guys” is cool, too.
With all of that said, the question of the almighty dollar remains. If the call were yours, how big of a bag are you offering Mr. Verdugo? Hell, are you even giving him any contract offer?
I believe it’s a pretty straightforward situation here: I’d give Verdugo something along the lines of the Benintendi Rate™.
Andrew Benintendi—surely you remember that fella—signed a five-year contract with the Chicago White Sox worth a total of $75 million this winter. That’s an average annual value of $15 million a year for all you non-math wizards like myself out there. Took me hours to figure that one out and now my brain hurts.
The Benintendi Rate™ is what lands you a left-handed hitter who has his flashes of brilliance in the batter’s box in spite of overall offensive numbers that don’t blow you away (Benintendi has a 109 OPS+ and 22 homers since the Voldemort year, along with a lifetime OBP of .351). $15 million a year gets you a corner outfielder still on the spry side of 30 who’s steady with the glove (Benny was a Gold Glover in ‘21, people forget!!!!) and has a history of coming up big when his team needs it.
Does that description sound like anyone that currently plays for the Boston Red Sox?
The Benintendi Rate™ makes sense as the baseline of a contract offer made to Alex Verdugo. The Pale Hose are paying $15 million per year to the guy who just posted an fWAR of 2.8 last season; the average fWAR projection for Verdugo in 2023 according to Fangraphs’ seven listen models is about 2.3. If that figure doesn’t comes to pass and Dugie can’t reach 2.8 fWAR, take his younger age and the typical free agent market inflation into account and call it square. There’s a good chance that $15 million AAV is the neighborhood that teams on the open market will be proposing to number 99.
Alex Verdugo is not a superstar for the Red Sox, and there’s a good chance he won’t evolve into one. That’s more than OK. If he can continue to provide solid performances, he could be a noteworthy contributor to the next great Red Sox run with a big ol’ bag of legal currency secured in his bank account. And hey—if he has a fantastic 2023, those checks may be even bigger.
I still don’t know if Dugie’s grills will mean he’ll demand more at the bargaining table, though.