Red Sox trade Alex Verdugo to Yankees for three pitchers

The Yankees acquired outfielder Alex Verdugo from the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night, with New York turning to the 27-year-old to improve its offense in just the eighth trade between the rivals since the start of the Divisional Era in 1969.

The Red Sox received right-handers Richard Fitts, Greg Weissert and Nicholas Judice in the deal.

Verdugo spent the last four seasons in Boston after joining the Red Sox as the main return in the trade that sent star outfielder Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Verdugo, who is arranged to make around $9 million in his final season of arbitration, hit .264/.324/.421 with 13 home runs and 54 RBIs in 142 games this year. With Verdugo primed to reach free agency after the 2024 season, Boston put him on the trade market, and while a number of teams inquired about his availability, the Yankees secured him to start in the outfield.

Following a season in which they concluded 25th in runs scored in Major League Baseball, the Yankees have sought to retool their offense this winter. They’ve been involved in trade talks with the San Diego Padres for star outfielder Juan Soto, sources told ESPN, and could still pursue him as they enter the season with limited proven outfield options beyond Verdugo, star Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, who is likelier to fill New York’s designated hitter role.

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Others who can play outfield on New York’s 40-man roster include prospects Estevan Florial and Everson Pereira, utilityman Oswaldo Cabrera, recent waiver pickup Oscar Gonzalez and centerfielder Jasson Dominguez, who is expected to miss a significant portion of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

While Verdugo never blossomed into a star in Boston, he was a consistently above-league-average hitter and batted .281/.338/.424 with 43 home runs and 206 RBIs in 493 games with the Red Sox, where he spent most of the time playing the corner outfield spots and dabbled in centerfield.

New Red Sox chief baseball officer Craig Breslow dealt Verdugo from a crowded outfield that includes Masataka Yoshida, Jarren Duran, Rob Refsnyder and a pair of rookies this season, Wilyer Abreu and Ceddanne Rafaela.

Boston’s best prospect, 19-year-old Roman Anthony, reached Double-A this year and is seen as a potential star after hitting .272/.403/.466 with 14 home runs and 64 RBIs across three levels in the minor leagues this year.

Fitts, 23, was a sixth-round pick by the Yankees out of Auburn in 2021 who has thrived in two minor league seasons.

At Double-A this season, the righty struck out 163 and walked 43 over 152.2 innings while allowing 22 home runs.

With a high-carry fastball that sits around 93 mph and reaches 97, plus a sweeper he uses liberally as well as a cutter and changeup, Fitts projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter for a team with limited minor league starting-pitching depth.

Weissert, 28, debuted with the Yankees in 2022 and has gone 3-0 with a 4.60 ERA in 31⅓ big league innings after dominating Triple-A with a 2.16 ERA and 168 strikeouts in 125 innings. An 18th-round pick in 2016, Weissert is expected to join a Red Sox bullpen that got standout performances from closer Kenley Jansen, setup man Chris Martin and right-hander Josh Winckowski but lacked depth.

Judice, 22, is a 6-foot-8 and 230-pound righty taken by the Yankees in the eighth round of the 2023 draft out of Louisiana-Monroe. He did not pitch after being draft but posted a 3.74 ERA with 66 strikeouts and 15 walks in 53 innings during his senior season.

While he spent most of his time in college as a reliever — he mainly throws a fastball and slider — Judice did start in all three of his appearances in the Cape Cod League before the draft.

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