John Tomase

Potential Verdugo trade tells us something important about Bloom

The Red Sox' chief baseball officer doesn't seem hung up on prioritizing his legacy.

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There's nothing easier than being ruthless with someone else's players. But it's entirely different when they're your own.

That's what makes a possible Alex Verdugo trade before Tuesday's deadline so fascinating, because it reveals a key insight into Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom: He won't let his ego get in the way of the right move.

Verdugo, after all, was the centerpiece of the Mookie Betts trade, and the single player Bloom immediately staked his reputation to just months after taking over for Dave Dombrowski. He has every incentive for Verdugo to thrive in Boston. The right fielder nearly made the All-Star team and he may very well win his first Gold Glove this fall. Every accolade that comes Verdugo's way mitigates the overwhelming nature of losing the MVP to the Dodgers.

But Bloom isn't playing that game. In a market rife with starting pitchers -- Mets ace Max Scherzer has already been traded and former teammate Justin Verlander could be next -- relatively few impact position players are rumored to be available. Even after a recent slide that has dropped his average 30 points in the last month, Verdugo is still hitting .272 with a .769 OPS and superb defense in right field.

He's a solid everyday bat with a flair for the dramatic. Now would be a good time to maximize his value, especially if the Red Sox don't see him as a long-term piece of the future.

Verdugo finds himself in a similar position as former teammate Hunter Renfroe, who was dealt to the Brewers after a strong 2021 season before he could receive a sizable raise in arbitration. Verdugo is a year further along that journey and already making $6.3 million. He's probably looking at a deal in the vicinity of the $11.9 million Renfroe won from the Angels this spring.

That's a defensible amount for a player with decent bat-to-ball skills but minimal power, as long as he continues playing an above-average right field. As it is, even after his recent struggles, Verdugo still leads the Red Sox in WAR (2.7). He can become a free agent after next season.

But this is less about Verdugo and more about Bloom. His predecessor, Dombrowski, had no problem jettisoning Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, two massive free-agent mistakes he inherited from Ben Cherington. He had a much harder time cutting bait with ineffective reliever Tyler Thornburg, who lasted two and a half injury-plagued years after being traded to Milwaukee for 30-100 slugger Travis Shaw.

Verdugo headlined a trade that was orders of magnitude more significant to the man who pulled the trigger, and yet Bloom seemingly doesn't care. It's entirely possible that rocket-armed catcher Connor Wong may one day count as the best player moved for Betts, but he'll have to hit before we can make that determination. For now, it's clearly Verdugo, an everyday right fielder and borderline All-Star.

The fact that the Red Sox are willing to move him, perhaps for the starter the rotation desperately needs, suggests that Bloom isn't prioritizing his legacy. If trading Verdugo improves his team's chances of reaching October while possibly adding a player who can contribute in future seasons, then let others ponder how it will impact perceptions of the Betts trade. Trying to shine it for posterity is a pointless exercise.

As it is, Bloom's vision for the Red Sox seems to be taking shape. The emergence of youngster Jarren Duran has helped make Verdugo expendable, as does the presence of dynamic defensive whiz Ceddanne Rafaela at Triple-A Worcester. Bloom has been itching to build a team around the next generation of talent, and Verdugo doesn't fit that description. He's a bridge to players like Triston Casas, Brayan Bello, Duran, and eventually shortstop Marcelo Mayer.

And perhaps that tells us the most about Bloom of all. Where we saw Verdugo as a centerpiece, Bloom recognizes him as a placeholder.

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