While the MLB Winter Meetings push on, and while everyone eagerly awaits the Shohei Ohtani decision or a blockbuster trade featuring Juan Soto or Tyler Glasnow, it hasn’t been completely quiet on the MLB breaking news front. Jarred Kelenic was traded to the Atlanta Braves a couple of days ago, and now the Boston Red Sox make a trade with their division rival, the New York Yankees, for outfielder Alex Verdugo.
While this wasn’t a free agent signing in Major League Baseball, let’s break down what it means for fantasy baseball managers, and what Verdugo’s fantasy value is in the Bronx. Could he be a potential fantasy baseball sleeper?
New York Yankees Trade for Alex Verdugo
Ultimately, Verdugo has turned out as advertised, but his presence was no longer needed in a crowded Boston outfield. While the power maybe didn’t develop like many would have hoped, he remains a steady presence in a Major League outfield with a contact-first offensive profile. His Statcast metrics won’t jump off the page, but he’s posted a .275 xBA or higher in four of the last five seasons and his career .337 OBP should help a Yankees team that had the fourth-lowest OBP in baseball, coming in at a measly .304.
His contact-first mindset at the plate may be different than the majority of the Yankee lineup, but honestly, it’s what this team needs. The long ball only gets you so far, and a steady presence like Verdugo should prove beneficial. The Yankees did it back in 2022 when trading for Andrew Benintendi, i.e. a contact-first bat who would get on base frequently.
In terms of Park Factors, per Baseball Savant, Fenway Park has a higher Park Factor (112) than Yankee Stadium (96) for left-handed hitters. However, I will note that Yankee Stadium is great for home runs for lefties, better than Fenway. Now, with that in mind, Verdugo is not just going to instantly morph into this 20+ homer bat, but he has had success in Yankee Stadium (30 Games):
.252/.299/.437, 5 HR, 7 2B, 11 R, 12 RBI
Verdugo fell off in the second half of the 2023 season, but his strong first half showed that he can still hit for a high average, post a higher OBP (.360 through first 81 games), and be a steady presence on base for a big league club. He could work his way up into the upper-third of the order, which would be great for his runs scored, but when he likely begins the year hitting fifth, sixth, or seventh, he should have plenty of RBI opportunities with the guys ahead of him.
This move likely turns out to be better in reality than fantasy, but Verdugo’s 15ish home runs this season would look a lot better next to a .280 average and .355 OBP than it would next to last year’s .264 average and .324 OBP. On the other hand, the acquisition of Verdugo makes regular playing time for Oswaldo Cabrera a bit more challenging.