Red Sox

Chaim Bloom: Red Sox OF Alex Verdugo is 'all systems go' for start of 2020 MLB season

Chaim Bloom: Red Sox OF Alex Verdugo is 'all systems go' for start of 2020 MLB season

The best player the Boston Red Sox acquired as part of the Mookie Betts trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers should be ready to play when spring training begins in early July.

Outfielder Alex Verdugo might not have been ready for the start of the 2020 MLB season before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the league to delay Opening Day, which was originally scheduled for March 27. Verdugo had been nursing a back injury in the spring and his status for Boston's opener versus the Toronto Blue Jays was in doubt.

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

But with the shortened 60-game season now set to begin July 23/24, Verdugo is expected to be in the Red Sox lineup from the get-go.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom provided a positive health update on the 24-year-old outfielder during a Zoom call with reporters Wednesday night.

Verdugo, along with prospects Jeter Downs and Connor Wong, was traded from the Dodgers to the Red Sox in exchange for Betts and starting pitcher David Price in January. 

If the Red Sox are going to contend for a postseason berth in the shortened regular season, they might have to get there with an offensive onslaught. Boston has been one of the best hitting teams over the last few years, featuring a lineup that ranked No. 4 in runs scored and No. 1 in hits among American League teams in 2019. 

Verdugo, if healthy, likely will be an important bat in the Red Sox lineup. He hit .294 with 12 home runs, 44 RBI, 101 hits and 43 runs scored in 106 games with the Dodgers last season.

The Red Sox will need multiple players to hit at a higher level in order to replace an MVP-caliber player like Betts, and Verdugo should be a key part of that effort. 

Mookie Betts' daughter has adorable reaction to his 3-home run game

Mookie Betts' daughter has adorable reaction to his 3-home run game

Mookie Betts gave the Boston Red Sox a reminder of what they've been missing with a historic performance for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday night.

Betts crushed three home runs vs. the San Diego Padres for the sixth three-homer performance of his career, tying the MLB record.

The real star, though? That would be Betts' daughter, Kynlee. The 27-year-old shared an adorable video of Kynlee reacting to his home runs, and it's the most adorable thing you'll watch all day.

"My daughter Kynlee is watching me, I have no other choice but to wake up everyday and give it my all!" Betts captioned the Instagram video.

Watch below:

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

It doesn't get any better than that.

Betts entered Friday night slashing .319/.380/.694 with seven homers through 19 games with L.A. Meanwhile, the hapless Red Sox are coming off an embarrassing 17-8 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays and a four-game series sweep.

Mookie Betts is dominating with Dodgers, but trading him remains the right call

Mookie Betts is dominating with Dodgers, but trading him remains the right call

There are many reasons to rip the Red Sox, whom I described as a maggoty dumpster fire as recently as Friday.

Trading Mookie Betts isn't one of them.

The former and probably future MVP made history with the Dodgers on Thursday night, delivering the sixth three-homer game of his career and his first outside of Baltimore. (That's a joke, but man, did he murder the Orioles).

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

With the Red Sox slip-sliding their way to oblivion, the juxtaposition of Betts' monster night with their own demoralizing 17-8 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays was hard to miss, but easy to mischaracterize.

In the short term, oh my God, what a horrific deal. Betts is going to win a World Series and the Red Sox are going down the toilet like a leg-twitching beetle. But in the long-term, the franchise will be better served by moving on from its homegrown star, because Betts' window of dominance did not remotely fit Boston's window of contention. 

Perhaps it's just my small-c fiscal conservatism talking, but I am philosophically opposed to 12-year contracts, no matter how talented the player. You're buying more decline years than prime ones, especially in an era when fewer and fewer players maintain production into their 30s, let alone players of Betts' profile.

Five-tool star Grady Sizemore saw his ascension halted at 25. Former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen delivered his last monster season at 28 and his last really good one at 30. Ask the Yankees how they feel about paying Jacoby Ellsbury.

Betts is a generational talent, but he's only 5-foot-9. As we noted over the winter, players that size simply aren't built to last, and if that sounds like some cold-blooded actuary bleep, so be it.

Since 1947, only seven players 5-foot-9 or shorter have compiled a career WAR of 50 or higher (compared to 125 for those 5-foot-10 or taller). Two were catchers (Yogi Berra, Pudge Rodriguez), one was a defensive whiz who couldn't hit a lick (Luis Aparicio), and you tell me what to make of the other four.

Hall of Famer Joe Morgan remained an elite player until age 32, when he won his second MVP Award. He hit .254 over the final eight years of his career. Fellow Hall of Famer Tim Raines made his final All-Star team at 27 and topped 3.5 WAR just twice after age 30. We are already intimately familiar with the career trajectory of Dustin Pedroia.

That leaves Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, a 5-foot-8 bowling ball who remained a force through his age-35 season before a tragic eye injury ended his career.

Betts is a unique athlete, so maybe he'll break that mold, but I don't blame the Red Sox for deciding not to take the risk. Were they stacked with the kind of talent that could contend right now, and blessed with a deep farm system to augment some of their higher salaries, then I would've made a case for retaining Betts anyway to capitalize on the 27-year-old's prime.

But let's be realistic about this window. There's a reason John Henry and Co. replaced the win-now Dave Dombrowski with the win-someday Chaim Bloom. They saw the team for what it was, married to bad contracts like the oft-injured Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Sale.

They were lucky to get out from under half of David Price's remaining bloat, but now they face the prospect of retooling pretty much every position except catcher (Christian Vazquez), third base (Rafael Devers), shortstop (Xander Bogaerts) and right field (Alex Verdugo). Do I even need to ask what difference Betts would've made on this train wreck?

Assuming Sale returns from Tommy John and Eduardo Rodriguez beats myocarditis, the Red Sox still are woefully inadequate in the pitching department, and after years of being strip-mined by Dombrowski, the once-prized farm system is beginning a long road back to viability.

Trading Betts makes clear their path forward. It provides the financial flexibility to attack multiple deficiencies, because no team boasts a limitless budget, not even Boston. Paying Betts $35 million annually to begin declining just as the Red Sox climbing back into contention would be bad business.

In the meantime, hammer away. Crushing the Red Sox is its own cathartic sport (I've got my varsity letter), and there will undoubtedly be more nights when the Red Sox fall on their face while Betts soars 3,000 miles away.

That doesn't change the calculus that made him a bad long-term investment for Boston, which is why I firmly believe we will eventually look back at his departure as the right call.