Report: Alex Verdugo seeking long-term contract with Red Sox

Report: Alex Verdugo approached Red Sox about long-term contract originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

This is a make-or-break year for Alex Verdugo. But if the 26-year-old outfielder delivers on his end, he apparently wants the Boston Red Sox to deliver him a new contract.

Verdugo "approached Red Sox leadership" -- including team owner John Henry -- in Fort Myers, Fla., on Monday to "make it clear" he wants to sign a long-term contract with Boston, the Boston Herald's Gabrielle Starr reported Monday.

Verdugo told Sox leadership he has the goal of being an All-Star in 2023 and explained to the group that he adjusted his diet and training to come to spring training in better shape, according to Starr.

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It's clear that Verdugo is aware of his own stakes; he and the Red Sox agreed to a one-year, $ 6.3 million contract to avoid arbitration this offseason, but he has just one more year of arbitration in 2024 before hitting unrestricted free agency in 2025. If Verdugo wants a long-term deal, he'll need to show significant improvement in 2023.

Verdugo hit .280 with a .732 OPS in 2022 with 11 home runs and 74 RBIs in 152 games. Those are respectable numbers, but hardly above average and below expectations for the lone major league player the Red Sox received from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2020 Mookie Betts trade.

The six-year veteran also regressed defensively as a left fielder in 2022, which manager Alex Cora called him out on after the season.

"I do believe he can be a lot better," Cora said last October. "A lot better regardless of whether he plays left or right, he can be a better defender. ... This is a guy, we envision him to be an impact player not only in the batter's box, but on the other side."

If Verdugo realizes his full potential as a middle-of-the-lineup left-handed bat and above-average defender, he's absolutely keeping around long-term on a team-friendly deal. The Red Sox' outfield is unsettled outside Masataka Yoshida, so signing Verdugo could give the front office one less problem to worry about.

Verdugo will have to prove his worth on the field, however, or run the risk of another year of arbitration next winter.