News Now: How Yankees plan to use Alex Verdugo next season … if he stays…

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — If you’re wondering how Alex Verdugo fits into the Yankees’ starting outfield after Tuesday night’s trade with the Red Sox — with Juan Soto rumors still swirling vigorously at the Winter Meetings — don’t overthink it.

Manager Aaron Boone’s plan is to use Verdugo as a corner outfielder in pinstripes, the same role he held with Boston over these last few seasons.

Boone called Verdugo a premium defender, pointing out that he’s played a great right field at Fenway Park, an indication that he can handle left field at Yankee Stadium.

“I’m really excited about it,” Boone said on Wednesday morning. “He’s actually been a guy that we’ve talked about now for a while and we’re finally able to get something done there. He’s done some things against us, he’s a really good two-way player, defends well in the corners. Obviously really good bat-to-ball [skills], left-handed. Feel like there’s an edge he plays the game with.”

The caveat here is that the Yankees are pushing hard to acquire Soto, a below-average defender in the corner outfield spots. His defense is a footnote since Soto is such an elite hitter, a bat that would instantly upgrade the Yankees’ lineup if they grab him from the Padres, but in this conversation, it’s worth noting.

Boone isn’t fond of hypotheticals, but he did acknowledge that he’d be willing to use Aaron Judge in center field next season. It’s something that he’s talked to Judge about recently — a risk after the slugger’s toe injury last year, but a plan that Judge is in support of. The Yankees’ skipper is also hopeful that a “leaner” and “lighter” Giancarlo Stanton can play more outfield defense in 2024, depth that can allow Judge to get a few games at designated hitter per week.

It’s also possible that the Yankees flip Verdugo in a Soto trade, giving San Diego an immediate replacement in their starting outfield. Boone expects Verdugo to stick around after Tuesday’s trade, but he left the door open to a quick turnaround as well.

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