Red Sox's Alex Verdugo, just acquired in Mookie Betts trade, could miss Opening Day with back injury

Earlier this week, the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers finally completed the three-team Mookie Betts trade with the Minnesota Twins. The deal was delayed because the Red Sox had concerns about righty Brusdar Graterol's medicals. Graterol went to the Dodgers instead, and Boston received other players in the deal.

Here is the full trade:

Verdugo was the headliner in both iterations of the trade and, ironically enough, his medicals may sideline him on Opening Day. The 23-year-old went down with a season-ending back injury last August and the injury may delay his start to 2020, reports Alex Speier of the Boston Globe.

Speier says the injury was a known issue prior to the trade but the Red Sox do not consider it a long-term concern. Here's are more details:

The Red Sox did not view the issue as a significant long-term concern when they examined Verdugo's medical history prior to completing the trade. The team will wait to make a more precise evaluation of his expected timetable to play once Verdugo can be seen by the team's medical staff. 

It remains possible the 23-year-old will be ready to start the season. That said, the team is prepared to take a conservative approach with Verdugo, believing that a small number of games missed early in the year is better than a more substantial stretch on the sideline if he is rushed into the lineup. 

Verdugo told Speier he is "going in the right direction" and his goal is to be ready for Opening Day. The Red Sox are not going to push him, however. Back injuries are tricky, and if they rush Verdugo back so he can play the season opener, they risk him going down with a more serious injury. Missing a few games now is better than missing many games later.

Last season Verdugo authored a .294/.342/.475 batting line with 12 home runs in 106 games prior to the back injury. He is expected to replace Betts in right field in the long-term. The Red Sox are reportedly nearing a deal with Kevin Pillar, who would presumably fill in for Verdugo alongside Andrew Benintendi and Jackie Bradley Jr.

The Red Sox begin the 2020 season on Thursday, March 26, against the Blue Jays in Toronto. They'll play the White Sox in their home opener one week later on April 2.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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