The Royals have acquired outfielder Andrew Benintendi from the Red Sox, according to MLB Network reporter Jon Heyman, pending a physical. Jeff Passan of ESPN reports it will be a three-team trade with the Mets. The 26-year old Benintendi has been a .273/.353/.435 hitter in parts of five seasons with the Red Sox. The left-handed bat will be eligible for free agency after the 2022 season. The Royals will send outfielder Khalil Lee to the Mets and outfielder Franchy Cordero to the Red Sox, along with two players to be named later.
9:51 Update: Deal is official.
The Cincinnati native was a first-round pick by the Red Sox in 2015 out of the University of Arkansas and became one of the top prospects in baseball. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2017 by hitting .271/.352/.424 with 20 home runs and 90 RBI. He shows good gap power, twice hitting 40+ doubles in a season. He has also been a patient hitter, with a career walk rate of 10.5 percent. He was a good contact hitter his first two seasons, but saw his strikeout spike up to 22.5 percent in 2019.
Benintendi is coming off a terrible season in 2020, which may have caused him to fall out of favor in Boston. He went just 4-for-39 with 17 strikeouts in 14 games before a ribcage injury ended his season prematurely. He will earn $6.6 million this year, and moving his salary may have also been a concern for the Red Sox, who are trying to maintain payroll flexibility.
The Royals have been looking to add a left-handed hitting outfield bat, and Benintendi fits that bill. He has a significant platoon split with much less power against lefties, and he may sit against tough lefties.
Benintendi was a Gold Glove finalist in 2018 and 2019, although the metrics grade him as average. Some have noted his defense has declined recently, and he also suffered a decline in speed this year, with his sprint speed going from 28.6 feet per second in 2016 to 26.6 ft/s this year. However Benintendi may have been ailing from a quad injury, and he has shown good speed on the bases in the past, with 20+ stolen bases in 2017 and 2018.
The Royals acquired Franchy Cordero in a trade with the Padres last summer for reliever Tim hill. The 26-year old has been injury-prone throughout his career, and was limited to just 16 games with the Royals, hitting .211/.286/.447. The left-handed hitter has prodigious power and speed but he has had trouble making contact with a 35 percent strikeout rate.
Khalil Lee was the Royals’ third-round pick in the 2016 draft out of high school in the DC area. The left-handed hitting outfielder hit .264/.363/.372 with 8 home runs for Double-A Northwest Arkansas in 2019. Lee is a good defender in centerfield and was second among all minor leaguers with 53 steals that year. He hasn’t developed much power and he also suffers from a high strikeout rate. MLB Pipeline ranked him as the #8 prospect in the Royals system.
This trade sends a clear signal that the Royals are serious about contending in the next two years. If they get Benintendi back to his career numbers before the pandemic-shortened season, they will be getting a player that has been worth 2-4 WAR.