Andrew Benintendi and the Boston Red Sox are far apart on his salary for the 2020 season. Which side has more leverage in this situation?
Lost amid all of the hoopla surrounding the Red Sox offseason and the constant Mookie Betts rumors and speculation are the fates of several other players currently on the roster. On the same day that the team beat the arbitration deadline by paying Betts $27 million and Jackie Bradley $11 million, they failed to come to agreements with a few other players who were arbitration-eligible.
One of the most notable of these players was Andrew Benintendi and judging by his difference of opinion with the Red Sox, it looks sure that they’ll be heading to arbitration. Numerous outlets reported on Friday that Benintendi asked for $4.15 million while the team countered with $3.4 million.
While the difference of $750,000 may not seem like a lot relative to most Major League Baseball salaries, the number the Red Sox proposed is 18% lower than what Benintendi wants; when looked at that way, it’s a significant chunk of money.
Part of the fun in these negotiations around arbitration-eligible players is debating how much we fans think they “deserve.” It feels a bit tacky to pass judgment on how much we think other people “should” be making, but in the case of professional sports, that’s the way it is.
My initial response when I saw the discrepancy was that Benintendi should take the number the Red Sox are offering because as I tweeted out, he’s lucky to be getting the offer that he is. Let’s look at his statistics for his three full seasons thus far in the major leagues.
2017: .271 BA, 20 HR, 90 RBI, 70 BB, 20 SB, .352 OBP, .776 OPS.
2018: .290 BA, 16 HR, 87 RBI, 71 BB, 21 SB, .366 OBP, .830 OPS.
2019: .266 BA, 13 HR, 68 RBI, 59 SB, 10 SB, .343 OBP, .774 OPS.
At first glance, 2019 is obviously his worst season while 2018 was his best. After trending upward from 2017 to 2018, he seemed to regress in 2019. Granted, three seasons is a small sample size, but it’s all we’ve got to work with. Digging a bit deeper, though, let’s look at his 2018 season.
First half: .297 BA, 14 HR, 57 RBI, 49 BB, 17 SB, .380 OBP, .897 OPS.
Second half: .279 BA, 2 HR, 30 RBI, 22 BB, 4SB, .343 OBP, .727 OPS.
That second half of 2018 showed a huge drop-off from the first half, especially the power numbers. Benintendi had hit fourteen home runs at the All-Star break and seemed poised to easily surpass his career-high of twenty in 2017 (not to mention his 2017 totals in every other category), but he only hit two the rest of the way.
He declined in every offensive category which was concerning in itself, but perhaps not entirely surprising for a young player over the course of a long season. His defense was still excellent and he was helping the team in other ways. That’s what made his 2019 season so concerning: he further declined in every offensive category and yet remarkably, his splits were more consistent.
First half: .274 BA, 7 HR, 38 RBI, 35 BB, 9 SB, .351 OBP, .784 OPS.
Second half: .256 BA, 6 HR, 30 RBI, 24 BB, 1 SB, .332 OBP, .759 OPS.
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That would tend to suggest some legitimacy to his regression from 2018 and in fact those 2019 numbers are pretty similar to the second half of 2018. The concerning thing is that it would tend to suggest that the struggles he had in the second half of 2018 weren’t isolated and carried over into 2019.
Even worse, after playing excellent left field defense in 2018, Benintendi turned in his worst defensive season in the field in 2019 and yet somehow was nominated for a Gold Glove award. It was a forgettable season for the young outfielder and while he’s far too talented to stay down for long and has plenty of time in his career to get back on track, baseball is a “what have you done for me lately?” business and lately, Benintendi has not been good.
Does Benintendi “deserve” the $4.15 million he’s asking for? He earned $717,500 in 2019 so either of the proposed numbers would be a significant pay increase for him in 2020. Again, I’m no authority to pass judgment on how much someone deserves to earn, but based on the last season and a half Benny has turned in, the Red Sox appear to have the upper hand and I think he should feel fortunate the team is even offering $3.4 million.
If I were him, I would take it and come back so strong in 2020 that the Red Sox would never again have an issue paying him what he asks for. If Benintendi wants to have maximum leverage in his future salary negotiations, he’ll have to respond and bounce back with a better season in 2020 to secure his potential future earnings.