Red Sox: Case for and against keeping Andrew Benintendi

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JULY 09: Andrew Benintendi #16 of the Boston Red Sox looks on during Summer Workouts at Fenway Park on July 09, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JULY 09: Andrew Benintendi #16 of the Boston Red Sox looks on during Summer Workouts at Fenway Park on July 09, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The Red Sox have a dilemma with outfielder Andrew Benintendi.

Have you ever had a dream where you are attempting to run and cannot move? That is the current status of Boston Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi whose stock has gone from buy to sell and would now be classified as a penny stock.

The nadir of Benintendi was the dismal 2020 season when he hit just .103 and spent the bulk of the 37% season on the Injured List.

Benintendi’s 2017 season when he slashed .271/.352/.424, slammed 20 home runs and had 90 RBI would in most years capture a Rookie of the Year Award, but Aaron Judge hit 52 out and rightfully won the honors with Benintendi settling for second place.

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I tend to toss 2020 in the statistical rubbish bin – a lost season, but that will not completely pacify me of the mystery that is Benintendi. It sits there and causes a bitter link to the previous year. At 26 years old I would expect an upward and not downward trend. The trend may not be drastic, but it is there. The sweet swing had me writing about potential batting titles in his future. Possibly Mike Greenwell with more power, better speed, and certainly better defense. Maybe it was his still formidable career .373 with two outs RISP?

Now I spoke about 2020 in the rubbish bin, but settling back in my brainpan is 2019 when a 9.6 BB% and a 22.8 K% started to take the gloss off. When did pitch recognition deteriorate? A 4.4 fWAR in 2018 drops to 2.0 fWAR in 2019. Then comes the beginning of 2020 and a horrendous slump and a confused hitter. The 2020 numbers took on a continuation of 2019. A bad trend for a young player with so much promise a few seasons ago.

Benintendi is on the books for $6.6 million in 2021 to avoid arbitration and that may be a bad deal for the Red Sox or a good deal if Benintendi resuscitates his rapidly declining career. The Red Sox certainly have concerns and have attempted to use Michael Chavis in the outfield, but Chavis’ stock is low.

Yairo Munoz and even Cesar Puello may have a shot in spring training, but Benintendi may get a break if Jackie Bradley Jr. goes elsewhere. So Boston may be faced with a declining talent being paid far too much and contributing little on offense. And tradeable? Benintendi’s value is not quite rock bottom, but close.

The most immediate possible replacement from the minors is Jarren Duran who has impressed with his speed, defensive ability, and an improving interpretation of the strike zone. Duran is considered a center fielder and may be the heir apparent to Bradley. If Bradley returns, Boston could certainly consider Duran a Benintendi replacement, or if JBJ departs Boston could reconfigure their outfield.

The Red Sox could dabble in the free-agent market and examining the variety of two things surface: Money and almost every player is 30+ in age. The Red Sox could bring back Kevin Pillar for short money or go free-agent crazy and make a serious run at Marcell Ozuna. Somewhere in between Ozuna and Pillar is quite a mix.

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Benintendi goes from a guarantee in left field to be a player in the mix. I view Benintendi as someone who must prove himself in the spring and earn his job or be relegated to the bench or simply shopped. The path is clear for Benintendi to show some offensive production in 2021 or be relegated to a bit performer. My verdict is you keep him and cross your bats that he returns to the player he was a few seasons ago.