Red Sox News: Andrew Benintendi dealt to Royals in three-team swap

Oct 24, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi (16) catches a ball hit by Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Brian Dozier (6) during the fifth inning in game two of the 2018 World Series at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 24, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi (16) catches a ball hit by Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Brian Dozier (6) during the fifth inning in game two of the 2018 World Series at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports /
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Former first-round Red Sox draft pick Andrew Benintendi has been traded

For about a month, now-former Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi’s name has been thrown around as a potential trade candidate. Rumors originally surfaced when the Marlins appeared to have interest in the left fielder’s services according to MLB Insider Jim Bowden.

The asking price for the 26-year-old appeared to be a bit lofty for the Marlins given his down-year in limited action during the 2020 season, and underwhelming stats in 2019. Nonetheless, other teams continued to show interest and the rumors continued to pop up here and there. As of today, a team has finally pulled the trigger, with the Kansas City Royals acquiring the left fielder in a three-team swap with the New York Mets.

The trade of fan-favorite Benintendi, ironically on the one-year anniversary of the Mookie Betts trade to the Dodgers, will likely come with backlash from Red Sox Nation. Since being drafted out of the University of Arkansas in 2015, the outfielder appeared to be on the fast-track to becoming the next face of the franchise.

Early results gave many Red Sox fans a reason to believe this was in fact the case, as he was a very productive offensive player between his debut in 2016 to his 2018 season. In 2019, he regressed to the tune of a .266/.343/.431 slash line after hitting .290 the year prior when Boston won it all in 2018.

2020 proved to be even worse, albeit in a smaller sample size. The left fielder was hitting .103 over a 14-game stretch before being sidelined for the remainder of the 60-game season with a ribcage injury.

While rumors that a trade was imminent initially surfaced in January, a transaction was slow to materialize as speculation got very quiet on the rumor mill. Over a three-week span of dead silence regarding the outfielder’s fate, Red Sox coaches visited Benintendi and came away impressed with his physical appearance. The left fielder lost weight and coaches believed he was destined for a comeback season.

Some in the organization were reportedly against the team moving on from Benintendi leading up to tonight’s events with belief that the weight he lost after bulking up to hit for power would in turn make him a more productive hitter and defender again. Nonetheless, the trade has come to fruition this evening.

The Red Sox have acquired outfielder Franchy Cordero from the Royals as well as right-handed starting pitcher 22-year-old Josh Winckowski from the Mets along with three players to be named later. The righty pitcher was actually acquired by New York in a separate transaction with the Blue Jays just weeks ago when New York dealt starting pitcher Steven Matz to Toronto for three players.

Cordero has experience at all three outfield spots (more so in left and center) whereas Winckowski is projected to be a back-end of the rotation or bullpen piece when he reaches the big leagues.

Franchy is a lifetime .236 hitter over the span of 95 games at the major league level between the Padres and Royals since debuting in 2017. The 26-year-old has hit considerably better against right-handed pitchers, which complements fellow offseason acquisition Hunter Renfroe who hits better against lefties.

The two essentially fit the bill as an ideal platoon in right field if the organization does not make any further additions in the outfield. Cordero’s experience all over the outfield would likely signal that the organization views him as a regular in left rather than as a part-time player.

As for the other three, well, I guess we’ll have to wait to evaluate their performances.

In addition to trading the outfielder, the Red Sox are offsetting Benintendi’s $6.6 million earnings for 2021 by including $2.8 million in the deal. Boston now has an immediate replacement for a corner outfielder, additional pitching depth, and three players who have yet to be announced. The Red Sox will likely net a better return in either MLB ready talent or prospects due to the money kicked into the trade.

This trade can seemingly be viewed as a giant gamble by CBO Chaim Bloom, as he traded away one of Boston’s few remaining familiar faces after a down year. Cordero is a wild card in his own right, as he has minimal major league experience but the potential to be a power-speed threat.  The question remains — will he platoon with Renfroe in right field, or become the incumbent left fielder in Benintendi’s absence?

Either way, as of now the trade feels like a downgrade, but in large part due to the bias of parting ways with homegrown talent. Between 2019 and 2021, the Red Sox have gone from the “Killer B’s”, Benintendi, Bradley Jr., and Betts, to Cordero, Verdugo, and Renfroe. That is not to say that the current outfield is unspectacular, it’s just bland in comparison to what the organization fielded two years ago.

Bloom has made the path to victory incredibly hard to read, as he has managed to add both players that are capable of winning now while trading away complementary win-now assets for low-level prospects.

This transaction begs the question: is Verdugo officially the full-time center fielder, or is there a plan to add yet another outfielder to the mix? There are still two impending transactions that have yet to be made official. This trade is fairly simple in the sense that Benintendi and Cordero can swap spots on the 40-man roster.

However, the news of Martin Perez re-signing surfaced nearly a month ago and has yet to be announced. Recent news of Japanese relief pitcher Hirokazu Sawamura signing a two-year deal to pitch for the Red Sox has circulated as well which means Boston must now make two moves to clear those spots for the 40-man pool.

Boston is running out of room in terms of players the organization deems expendable on the 40-man roster. Considering the team’s postponement in announcing Perez’s contract, it appears that the front office values some of the players on the 40-man roster enough to try and find a way around potentially losing another player to waivers.

The possibility of adding another outfielder is coming down to the wire with many other teams getting aggressive in adding what remains of the current free-agent class.

It is very possible that the team does, in fact, intend to roll out an Opening Day roster with Cordero in left, Verdugo in center field, and Renfroe in right. This trade could pan out for the better as there is a curious case to be made about Cordero’s ability to be an impactful player on the field.

He is regarded as a toolsy player but injuries have held him back from being as productive as he was hoped to be. In the third stop of his short major league career, Boston could be the place that finally allows him to unlock his potential as an impactful piece to the future of the Red Sox outfield.

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Winckowski is unlikely to make an impact at the major league level anytime soon as he has only reached High A ball to this point in his career. He is notably a consistent strike-thrower, with a repertoire that includes a sinker, changeup, slider, and a fastball that reaches the high 90s.

As it stands now, the deal appears to be a long-term move that further instills the sustainability seed that Bloom has managed to plant since joining the organization over a year ago. These trades are clearly hard to make knowing they will hurt fan’s feelings, but they are trades that are necessary to build for the future of the team in the grand scheme of things. Five players (one major league ready) for one outfielder could be something fans of today look back on years from now and realize just how impactful it was to the organization.

Next. Sox and Sawamura potentially agree to terms. dark

Once again, in the short-term, this trade can be viewed as a downgrade. But then again, after losing Betts last offseason, officially trading Benintendi tonight, and seemingly waving goodbye to Bradley Jr. in the coming days, it is fair to say that all good things come to an end. The days of the “Killer B’s” are now a distant memory, one that Boston fans will cherish for a lifetime. The future is now, and the makeup of the outfield at present is most likely still a work in progress.