Red Sox gave up on Andrew Benintendi in exchange for unknown potential

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 19: Andrew Benintendi #16 of the Boston Red Sox bats against the Minnesota Twins on June 19, 2019 at the Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Red Sox defeated the Twins 9-4. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 19: Andrew Benintendi #16 of the Boston Red Sox bats against the Minnesota Twins on June 19, 2019 at the Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Red Sox defeated the Twins 9-4. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

Red Sox receive a questionable haul in Andrew Benintendi trade

The Boston Red Sox struggled internally for months over the fate of outfielder Andrew Benintendi before ultimately pulling the trigger on a three-team trade that shipped the former first-round pick to the Kansas City Royals.

There were some in the organization who felt his downfall was tied to bulking up to transform into “Benny Biceps,” which had the unintended consequence of spoiling his sweet swing while sapping his speed on the bases and in the field. Benintendi reportedly shed the excess weight over the offseason, an encouraging sign that he’s primed for a bounce-back season.

Others were less optimistic about the outlook of a player who significantly declined in 2019 and was off to an abysmal 4-for-39 start before a rib cage injury ended his 2020 campaign. Benintendi was a shell of the player who was on the verge of stardom, a Gold Glove finalist and a postseason hero a few short years ago.

Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom made it clear which side of the debate he was on when he sent Benintendi packing for a haul littered with question marks, both literally and figuratively.

The headliner of the package heading to Boston is outfielder Franchy Cordero. The 26-year-old possesses an enticing blend of power and speed but hasn’t been able to put it together at the big league level.

Cordero owns an underwhelming .236/.286/.447 slash line in 95 career games. He’s extremely strikeout prone with a career 34.9 K% that threatens to be a source of frustration if it prevents his batting average from rising to a respectable level. The left-handed hitter has shown significant splits with a meager .182/.239/.333 line against southpaws, suggesting he might be best utilized in a platoon role.

While he’s capable of filling in at all three outfield positions, Cordero has been below-average at each of them. He’s produced a negative defensive runs saved rating at all three outfield spots and -8 DRS overall for his career.

Bloom sees untapped potential in a player whose career has been derailed by injuries. Cordero has spent time on the injured list over the last three years with a right wrist sprain, right elbow sprain, tight forearm strain, and left abductor strain. Bloom referred to these ailments as “freak injuries” when he addressed the media via a Zoom call on Wednesday, per MassLive’s Christopher Smith.

"“Certainly has battled some injuries but whose upside, whose talent is as good as anyone on the field whenever he’s on it and who we’re optimistic can be a big part of this thing,” said Bloom."

Cordero has built a troubling reputation as an injury-prone player but his health woes are all unrelated with no evidence to suggest they will crop up again. Bloom believes that if Cordero stays healthy, he’ll find the consistency he needs to reach his ceiling.

The upside is certainly appealing. Bloom raved about Cordero’s ability to hit the ball as hard as anyone in the big leagues. While that’s a bit of an overstatement, there is untapped power potential in Cordero’s bat.

He’s tallied only 12 home runs in 284 career at-bats but the Statcast data supports the notion that he’s capable of being a power hitter. His career 45.7% Hard Hit rate is well above league-average and would have put him just outside the top-30 in the majors last year, per Baseball Savant. Cordero owns a career 92.5 mph exit velocity, a figure topped by fewer than a dozen major league hitters last season.

Boston also received pitching prospect Josh Winckowski from the Mets in the three-way trade. The right-hander hasn’t pitched above A-ball but he owns a 3.35 ERA and 8.1 K/9 in four minor league seasons. Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays, he was acquired by the Mets in the Steven Matz trade last month

Winckowski throws a mid-90s fastball and a potentially average slider. He has also utilized a changeup and was working on developing a splitter during his time in the instructional league last fall. He projects as a back of the rotation starter but Winckowski might be destined for the bullpen in the long run unless he refines his secondary pitches.

The most intriguing part of this trade is arguably the three players to be named later. It’s not uncommon for teams to make a deal for a PTBNL. Typically the deal is made by a team that needs to cut payroll or open a roster spot. A deal involving three different PTBNL coming from two different teams is an unusual development born from unprecedented circumstances.

Last year’s cancelled minor league season and limited scouting opportunities makes it more difficult than ever to evaluate the progress of another team’s prospects. By waiting to identify which prospects will be included in the trade, Boston buys themselves time to do their homework on the options these teams are offering.

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A PTBNL rarely amounts to much but that might not be the case in this scenario. The Mets received a quality prospect in Khalil Lee from Kansas City as part of the deal. That seems like a steal if they aren’t giving up much else beyond Winckowski, suggesting that the prospect they owe Boston will have some legitimate value. The Royals will send two more players to the Red Sox from their deep farm system. We can’t expect any of their top prospects but the players they eventually receive will continue the trend of adding depth to a farm system that was relatively barren when Bloom arrived.

It’s impossible to fairly judge this trade when we don’t even know the identities of three players involved. However, it’s fair to say that Bloom had given up on Benintendi. You don’t trade away a 26-year-old with two years of control remaining for this many unknown quantities if there is even a shred of confidence that Benitnendi will reclaim his 2018 form.

Even if you’re a believer in Cordero’s upside, his track record hasn’t shown any evidence that he can produce at the level we’ve already seen from Benny in the past. Since none of the other players involved will contribute to the major league team this year, the deal is a clear step back in the short term for a team that claims they intend to compete unless they no longer viewed Benitnendi as a viable everyday starter.

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With this trade, Bloom stayed true to the plan he’s been trying to accomplish since his arrival in Boston. He flipped a player he deemed expendable to add depth to their pipeline with the potential for long-term upside. It will be a tough pill to swallow if Benny returns to form in Kansas City but making this trade signals that Bloom is more confident in following the blueprint of his master plan than he is in the Benintendi reclamation project.