Red Sox designating Franchy Cordero for assignment doesn’t spoil Andrew Benintendi trade

The Red Sox are parting ways with outfielder Franchy Cordero

The Boston Red Sox announced that they have reinstated right-handed reliever Phillips Valdez from the COVID-19 Related Injured List. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, outfielder Franchy Cordero has been designated for assignment.

This ends the brief tenure in the Red Sox organization for Cordero, who was acquired from the Kansas City Royals last winter as part of the package for Andrew Benintendi.

Cordero is an impressive athlete with five-tool potential but he’s never been able to put it together at the big league level. He hit a meager .189/.237/.260 with a 32 OPS+ in 127 at-bats with the Red Sox this season.

While he flashed his potential by hitting .300 with a .931 OPS and 13 home runs in 78 games for Triple-A Worcester, there’s a big leap between that level and the majors. Particularly this year when so many of the pitchers in Triple-A sat out last year when the minor league seasons were cancelled by the pandemic.

Cordero has massive raw power and elite exit velocity but his staggering 37.5% strikeout rate this season held him back from unleashing his swing with any consistency at the major league level.

It remains to be seen if Cordero will ever develop into more than a fourth outfielder who rides the bus between Triple-A and the majors. A fresh start on a rebuilding team that can afford to give him everyday at-bats is the opportunity he needs but that was never happening in Boston.

The knee-jerk reaction is to assume that Cordero’s failure to contribute to this team means the Red Sox lost the Benintendi trade. In reality, he was only a small piece of the puzzle.

Benintendi had a decent bounce-back season with the Royals, slashing .276/.324/.442 with 17 home runs and 73 RBI. That doesn’t quite get the former first-round pick back to his peak from a few years ago but it’s obviously better than Cordero’s negative value.

That’s not the point. This was never about a Benny for Cordero swap. The Red Sox had essentially given up on Benintendi and sold him for a handful of lottery tickets. Boston acquired right-hander Josh Winckowski and outfielder Freddy Valdez from the Mets (who received Khalil Lee from Kansas City), in addition to picking up righties Luis De La Rosa and Grant Gambrell from the Royals.

Cordero was billed as the headliner of the deal since he was the most recognizable name as the only player with major league experience. He didn’t pan out in Boston but one of the other prospects they received might. Winckowski had a good year in time split between Portland and Worcester, going 9-4 with a 3.94 ERA. We could see him in Boston by next year. None of the other prospects have ever played above A-ball so they have plenty of time to improve their value.

Even if none of them develop into future contributors in Boston, the Red Sox improved the depth of their system with his five-for-one swap. They could be used as part of a package in another trade down the line if there is no path for them to reach the majors in this organization.

The Red Sox had clearly given up on Benintendi. Trading him cleared a 40-man roster spot and shed most of his $6.6 million salary (Boston was on the hook for $2.8 million). The Red Sox paid Enrique Hernandez about the same amount that they would have owed Benny and Hunter Renfroe made less than half of that salary this year. Both players had better seasons than Benintendi. Considering they barely dodged the luxury tax threshold, it’s doubtful that the Red Sox would have signed both if they planned on keeping Benny on their roster and payroll.

Boston was better off making this trade in the short-term based on the deal enabling them to clear room for their current outfield alignment. It could pay off more in the long run if any of the prospects they acquired develop into something valuable. Cordero was always a wild card with a sky-high ceiling but an alarmingly low floor. He crashed through that floor and the Red Sox didn’t hesitate to move on. They still have a few more lottery tickets in their pocket. If they don’t strike gold with any of them, the trade will still have been worthwhile.