To date, the Boston Red Sox have been among the least active teams in baseball this offseason. They've signed outfielder Hunter Renfroe and righty Matt Andriese to low-cost one-year contracts, made a Rule 5 Draft pick (righty Garrett Whitlock), and that's about it. Oh, and they re-hired Alex Cora, though a manager's impact is up for debate.
Boston went 24-36 with a 5.58 ERA in 2020, though there are reasons to believe they will improve just by sticking with incumbents. Eduardo Rodriguez is expected to return from his COVID-19-related heart ailment, Chris Sale is due back from Tommy John surgery at midseason, and middle-of-the-order sluggers like Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez could have bounce-back seasons.
Another Red Sox hitter who needs a bounce-back season: Andrew Benintendi. The 26-year-old outfielder went 4 for 39 (.103) with 17 strikeouts before a rib injury ended his 2020 season on Aug. 11. Benintendi may not get an opportunity to have a bounce-back season, however. At least not in Boston. Multiple reports indicate he is being discussed in trade talks.
Selling low on a talented player is rarely a good idea -- Benintendi's value is most certainly down following his miserable 2020 and underwhelming (but not truly terrible) 2019 -- though it never hurts to listen either. You never know when someone will offer their Scott Kazmir for your Victor Zambrano. A Benintendi trade may happen fairly soon.
Rival executive familiar with Red Sox thinking said he would be “shocked” if Andrew Benintendi wasn’t traded before the end of the weekend.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) January 13, 2021
Benintendi's trade value is down, for sure. Even if you're willing to throw out 2020 given his injury and the unusual circumstances -- he is hardly the only player to have a down year following the shutdown and abbreviated summer camp -- Benintendi went from a 123 OPS+ and 4.5 WAR in 2018 to a 103 OPS+ and 1.8 WAR in 2019. At his age and his third full MLB season, he should have taken a step forward, not a step back.
Squint your eyes and you can see some silver linings in Benintendi's 2019. His average exit velocity (88.6 mph to 89.1 mph), hard-hit rate (33.7 percent to 37.8 percent), and barrel rate (6.4 percent to 8.1 percent) all increased from 2018 to 2019, so he was still making quality contact. That said, his strikeout (16.0 percent to 22.8 percent) and swing-and-miss (7.5 percent to 11.6 percent) rates went in the wrong direction, so he made less contact overall.
Benintendi is still very young, he was the consensus No. 1 prospect in baseball four years ago, and he hit .290/.366/.465 with 16 home runs and 21 stolen bases during Boston's World Series season in 2018. He's shown the ability to be an impact player on a contending team. Even after last year, buying low on Benintendi is awfully appealing. Let's dive into this rumor.
What is Benintendi's trade value?
Benintendi is owed $6.6 million in 2021 and will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2022. He'll then qualify for free agency, so he comes with two years of control. When gauging a player's trade value, it's helpful to look at similar players who were traded in the recent past. Here are a few big-name position players who were dealt with two years of team control:
- Starling Marte, Pirates to Diamondbacks: Traded for two top-10 team prospects (Brennan Malone and Liover Peguero).
- Marcell Ozuna, Marlins to Cardinals: Traded for a top-70 MLB prospect (Sandy Alcantara), two top-10 team prospects (Zac Gallen and Magneuris Sierra), and a non-top 30 team prospect (Daniel Castano).
- Tommy Pham, Rays to Padres: Traded with team top-15 prospect (Jake Cronenworth) for an MLB player with four years of control (Renfroe), a top-100 MLB prospect (Xavier Edwards), and a non-prospect to be named later (Esteban Quiroz).
- J.T. Realmuto, Marlins to Phillies: Traded for an MLB player with five years of control (Jorge Alfaro), a top-15 MLB prospect (Sixto Sanchez), a top-30 team prospect (Will Stewart), and international bonus pool money.
Those trade packages are all over the map, which isn't particularly helpful. Further complicating matters is the fact all four of those players had much better seasons the year prior to their trade than Benintendi did last year. Realmuto was an All-Star his final year with Miami. Ozuna was an All-Star and received MVP votes. Marte and Pham far outplayed Benintendi leading up to their trades.
Three of those trades brought back a top-100 prospect plus secondary pieces, and every package included multiple players. There was no big 1-for-1 trade. Because Benintendi is a change-of-scenery candidate, the Red Sox could look to move him in a 1-for-1 deal for another team's change-of-scenery candidate. Maybe the pitching version of Benintendi? I'm not sure that pitcher exists.
Another complicating factor is the free agent market. Why trade players -- potentially young prospects -- for Benintendi when you can sign a free agent and keep your youngsters? You don't necessarily have to sign Ozuna or George Springer to get Benintendi level production. Michael Brantley or Joc Pederson could do the trick. Benintendi is younger and possesses more upside (in theory), but spending money on a free agent is a viable alternative. The market is still flush with outfielders.
For what it's worth, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reports at least one team has "discussed trading big league pitching depth for Benintendi," which would fit Boston's needs. Given his down year, I think a legitimate MLB pitcher or a top-100 prospect would be a good return for Benintendi. Not a great return, necessarily, but good given the circumstances. It would be a surprise if he fetched as much as Marte, Ozuna, Pham, or Realmuto at this point in time.
The Astros, Athletics, and Rangers have all been in touch with the Red Sox about Benintendi, reports Sean McAdam of Boston Sports Journal, and WEEI.com's Rob Bradford says another American League team is in the mix as well, though that team's identity is not known. Those are the only teams publicly connected to Benintendi so far.
Houston could lose Brantley and Springer to free agency, so they badly need an outfielder. They're an obvious fit. The A's have a full outfield (Mark Canha, Ramon Laureano, Stephen Piscotty), though they could figure out a way to make it work. The Rangers are emphasizing youth this offseason and a Benintendi pickup would fit the David Dahl/Nate Lowe mold.
Here are 10 other teams that could use Benintendi. To be clear, this is my speculation, and I'm ruling out AL East teams (Blue Jays and Orioles, specifically) given the intra-division rivalry thing that has derailed countless trades over the years.
|There's an open outfield spot alongside Mike Trout and Justin Upton. The Angels could put breakout slugger Jared Walsh out there, though he fits best at first base. Benintendi in right and Walsh at first is preferable to Walsh in right and Albert Pujols at first. Would Anaheim further reduce Pujols' playing time? Benintendi would allow the team to remain patient with top prospect Jo Adell, if nothing else.|
|Ozuna is a free agent and Adam Duvall was non-tendered, leaving a great big opening in left field. Dating back to his time with Toronto, president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos has a long track record of buying low on former top prospects, and Benintendi certainly fits the mold. |
|President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has done fine work rebuilding the team's outfield on the cheap these last two years. Trading for Benintendi would not be the same as picking up Alex Dickerson or Mike Yastrzemski for table scraps, but the fact of the matter is he'd make them better, and San Francisco could easily accommodate him on their roster. A clear fit.|
|Yes, they just traded Francisco Lindor (and Carlos Carrasco), though I don't think that means they will completely throw in the towel on 2021. Their outfield is a mess and has been a mess for about three years now. They're an obvious fit for Benintendi and they have the pitching to give up to get him.|
|Benintendi would be an upgrade over Jose Marmolejos and look real good next to Kyle Lewis and Mitch Haniger. Tippy top outfield prospects Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez are coming, but there's no rule against having too many good players. Get high-end talent when you can, then figure out how all the pieces fit later.|
|For a team on the upswing like Miami, Benintendi is a no-brainer target. They can easily make room for him in the outfield -- with all due respect to Garrett Cooper, he shouldn't stand in the way of adding a guy like Benintendi -- and they have young pitching to offer in a trade. If they're serious about making the jump from rebuilder to contender, the Marlins should be after Benintendi aggressively.|
|Benintendi is a good but not great defender, so the Mets would have to hold their nose a bit to put him in center field. They seem more likely to spend money on Springer or Jackie Bradley Jr., though at this point, I'm not going to rule the Mets out on anything.|
|Similar to the Mets, Philadelphia's corner outfield spots are taken (Bryce Harper and Andrew McCutchen), so they'd have to be willing to live with Benintendi in center. It could work. It will work once the universal DH becomes permanent, which should be sometime before Opening Day. |
|Left field is still open following the Eddie Rosario non-tender. The Twins are still working to re-sign Nelson Cruz, and if he returns, it would presumably push top prospect Alex Kirilloff into left. Losing out out Cruz could push Minnesota into the Benintendi race. |
|Chicago still has an opening for a left fielder, or, if they're willing to tolerate Eloy Jimenez's defense, a DH. Benintendi in left and Jimenez in DH would be ideal. As an added bonus, Benintendi would add a lefty bat to the ChiSox's righty leaning lineup. |
Mookie Betts was traded last year and Bradley is currently a free agent. If the Red Sox trade Benintendi, they will have completely dismantled their 2018 championship outfield, and commit to moving forward with Alex Verdugo as the new outfield centerpiece. Maybe Renfroe proves to be more than a stopgap. If not, the outfield will have to be rebuilt to some degree.
Unless a team comes in with an offer the Red Sox can't refuse, I think the best move is keeping Benintendi and hoping he rebuilds value in 2021. I'd hate to sell low on a talented 26-year-old player who looked like a franchise cornerstone a year ago. If a big offer comes along, sure, take it, and there's no harm in listening. Personally, I like to bet on talent, and Benintendi has a lot of it. Nothing wrong with keeping him. Not at all.