NEW YORK — It was around this time last year that tinkling sound effects and glowing screens filled a charter flight from Tampa to Miami and gossip rippled through the cabin that the Yankees were taking over Anthony Rizzo from the Cubs. The parade created a welcome spark and sparked celebrations in the aisles.
Rizzo and his teammates were in a quiet clubhouse at Citi Field on Wednesday night when they learned of another deal in the works that they hope will similarly improve their postseason chances. Shortly after a 3-2 loss to the Mets, the Americans completed a week-long trade with the Royals for outfielder Andrew Benintendi.
Yankees receive: BY Andrew Benintendi
Get royals: RHP Chandler Champlain, LHP TJ Sikkema and RHP Beck Way
“He’s a really good player,” said outfielder Aaron Judge. “I had the opportunity to play against him for a number of years when he played in Boston. I’ve seen him do many amazing things. So if that’s true, it’s definitely going to be a big part of what we’re going to do here.”
In the deal, which was confirmed by both clubs later in the evening, the Yankees sent three pitching prospects to Kansas City in exchange for the 28-year-old Benintendi: right-hander Chandler Champlain, left-hander TJ Sikkema and right-hander Beck Way.
Benintendi’s acquisition helped soften the sting of a walk-off loss to the Mets as Starling Marte’s hit against Wandy Peralta sealed a two-game Subway Series sweep.
“He’s a really good player in the middle of an All-Star season,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “He has a track record with that  Red Sox championship run. Obviously he’s been a really good player for them, but he’s setting up a really good year for the royals.”
Silenced by birthday boy Max Scherzer over seven innings, Gleyber Torres’ two-run homer against David Peterson powered the Yanks’ offense Wednesday as New York went 15-0 with runners in the two games in Queens to score.
Boone said he believes left-hander Benintendi, an American League All-Star this season, can help improve an already impressive rank.
“It’s false news that we have too many power hitters in the lineup, too many sluggers,” Boone said. “We have wilds in the line-up, really good sluggers. Benintendi is a great hitter, comes to base with a really high clip, hits from the left side which gives you some balance. … I look forward to writing his name.”
In 93 games this season, Benintendi has hit .320/.387/.398 with 14 doubles, two triples, three homers, 39 RBIs and four stolen bases. Benintendi’s 34 multi-hit games ranks first in the American League while he’s third in batting average, second in hits (111) and sixth in on-base percentage.
“Dog days of summer, we sanded it for a while, then add a bit like that,” Judge said. “A guy who’s hit well over .300 all year, plays great defense and is kind of a spark over there in Kansas City. Any time you bring him into the kind of culture we have it’s always a plus and a boost of energy.”
Benintendi recently made headlines for non-baseball reasons, as he was among a group of royals who were unable to travel to Toronto because he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19. The Yankees have one more regular-season series in Toronto (September 26-28); The New York Post reported Wednesday that Benintendi told people close to him that he would receive the vaccine.
A 2021 Gold Glover who has played seven big league seasons with the Red Sox (2016-20) and Royals (2021-22), Benintendi has made 88 starts in left field this season and penned no errors on 164 overall chances .
His arrival could create an outfield formation of Benintendi in left field, Judge in midfield and a combination of Aaron Hicks and Matt Carpenter in right field, at least until Giancarlo Stanton returns from the injured list.
Benintendi’s takeover also likely spells the end of Joey Gallo’s time in a Yankees uniform; Gallo is batting .161 (37 to 230) with 103 strikeouts in 80 games after his last pinch hitter in the eighth inning on Tuesday against Mets closer Edwin Díaz.
Wednesday’s loss was the Yankees’ 12th in 22 games this month, and they now have the second-best record in the majors at 66-33 (the Dodgers are 65-32).
“We’re still one of the best teams in the game, so I wouldn’t really judge our season after a few weeks,” Judge said. “But I think adding a guy like [Benintendi] will definitely pump us up a little, that’s for sure. I think he will fit right in.”