Yankees take over Andrew Benintendi from the Royals


Yankees take over Andrew Benintendi from the Royals

10:10 p.m.: The Yankees have announced the trade.

9:52 p.m.: In return, Kansas City gets pitching prospects TJ Sikkema, Chandler Champlain and Beck wayreports Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).

9:45 p.m.: The Royals will sign three minor league players in return, reports ESPN’s Jeff Passan (on twitter).

9:38 p.m.: The Yankees want to take on the outfielder Andreas Benintendi from the Royals, reports Jack Curry of YES Network (Twitter link). New York have been looking for an outfield upgrade for the past few weeks and they will fill the void by landing one of the best rental clubs on the market.

Benintendi has been one of the game’s most obvious trade contenders in recent months. The Royals entered 2022 with competitive drafts but stumbled to a 16-32 by the end of May. That obviously made Kansas City a likely deadline seller and a forthcoming free agent like Benintendi a strong candidate for a uniform change.

New York adds a contact oriented racquet to their outfield mix. Benintendi owns a .321/.389/.399 a year, with a strong clip of 10.1%, while only hitting the plate 13.5% of his trips. He’s only tied on three homers, but Benintendi leads the majors with 91 singles and has won 14 doubles. He didn’t look like the 15-20 homer hitter he was in his early seasons with the Red Sox, but he made contact on a powerful 82.6% of his swings.

Benintendi’s performance was bolstered by a career-best in-game batting average of .368. A full-field line drive hitter, he usually produces solid batted-ball results, although the Yankees are unlikely to expect his mark to stay that high for 2022. Even with his BABIP getting closer to his career mark of .325, his plate discipline and club control should support a solid on-base percentage.

These plus stick-to-ball skills put Benintendi in sharp contrast to the player he is likely to oust from the line-up. Joey Gallo. Gallo, New York’s biggest appointment pickup last summer, has struggled since landing in the Bronx. He is a .160/.293/.371 hitter in 498 plate appearances as a Yankee and posted a massive 38.4% clip at that stretch. Among hitters with more than 200 plate appearances this season, Gallo has the third-highest strikeout rate (38.1%) and the third-lowest swing contact rate (62.2%).

The Yankees will now field an outfield from Benintendi, the MVP nominee Aaron Richter and Aaron Hicks – Owners of a massive .333/.471/.593 line this month after a slow start to the season – most days. Gian Carlo Stanton is the primary designated batsman despite landing on the injured list yesterday. New York has already started reducing Gallo’s playing time while he works through the scorching heat Matt Carpenter into the corner of the outfield mix, and tonight’s takeover is the clearest signal the Yankees have left to push Gallo out of the mix entirely. It stands to reason that they will try to find a buyer for him in stores before the deadline next Tuesday.

The judge has handled a move from right to midfield appropriately this year, leaving the corners to Hicks and Benintendi. The latter has played exclusively on left field since landing at Kansas City’s sprawling home stadium and has done well in the eyes of both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating. Statcast’s Outs Above Average ranked him as exactly one scratch defender in each of the last two years. He should add a reasonable to above average glove in the outfield while also offering a notable improvement over Gallo’s recent work at the plate. It will be a notable boost for a lineup that already led the majors with 523 runs scored.

That the Yankees pulled the trigger on a Benintendi deal is sure to raise some eyebrows for an off-field reason. He was blacklisted ahead of the Royals’ recent series in Toronto, indicating he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19 at the time. That makes him unavailable for series in Toronto unless his vaccination status changes or the ongoing ban on unvaccinated athletes from crossing the border is lifted. Reports surfaced shortly after that the Yankees could be held back from chasing him due to concerns about his availability for Toronto games.

That turned out to be obviously not the case in the end. Jon Heyman of the New York Post and Andy Martino of SNY both suggest (Twitter connections) that some close to Benintendi believe he is now ready to be vaccinated. Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Jayson Stark point out that Benintendi’s vaccination status was not raised in talks between Yankees and Royals front offices (Twitter link). Whether that’s because they assume he’ll be able to play in Toronto at some point or if they’ve just decided to accept his possible absence for a few games isn’t clear.

The Yankees, who ironically open a four-game series against the Royals tomorrow, have just three regular-season games left in Toronto. With an 11 1/2 game lead over the Jays in the AL East, a three-game absence — if it comes to it — doesn’t appear to have a huge impact on regular-season standings, although it could be relevant to the event for The Yankees and Jays meet again in the playoffs.

There’s more to come.

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