The Kansas City Royals have acquired OF Andrew Benintendi and cash from the Boston Red Sox in a three team trade with the New York Mets. The Royals sent OF Khalil Lee to New York and OF Franchy Cordero plus two players to be named later to Boston. The Red Sox will also acquire RHP Josh Winckowski and a player to be named later from the Mets.
This is an awkward time to trade Benintendi for Boston. He was pivotal in the team's 2018 World Series championship, but he declined soon after. He was perfectly average in 2019, and his OPS+ of 100 shows that. But, 2020 was a complete lost year for Benintendi. He was awful in 14 games, before a rib cage sprain cost him the rest of his season. Given that his value would naturally be depressed, it isn't the best time to give up on a 26 year old with a career 107 OPS+. It is not like Benintendi is very expensive, or he is an upcoming free agent. He is set to earn $6.6 million (but only $5 million against the luxury tax), with one more year of arbitration remaining, meaning that he could become a free agent after 2022. That makes this a good bet for the Royals, and they receive $2.8 million from Boston as well. Before 2020, Benintendi profiled as an above average hitter who does not strike out much and gets on base. He has above average speed, but his sprint speed has decreased in each season. Also, he is not the best defender, with -10 outs above average in 2019. The Royals definitely make an upgrade from Cordero, although both him and Lee have promise. Trading away four players for Benintendi just is too much. Now after acquiring Benintendi and Carlos Santana, the Royals don't really have a liability on offense, besides Nicky Lopez, who can make up for his lack of offensive production with his speed and defense.
Benintendi, 26, had a .103 average with a .442 OPS in 52 Plate Appearances in 2020. In 2019, he hit 13 home runs with 10 stolen bases, a .266 average and a .774 OPS in 615 Plate Appearances. In his MLB career, all in Boston, Benintendi has hit 51 home runs with 53 stolen bases, a .273 average and a .789 OPS in 2104 Plate Appearances.
While selling low is not a great strategy, Chaim Bloom and co. get a variety of potentially impactful players here. Cordero is the headliner, and his greatest strength is his power. However, injuries and a crowded Padres outfield have disturbed him from unlocking his potential. While Kansas City looked like a potential chance to breakout when he was dealt there just before the start of the 2020 season, Boston brings a better opportunity, especially without Benintendi. As it seems more and more unlikely that the Red Sox will bring back free agent Jackie Bradley Jr., the Sox could start Cordero in center, with Alex Verdugo and Hunter Renfroe in the corner outfield spots. Both of this offseason's additions, Cordero and Renfroe, are right-handed power bats who could benefit from the green monster in left field at Fenway Park. Cordero overall has upside, plus two more years of team control after 2021. But, at the same age as Benintendi, his value should be much less. Winckowski was a 2016 15th round pick by the Blue Jays, and the Mets acquired him on January 27th for Steven Matz. MLB Pipeline ranked him 27th in the Blue Jays system and 26th in the Mets organization in the last few weeks. The three players to be named really show how Boston is going with a quality over quantity approach. While in my opinion, acquiring five players here is a good thing, eliminating the Mets side of this completely and acquiring Lee and not getting Winckowski and a PTBNL would be even better. The only reason I could see Boston being inclined to taking the Mets players instead of Lee is extreme interest in a potential prospect.
Cordero, 26, hit two home runs with a stolen base, a .211 average and a .733 OPS in 42 Plate Appearances for the Royals in 2020. In his MLB career for the Royals and San Diego Padres, Cordero has hit 12 home runs with eight stolen bases, a .236 average and a .737 OPS in 315 Plate Appearances. For perspective, that is roughly 24 home runs over a full season.
Winckowski, 22, had a 2.69 ERA with 108 strikeouts and a 1.202 WHIP in 127.1 innings for Single-A Lansing and High-A Dunedin in 2019 (Toronto's system). In his MiLB career, he has a 3.35 ERA with 237 strikeouts and a 1.297 WHIP in 263 innings.
The Mets are definitely the third party among this trade, but for now there is an argument that they are the winners. They move up from a low-end prospect to a potential starting player in Lee, who in 2019 Baseball Prospectus ranked as baseball's 61st best prospect. He's recognition has dropped off since then, as MLB Pipeline rated Lee as the 8th best prospect in the Royals system prior to this deal. A 3rd round pick out of high school in 2016, Lee reached AA in 2019, and showed that he is a speed demon, with 53 stolen bases. His offensive numbers are about average, and a high strikeout rate raises some questions. Overall, this is a risk that the Mets should definitely be willing to take, especially since the PTBNL should not be a high-profile prospect.
Lee, 22, hit eight home runs with 53 stolen bases, a .264 average, and a .735 OPS in 546 Plate Appearances for AA Northwest Arkansas in 2019. In his minor league career Lee has hit 37 home runs with 97 stolen bases, a .256 average and a .775 OPS in 1719 Plate Appearances.