10:10 PM: The Yankees have announced the trade.
9:45 PM: ESPN’s Jeff Basson reports that the Royals will acquire three minor leaguers in return (on Twitter)
9:38 PM: The Yankees are looking to buy the outfielder Andrew Benintendi From the Royals, YES Network’s Jack Curry reports (Twitter link) New York has sought an outfield upgrade in recent weeks, and they could fill the gap by landing one of the best rental bats on the market.
Benintendi has been one of the sport’s most obvious trade candidates over the past few months. The Royals entered 2022 with designs on the tournament, but they stumbled to 16-32 at the end of May. That made Kansas City an obvious deadline seller, and a strong candidate to replace upcoming free agents like Pendenti.
New York adds a contact-oriented bat to their outfield mix. Benintendi owns a .321/.389/.399 on the year, walking at a 10.1% clip. He’s connected on just three home runs, but Benintendi leads the majors with 91 singles and has 14 doubles. He didn’t look like the 15-20 homer bat he had in his early seasons with the Red Sox, but he made contact on 82.6% of his swings.
Benintendi’s production was a career-high .368 batting average with balls in play. As a line drive hitter who uses the entire field, he generally produces solid results on batted balls, though the Yankees can’t expect his 2022 mark to be too high. Although his BABIP has regressed near his .325 career mark, his plate discipline and bat control should support a solid on-base percentage.
Those plus bat-to-ball skills make Benintendi a stark contrast to the player he can shift from the lineup, Joey Gallo. Gallo has struggled since landing in the Bronx, New York’s biggest deadline pick-up last summer. He’s a .160/.293/.371 hitter in 498 plate appearances as a Yankee, hitting at a whopping 38.4% clip over that stretch. Among hitters with 200+ plate appearances this season, Gallo has the third-highest strikeout rate (38.1%) and third-lowest contact rate on swings (62.2%).
The Yankees are now ready to unleash MVP candidate Benintendi’s outfield. Aaron Judge And Aaron Hicks – Owner of a massive .333/.471/.593 line this month after a slow start to the season – most days. Giancarlo Stanton Although he landed on the injured list yesterday, he was the primary designated hitter. New York has already begun to cut into Gallo’s playing time, working in the scorching sun Matt Carpenter Corner is in the outfield mix, and tonight’s acquisition is a solid signal, however, that the Yankees are ready to squeeze Gallo out of the mix altogether. They will try to find someone for him in a trade before next Tuesday’s deadline.
Judge has handled the move from right to center field well enough this year. The latter has played almost exclusively left field since landing in Kansas City’s spacious home ballpark, rating well in terms of both defensive runs saved and ultimate zone rating. Statcast’s Outs Above Average has him listed as a scratch defenseman in each of the last two years. While a significant improvement on Gallo’s recent work, he should add enough to an above-average glove in the outfield. That would be a significant boost for a lineup that already led the majors with 523 runs scored.
That the Yankees pulled the trigger on the Benintendi deal is sure to raise some eyebrows for an off-the-field reason. He was placed on the restricted list before the Royals’ recent series in Toronto, indicating he had not been vaccinated against COVID-19 at the time. That would make him unavailable for the series in Toronto, barring a change in his vaccination status or the lifting of a ban on unvaccinated athletes crossing the border. Reports surfaced shortly thereafter that the Yankees might be deterred from pursuing him due to concerns about his availability for games in Toronto.
Ultimately that proved not to be the case. Jon Heyman of the New York Post and Andy Martino of SNY each recommend (Twitter Connections) Some close to Benintendi believe he is now ready to vaccinate. Ken Rosenthal and Jason Stark of the Athletics note that Benintendi’s vaccination status did not come up in negotiations between the Yankees and Royals front offices (Twitter link) It’s unclear if they expected him to eventually be eligible to play in Toronto or if they decided to accept his absence for a few games.
The Yankees, who begin a four-game series against the Royals tomorrow, have just three regular season games remaining in Toronto. With an 11 1/2 game cushion over the Jays in the AL East, a three-game absence — if it comes to that — isn’t likely to have much of an impact on the regular-season standings, though it might be relevant in the event. The Yankees and Jays meet again in the playoffs.
A lot more to come.