JANUARY 12, 7:23pm: A rival executive told Mark Feinsand of MLB.com that he will be “shocked” if the Red Sox don’t trade Benintendi before the end of the weekend.
4:26pm: The Red Sox have discussed Benintendi with more teams than the ones mentioned below, Alex Speier of the Boston Globe reports. One of those clubs “has discussed trading big-league pitching depth for Benintendi,” Speier writes.
1:51PM: “Another American League team not mentioned has had deeper discussions” about Benintendi, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford tweets. A source also tells Bradford that the Rangers aren’t in on Benintendi.
12:35PM: The Astros, Athletics, and Rangers have all been in touch with the Red Sox about Benintendi, Sean McAdam of the Boston Sports Journal reports (Twitter link). A source tells McAdam that Benintendi could be on the move soon, though it won’t be to the Marlins, another club previously linked to the outfielder in reports.
JANUARY 9: The Red Sox have been in “serious trade talks” about the possibility of moving left fielder Andrew Benintendi, writes The Athletic’s Jim Bowden (via Twitter). The Red Sox have a particular interest in pitcher and outfielder prospects, notes Bowden, but that’s likely a starting point more than a mandate. However serious discussions have been thus far, there is no deal pending.
There may be some bombast to Bowden’s report, which is only to say that there is a wide range of interpretations for “serious trade talks.” That could speak to an earnestness on Boston’s part in terms of their willingness to deal Benintendi, or it could reference a specific exchange of names, or something else entirely. Regardless, it’s not a shocking development for Benintendi’s name to emerge on the hot stove. Boston would be selling low on their 26-year-old outfielder, however, who is coming off a 43 wRC+ showing in 14 games in an injury-shortened 2020. Interested teams, however, are paying more attention to his 2019 production (100 wRC+, 2.0 fWAR) than 2020, adds Rob Bradford of WEEI.com (via Twitter).
His 2020 performance aside, there is some concern that Benintendi has declined in foot speed, which could have major repercussions on his game. He has not yet boasted the explosive power traditionally associated with a corner outfielder (.162 career ISO). Per Statcast, Benintendi’s sprint speed has slowed from 28.6 feet per second as a 22-year-old in 2016 to 27.7 ft/s as a 24-year-old in 2018 to 26.6 ft/s as a 26-year-old in the short sample of 2020. That’s a rather stunning fall from the 89th percentile to the 43rd percentile.
If anything, the decline in speed could threaten his viability as a centerfielder. Benintendi hasn’t played much center in his career, but he hasn’t needed to with Jackie Bradley Jr. manning the middle in Boston. With Bradley a free agent, the Red Sox are looking at a starting outfield of Benintendi, Alex Verdugo, and Hunter Renfroe. All three have traditionally fit better in the corner. Hypothetically, if Boston didn’t think Benintendi was a good fit in center, they could look to move him to give more playing time to Verdugo and Renfroe. At the same time, Renfroe was a part-time player with the Rays last season, and he could continue in that capacity this season. Jarren Duran could make the Major League team at some point, and he might fit better in center than anyone else currently on the Boston roster. All of which merely speaks to why Boston might view Benintendi as an expendable asset, not necessarily why they would or should desire to move him.
As a prospect, Benintendi possessed a monster hit tool with the possibility for big power, and his game hardly predicated solely on his foot speed (though he was viewed more as a gap-to-gap hitter than a home run leader). Remember, he was the No. 1 ranked prospect in the game as recently as 2017 per Baseball America, who wrote in their prospect report after he made his debut in 2016: “Multiple evaluators believe that Benintendi has a chance to be a perennial all-star who competes for batting titles. ’He’s a once-in-a-decade hitter,’ one said. Benintendi combines excellent hand-eye coordination with the pitch recognition to avoid strike zone expansion. His precisely-tuned swing, with his strong forearms and core along with a rare knack for putting the bat on the ball, allow him to drive the ball with surprising authority given his diminutive stature.” Those skills at peak development still play even if he doesn’t run as well as before. Certainly, a team that sees even a portion of that upside would have more than enough cause to make a run at Benintendi, depending on Boston’s asking price.