With the Royals struggling, Andrew Benintendi has been seen as a logical trade candidate as the deadline approaches. To this end, “the Royals are actively seeking a buyer for” the outfielder, The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham writes.
There isn’t any indication that a deal could be close, and it would be a little surprising to see Benintendi moved with more than a month remaining before the August 2 trade deadline. That said, Kansas City president of baseball operations Dayton Moore doesn’t always wait until the last minute to swing significant deadline moves. The Royals dealt Martin Maldonado and Homer Bailey in separate trades in mid-July 2019, and Kelvin Herrera and Jon Jay were moved in June of 2018.
In short, if a team steps up early to make what Moore deems to be an acceptable offer, K.C. could opt to get a jump-start on its deadline plans. With only a 26-43 record heading into today’s action, the Royals have the second-worst record in the American League, and have sunk to last place in the AL Central. Since the Royals have several of their best young players already in the majors and more on the way at Triple-A, it remains to be seen exactly how extensive their sell-off could be, beyond obvious pending free agents like Benintendi, Zack Greinke, or Carlos Santana. Such names as Michael A. Taylor or even longtime staple Whit Merrifield could potentially be available, depending on how much of a remodel Moore feels is necessary.
Of course, this wasn’t the plan for Moore and company, as the Royals thought they were on the verge of a breakout heading into the 2021 season. That offseason saw the club pick up veterans like Santana, Taylor, Mike Minor, and (in a three-team trade with the Red Sox and Mets) Benintendi to augment their younger core, but the results simply haven’t been there for the team.
Benintendi hasn’t been part of the problem, as he has hit .285/.339/.426 with 20 home runs over 825 plate appearances in a Royals uniform. With a 110 OPS+/111 wRC+ in that stretch, it represented a solid bounce-back for Benintendi after a subpar 2019 season in Boston and then essentially a lost 2020 season that was limited to 14 games by a rib injury. In addition to the above-average offense, Benintendi (who turns 28 on July 6) has also been a big contributor in the field, winning a Gold Glove for his left field work in 2021.
Last year’s work earned Benintendi an $8.5MM salary in his final year of arbitration eligibility, with the outfielder defeating the Royals in a hearing last month. Benintendi has roughly $4.4MM still owed in salary, so moving him earlier rather than later would allow the Royals to save a few dollars. As a rental player, Benintendi wouldn’t net Kansas City a huge prospect return, but he’d certainly bring back a quality minor leaguer or two. Any number of clubs in need of left field help and/or left-handed hitting could potentially fit as trade partners for Benintendi — speculatively, the Rays, Yankees, Guardians, Braves, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Mets, Marlins, or Rangers all make some sense as suitors.