After trading Mookie Betts and David Price last offseason, the Red Sox are entering a rebuild. Benintendi’s trade value is low right now, but other teams will see the upside in a player who was a top-level prospect and finished second in 2017 American Rookie of the Year.
According to Jim Bowden, Boston is in ‘serious trade talks’ with multiple teams about Benintendi. They are looking to improve a farm system which ranks among the worst in MLB and are targeting pitchers and outfielders in trade talks. With Betts gone, Jackie Bradley Jr. hitting free agency and Benintendi likely traded, it’s no surprise to see an onus on picking up quality outfield prospects.
Benintendi is owed just $6 million next season and he’s under club control through 2022. High salaries have driven down the prospect return in other high-profile trades this offseason – the Red Sox face no such issue for a talented, controllable outfielder. Benintendi’s recent numbers suggest they could be selling low, however.
Benintendi is projected to be a 102 wRC+ hitter in 2021 per Steamer. His 2020 was restricted to just 14 games, and he sat at league average in 2019.
Defense has been an issue, too. The Red Sox left fielder recorded -10 by Statcast’s outs above average in 2019.
As the Red Sox have tried to get Benintendi to lift the ball more, his numbers have fallen. He was 10th percentile in expected batting average in 2018, but his approach changed for the following season. He barrelled the ball more, and got better elevation. The price was many more strikeouts and a lower average – he dropped from 122 wRC+ in 2018 to 100 the following year.
The 4.4 fWAR version of 2018 is what the Red Sox will be trying to sell. How many teams believe he can return to that level?
Potential Benintendi trades
A lot of teams should consider a Benintendi trade. Left field is a weak spot for many across both leagues. With the Red Sox looking for solid prospect return, the number of suitors will be far lower than it perhaps should be. The Indians and Phillies, for instance, were two of the worst teams in left field production last season. Neither are realistic suitors for Benintendi.
The Royals, Cubs and Pirates fall into a similar category. Chicago is accumulating assets, Kansas City is not ready for such a trade and Pittsburgh is being Pittsburgh.
Trading for Benintendi makes most sense for teams trending upwards (or hoping to). He would be an interesting addition for the Miami Marlins, who have the prospect capital to easily make a deal. Kameron Misner and/or Dax Fulton are pieces Miami can afford to give up as they pursue another playoff berth in 2021.
At the center of offseason rumors aplenty, the Toronto Blue Jays are a name to watch out for. With the Rays possibly taking a step back, the Jays will fancy themselves to push on in 2021. If they can’t sign George Springer, a trade for Benintendi would be a good way to add upside to a roster stacked with young talent.
The Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves are two teams to watch in this race, too. Houston has three outfielders hitting free agency. Atlanta will probably see Marcell Ozuna walk. Whether the Astros want to delve into their depleted farm system for a Benintendi trade is unknown, and it would require Kyle Tucker to vacate left field. Benintendi is a cheaper alternative for a roster with several sizeable contracts.
It’s easy for front offices to talk themselves into a Benintendi trade. The raw talent is there, as is the All-Star potential. The suspicion, though, is that the Red Sox’s demands will be a long way off what teams are willing to give up.