The Yankees have already watched how much even a mediocre offensive player who can put bat on ball can change their lineup, as Isiah Kiner-Falefa has already become a folk hero despite a decidedly below-average start to the season. When they’ve needed a knock, though, he’s usually provided it.
With that in mind, why are the Bombers waiting so long to move Joey Gallo and Aaron Hicks down in the pecking order with the beyond-obvious addition of Andrew Benintendi?
Still just 27 years old and headed for free agency at the end of the season (thanks to the Red Sox daringly promoting him for the 2016 stretch run), Benny Biceps is now a valuable Kansas City Royal. He’s posted 1.5 WAR already in 2022 in 168 at-bats with a .327 average and 139 OPS+. Though his Statcast numbers were slightly suspect at the beginning of the year, Benintendi has now inched them up significantly past the midpoint.
His average exit velocity (67th percentile) and maximum exit velocity (66th percentile) aren’t raising alarm bells precipitating a major drop. Add in his excellent strikeout and chase rates, and you have a player who will likely keep taking his walks, rarely whiff, and scald the ball once a game. If the Yankees haven’t called yet, they’d better do it soon.
For the Yankees at the deadline, the choice might come down to: Benintendi or Ian Happ, who’s cheaper?
Our inclination is to yell, “Why not both?” but our familiarity with Benintendi, as well as his impending free agency, seem to team up to scream, “He’s the one. And do it now.”
This Yankees-Andrew Benintendi trade package should work
How about Trey Sweeney, Luis Medina and Brandon Lockridge for one half-year of Benintendi? Sweeney is a consensus top-10 Yankees prospect (No. 6 in MLB Pipeline’s list) despite a down year in his first full pro season. Medina, No. 11 on MLB’s list, has parlayed his Futures Game appearance in 2021 into an effectively wild start to 2022, with high strikeout totals, a low ERA, and an escalating WHIP. Lockridge, Rule 5 eligible after this season (and MLB’s No. 17), could get reps in KC’s outfield by the end of this campaign.
Typically, we’d try to attach a catcher like Anthony Seigler instead, but the Royals already have a Salvador Perez/MJ Melendez debacle brewing behind the plate (so much so that some publications have targeted Melendez for the Yankees. Lockridge would give KC three top-20 prospects in the deal, something they probably shouldn’t refuse.
Of course, the Royals — with .500 in their sites to start the season — are somehow as tire fire-y as they’ve been post-2010, and seem to have decided to continue being middling at all costs.
This newfound dedication to the form may see them trade Benintendi quickly — or, perhaps they’ll make another mistake here and hold him eternally until the flame extinguishes and he hits free agency.
The Yankees cannot ride with Gallo and Hicks in their current prominent positions for the rest of the season if they intend on making any playoff noise.
Benintendi, a seasoned pro at 27, would make a great deal of sense. You can imagine the Yankees being reticent to trade Sweeney, but they should eventually bear down and do it if Benny Lineup Balance is on the table.