With Aaron Hicks collapsing at the plate and Joey Gallo not quite rounding into the form we thought he would, the Yankees may be in need of some outfield help for the rest of the season. The trade deadline is far away and the market hasn’t even begun to begin to form, so the idea of a trade is a remote one at best. One player casually linked to the Yankees is outfielder Andrew Benintendi, former first round pick of the Red Sox (2015, pick 7), currently of the Kansas City Royals, who’ll reach free agency at the end of this season.
On the surface, he seems like he’d be a good fit, simply because he’s a lefty hitter. Who doesn’t love a lefty hitter in Yankee stadium? Benintendi also fits a more contact-oriented mold that the Yankees have sought after recently. After some high strikeout rates at the end of his tour in Boston (22.8 % in 2019; 32.7 in 2020), he’s knocked his strikeout rate back into the teens with the Royals and it’s currently at a career low 13.7%. Additionally, aside from a low rate of 6.7% last year, Benintendi has posted good walk rates in his career.
His career .159 ISO is fine, though it’s down to .094 this year after .166 in 2021 and .026 (!) in 2020. Power might not be something the Yankees could count on from him, but with his contact and walk skills, they could live with a lack of power.
In the past, Benintendi hasn’t exactly stung the ball, as players the Yankees like tend to do. These last two years in KC have seen him rank in the 55th and 67th percentiles for exit velocity, which are career highs back-to-back. The same goes for his hard hit percentage at 66 and 59.
One note of concern this year is that Benintendi is really beating the ball into the ground, with a GB% of near 50%, a career high outside of a shortened and disastrous 2020. He’s had success with it, but I’m not sure how sustainable it is. He’s hitting. 348 on grounders this year, despite never hitting higher than .310 on them, and that was in his debut year of 2016. There might be a correction coming there, but the same could be said for his grounder rate overall. If his grounders fall in favor of his fly balls and line drives rising back to career norms, there could be a power restoration for him. Such a restoration would play very well in Yankee Stadium.
By outs above average, he’s never been a good outfielder, save for 2018 when he was in the 61st percentile. Aside from that, he’s been rated pretty terribly, though he’s up to the 39th percentile this year.
I’m not sure what it would take to get him and I’m terrible at trade proposals, so I’ll pass on that.
Is he perfect as a trade candidate? Probably not. But he’s not a bad one, either. The Yankees could do a lot worse and, given the state of the outfield at the moment, he’d be a good fit.