The KC Royals found their new lefthanded hitter in Boston late Wednesday.
Just when you thought the KC Royals might need to abandon their search for another lefthanded bat, and didn’t have anything else up their transaction sleeve this winter, the club that was uncharacteristically active earlier in the offseason surprised baseball again.
The Royals finally found that elusive lefty hitter.
Outfielder Andrew Benintendi is the newest Royal, leaving behind the Boston team he’s played for his entire five-year career to join recent major free agent acquisitions Mike Minor, Carlos Santana and Michael A. Taylor on a bound-to-be-improved Kansas City club. The Royals picked Benintendi up in a three-team deal with the Red Sox and New York Mets.
Reaching a successful conclusion to a frustrating search didn’t come without a price. The Royals are sending outfielder Franchy Cordero to Boston, and outfield prospect Khalil Lee, who was ranked eighth on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 KC prospects list until the trade, to the Mets. Because Cordero was the presumptive left fielder if Moore’s search failed, Benintendi will likely take over the spot left vacant by Alex Gordon’s retirement.
And there’s even more for the Red Sox: Kansas City owes them two players to be named later, and the Mets will send them pitcher Josh Winckowski and a PTBNL.
If Benintendi isn’t exactly what General Manager Dayton Moore and the Royals wanted, he’s as close as KC can get in a thinned-out market. As we pointed out in this space recently, he has power—before an injury-plagued, 14-game, no-homer .103 2020 campaign, Benintendi hit 20 home runs in 2017, 16 in ’18 and 13 in ’19.
He also knows how to get on base, as his career .353 OBP and .273 average prove, and knows what to do when he gets there, as the 51 bases he’s stolen in his three full big league seasons aptly demonstrate.
At 26 (he’ll be 27 in July), Benintendi has a long career ahead of him, and he won’t be a free agent until after the 2022 season, giving the KC Royals two crucial years of club control as they work their way back to contention. Whether he’ll ultimately figure into long-term franchise plans remains to be seen.
Although the pair of players Kansas City will ship to Fenway Park hadn’t been identified late Wednesday night, expect at least one to be a pitcher. Danny Duffy is a possibility—he’s entering the final year of his contract and may be squeezed out when the club’s young prospects follow Brady Singer and Kris Bubic to Kauffman Stadium. But the $15.5 million the Royals owe Duffy for this season might be a deal breaker, especially considering the report from mlb.com’s Mark Feinsand (Twitter link) that Boston will pay $2.8 million of Benintendi’s $6.6 million salary.
But no matter who Kansas City loses, they’ve gained what Moore has long wanted.
Dayton Moore and the Royals got their wish Wednesday night. A new lefthanded bat will be in camp when spring training opens next week.