The KC Royals faced several issues as the short 2020 season wound down. Their rotation was troublesome, their hitting shaky, and the first base hole remained unfilled as the club neared the end of its third campaign without Eric Hosmer.
Then, with only four games left before the Royals headed home for the winter instead of to the playoffs, local hero Alex Gordon unavoidably compounded the club’s problems when he made his retirement official.
That Gordon bowing out wasn’t unexpected didn’t reduce the front office stress his leaving created. While his bat had lost its former luster (he’d finish the year at .209), his defense remained magnificent—he won his eighth Gold Glove after the season ended. Gordon leaving moved finding a new left fielder, hopefully a left-handed hitting one, to the top of then-General Manager Dayton Moor’s offseason priority list.
The search, unlike Moore’s efforts to find a first baseman, center fielder and starting pitcher that landed Carlos Santana, Michael A. Taylor and Mike Minor, took time. But in mid-February, just days from the opening of spring training, Moore got his man. The club acquired Andrew Benintendi, an established left fielder who just happened to swing left-handed, from Boston in a three-way deal with the Red Sox and Mets.
But Benintendi came at a price, one that seemed high at the time. He cost Kansas City outfielder Franchy Cordero, an oft-injured but promising prospect obtained eight months before from San Diego in the Tim Hill deal, and hot homegrown outfield prospect Khalil Lee; Cordero went to Boston, Lee to New York. (The Royals later sent minor leaguers Luis De La Rosa and Grant Gambrell to the Sox to complete the trade).
So, a year later, who should be declared winner of the trade? We posed a similar question late last April; although Benintendi was hitting only .227 at the time, we gave the edge to Kansas City because Cordero was mired in a deeper slump and, because he didn’t make the Mets’ Opening Day roster and the minor leagues hadn’t started their season, Lee hadn’t yet played.
Now, the winner is clear.
The KC Royals are hands down winners of last winter’s Andrew Benintendi trade.
The Royals didn’t just win the three-team Benintendi deal, they dominated it. Although Benintendi started slowly and later missed some time with a fractured rib, he hit .340 in May and, after finding his stroke and shaking off rib injured injury, exploded in September and October—he slashed .342/.398/.570 and drove in 29 runs from Sept. 1 through the season’s final game Oct. 3. He ended the campaign with a more than respectable .274/.347/.437 line, 17 homers and 73 RBIs.
And, like his predecessor, his defense sparkled, so much so that he won his first Gold Glove.
Cordero, on the other hand, struggled in the majors. He hit only .189 and homered just once in 48 games with Boston, numbers that caused him to spend most of the year in Triple-A where he hit .300 with 13 homers.
Lee’s 2021 was similar. The Mets called him up in mid-May and he struggled to a one-hit, .056 average before they optioned him back to Triple-A where he posted a .274 average and stellar .451 OBP, and hit 14 homers.
So, a year later and without question, the winner of the Benintendi deal is Kansas City.
The Royals definitely dominated the Andrew Benintendi trade.