The KC Royals have an Andrew Benintendi problem

Andrew Benintendi, the talented outfielder who arrived in Kansas City last season to fill the shoes of retired KC Royals left fielder and franchise icon Alex Gordon, is in a slump.

He picked up this season no worse for the wear than last, finishing April with a .373/.419/.463 line, numbers even better than the September-October .342/.398/.570 slash with which he closed out 2021.

Benintendi’s May stats, however, bear no resemblance to last fall’s or this April’s. Since having his third three-hit game of the season last Friday at Colorado, Benintendi is only 2-for-14, and he’s hitting only .224 this month, His OBP and SLG have plunged to .313 and .328.

But his hitting, which more likely than not will come around soon, isn’t the overriding issue the Royals have concerning Benintendi.

His future with the club is. It’s a problem the club needs to solve.

Benintendi, recent winner of his arbitration case against the Royals, is eligible for free agency the day after this year’s World Serie ends. Even before that, though, comes the big league trade deadline, and there will be contending clubs interested in his services for their stretch runs.

So the Royals must, before long, decide what to do with him.

The KC Royals could pursue a pre-free agency deal with Andrew Benintendi.

Kansas City’s has been an outfield in flux for too many seasons. Even before Gordon retired after the 2020 campaign, center and right fields had revolving doors—the Royals simply couldn’t find a satisfactory replacement for center fielder Lorenzo Cain after his departure to Milwaukee following the 2017 season, and right field was wide open.

Some stability seemed to have arrived for 2021 when the club signed Michael A. Taylor to play center, traded for Benintendi, and planned to move Whit Merrifield from second base to right. But Adalberto Mondesi’s injuries forced Merrifield back to second.

Fortunately, the club had its best defensive outfield in many years. Benintendi and Taylor both won their first Gold Gloves, which bright KC’s prospects for this season—with Benintendi and his resurgent bat already under team control, the team signed Taylor to a two-year deal before they played their last 2021 game.

Now, right field seems to belong to Kyle Isbel and Edward Olivares; Isbel is playing well and Olivares, who’s hitting .371 in 15 games, should return from the Injured List in a few weeks. Taylor’s glove remains superb, but his weaker bat and two-year contract render him an unlikely deadline target.

Benintendi is the issue. Few players on the verge of free agency sign extensions, especially when, like Benintendi, they’ve never been free agents before. Extensions provide security, but also deprive players from testing a market where they might find richer deals. And the Royals typically don’t engage in free agent bidding wars, making it even more likely Benintendi can find better terms elsewhere.

Should Kansas City try to keep Benintendi in the fold? Of course. It never hurts to try, and nothing ventured is nothing gained. Perhaps he and the Royals can find common ground and he’ll stay for a few years; that will require a significant financial sacrifice for a team that negotiated new multi-year contracts with Salvador Perez (at least $82 million for four years beginning this season) and Hunter Dozier ($25 million for four) last year, and could consider offering Bobby Witt Jr. a long-term arrangement even before he’s arbitration-eligible.

Don’t expect the Royals and Benintendi to do a new deal, though, at least not during the season.

The KC Royals are likely to move Andrew Benintendi at the trade deadline.

Assuming he’s hitting well, suitors of Benintendi will ring Kansas City’s phones off the hook in July and early August. Certain to be attractive at this season’s extended trade deadline (5 p.m. CDT Aug. 2) are his power, ability to get on base and excellent defense.

So, if the Royals are confident they can’t work a long-term deal with him, they’ll listen carefully to offers, especially if they’re not in contention (and they probably won’t be).

Are they in prime position personnel-wise to trade Benintendi? Probably. Isbel and Olivares can both play left; Isbel is under team control through the 2027 season, Olivares through 2026. So Kansas City has options, and getting a couple of good prospects, or even a big leaguer, in return for Benintendi is better than losing him in free agency.

Things could change, though—the team and Benintendi might come to new terms, an extended slump could drive down his trade value, or injury might intervene.

We’ll know soon enough. But all things considered, the Royals’ solution to the Benintendi issue is to plan for a trade.

Kansas City has an Andrew Benintendi problem. A timely trade seems to be the solution.