Andrew Benintendi, for all of this season the best and most consistent hitter the KC Royals have had, will almost certainly be on the field tonight when the club opens a four-game series with New York at Yankee Stadium.
But it won’t be as a Royal.
Kansas City made sure of that late Wednesday evening when it traded Benintendi to the Yanks (Twitter link) for minor league pitching prospects T.J. Sikkema, Beck Way and Chandler Champlain.
Thus ends Benintendi’s short KC career—after coming to the Royals in a three-team deal after the 2020 season, he won a Gold Glove last year in what will be his only full season with the club, and was leading Royals regulars in average (.320) and OBP (.387) when the team made the trade official.
Benintendi is sure to enhance the Yankees’ already solid postseason prospects—they lead the American League East by 11.5 games coming into tonight’s contest—but how does the deal look for the Royals, who tumbled back into the AL Central cellar after losing to the Angels Wednesday?
The KC Royals picked up three pitchers, but one has missed two full seasons.
At first glance, the return on Benintendi looks excellent. Among New York prospects, MLB Pipeline ranked Sikkema 19th and Way 21st when Wednesday night’s deal was consummated.
Southpaw Sikkema, however, carries the uncertainty of not having pitched much professionally until this season.
A first round pick of the Yankees in the 2019 amateur draft after three seasons at Missouri, Sikkema, who features four and two-seamers, a slider and a changeup, pitched four times that summer for short season Low-A Staten Island, where he gave up just one run and struck out 13 in 10.2 innings. He missed the pandemic-canceled 2020 campaign, then all of last season with shoulder and lat injuries.
Many organizations would have kept Sikkema in Low-A this season, but the Yankees promoted him to High-A instead. He was 1-1 with a 2.48 ERA, 13.38 K/9, and 0.83 WHIP in 11 games (10 starts) when traded Wednesday. And his control is good—he’s walked only 10 in 47 career innings (1.9 BB/9).
Those numbers suggest his two seasons out of action might not be of major concern.
Beck Way is another starting pitcher the KC Royals received from New York.
The Royals also picked up Beck Way, a righthander with two pro seasons under his belt since the Yankees picked him in the fourth round of the 2020 draft. He obviously didn’t pitch that summer, but went 4-3, 3.98 across stops in Low-A and High-A last year; he struck out 83 in 63.1 innings, but walked 38.
Way was 5-5, 3.73 with a 9.95 K/9 in 15 High-A starts through Wednesday, and his 3.24 BB/9 indicates his control is improving.
Way brings a four-pitch repertoire (fastball, curve, change and slider) to the Kansas City organization.
Of the three starters coming to the Royals, Chandler Champlain is the rookie.
Another starting pitcher rounds out the return for Benintendi. New York selected righty Chandler Champlain in last year’s amateur draft and he started his pro career this season at Low-A Tampa, where he was 2-5, 4.30 in 16 games. Despite that pedestrian record, he fanned 94 in 73.1 innings (11.54 K/9), and his 2.33 BB/9 suggests he’s not wild.
It’s early, but how should this KC Royals transaction be evaluated?
Final analysis of Wednesday night’s trade must, of course, wait until Benintendi has played for New York, and Sikkema, Way and Champlain for the Kansas City organization, for at least the rest of this season. But the first impression can be good.
Some will find the return for Benintendi disappointing, primarily because the three hurlers coming to the Royals aren’t big league-ready. But that’s the nature of trade deadline deals—contenders like the Yankees aren’t giving up established major leaguers in the heat of a pennant race, so the Benintendi market was never going to be overwhelming.
And some, citing the Royals’ recent record with young pitchers, will criticize the deal. Why, they’ll say, did the club trade for pitchers when it’s having trouble developing the ones they have?
The answer is simple—teams can never have too much good pitching. Wednesday’s trade is designed to bring in more. And Sikkema, Way and Champlain have talent and potential, which isn’t a bad return for Benintendi who, had they kept him, surely would have moved on to free agency after the season.
All trades are gambles. This one may, or may not, work out for Kansas City. But the deal certainly seems promising.
Andrew Benintendi is no longer with the Royals. But three new pitchers are.