The Kansas City Royals have had one of their worst starts to a season in franchise history, but left fielder Andrew Benintendi is having perhaps the best campaign of his seven-year career.
In 51 games entering Sunday’s play, the 27-year-old is slashing .328 / .392 / .423 with a pair of home runs and 17 RBIs. He’s striking out at a career-low 14.2% clip and is walking at a 9.4% rate to boot. Benintendi’s power hasn’t been there this season but other than that, the 2021 Gold Glove winner has been fantastic. His 139 wRC +, per FanGraphs, is the eighth among all big-league outfielders. Despite being on a bad team, Benintendi has been nothing short of excellent in 2022.
There are a couple of caveats to this level of production, however: Benintendi is a free agent following the conclusion of this season and the Royals have yet to offer him a contract extension during the year. As such, many are beginning to clamor for the club to package him in a trade that could possibly return prospects. If Kansas City does nothing and loses Benintendi to the open market this winter, it won’t get those hypothetical trade returns. MLB.com recently listed some of its major trade candidates for this summer, and Benintendi was among that group. Here’s more on why:
Kansas City had hopes of contending for a postseason berth this year, but at 16-33, the Royals sit 12 games behind the Twins in the AL Central and 9 1/2 games out of an AL Wild Card spot. Benintendi is earning $ 8.5 million in his final year of arbitration and is slated to become a free agent at the end of the year, making him a prime trade candidate for clubs seeking corner-outfield help. The 27-year-old (he turns 28 on July 6) is slashing .337 / .402 / .431 with a 1.5 fWAR in 49 games, so he’ll be a solid addition to the top of some contender’s lineup.
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Benintendi, who recently won his arbitration case against the Royals, would undoubtedly help a contender. He’s peaking at the perfect time, which happens to coincide with his athletic prime. He’s likely to command a healthy salary this offseason from whichever team offers it to him, and multiple potential suitors should be lining up for his services. There are no reports that the Royals are in talks to extend Benintendi’s current deal, so it makes sense to reason that trading him is the best move.
In fact, Kansas City may be doing itself a disservice if it rides out the rest of this season with Benintendi. Not only would the Royals be punting on potential prospect returns, but they’d also forfeit the opportunity to open up a consistent opportunity for someone like Kyle Isbel or the eventually-returning Edward Olivares in the outfield. The Royals are entering a stage in which they have more players than holes to fill, and keeping a player who’s likely to leave at the end of the year anyway would continue to add to that logjam. 2022 isn’t a contending season, so why treat it like one?
There’s also a reason why the Royals could re-sign Benintendi this offseason, regardless of whether they trade him or let him test the free-agent market. If the club truly wanted him back, nothing would be holding it back from offering a new contract.
Trading him does not change that, and perhaps Benintendi would appreciate the opportunity to (at least temporarily) play for a contender and chase a World Series ring. Those elements do not typically factor into negotiations – the Royals’ kindness would not lead to a discount – but it does not prohibit the two sides from revisiting a long-term future in Kansas City over the winter.
Regardless of which reason you want to use, there are several that align with the Royals benefitting from trading Benintendi. It doesn’t have to be now (the trade deadline is on August 2), but less than two months remain until that time is here. If Kansas City truly wants to build for a successful future and doesn’t plan on extending Benintendi right now, the logical move is to ship him elsewhere. Not only will it help him play winning baseball for another team, but whatever the Royals get back will be the icing on the cake. The MLB.com article is in agreement.