Right at the heart of all the regression in the Red Sox lineup this season has been 25-year-old outfielder Andrew Benintendi.
The former first-round pick out of the University of Arkansas appeared to have struck a happy medium between average and power in 2018, slashing .290/.366/.465 with 16 home runs, 87 runs batted in, 41 doubles, and six triples. A huge step in the right direction after an already impressive rookie campaign in 2017.
Many looked forward to what appeared to be a potential coming out party in 2019, where Benintendi would be hammering the ball to all fields en route to potentially his first All-Star Game.
However, that hasn’t happened to this point. Through 86 games in 2019, Benintendi has slashed .266/.348/.428 with just eight home runs and 43 runs batted in. Now Benintendi has hit 25 doubles and four triples this season, but the fact of the matter is that no. 16 has seen his strikeout rate skyrocket from 16 percent last season to 23.3 percent this season. His walk rate has stayed just about the same, and his batting average on balls in play is .339 (26th in baseball) –– there’s just something new to his approach this year that has taken a toll on his production.
The Red Sox offense has been just fine this season without a huge output from their 2015 first-round pick, but with the struggles in the bullpen and lack of top-tier talent in the farm system, one must ask: Is Andrew Benintendi is an expendable commodity for the Red Sox?
If your answer is no, hear me out on why he could be. Yes, he’s only 25 years old. Yes, he still has three more seasons of team control. However, in an outfield as stacked as the Red Sox, you need to be able to hold your weight offensively or defensively.
This season, Benintendi has produced just 102 wRC+ (T-44th among qualifying outfielders), and a wOBA of .331 (T-42nd). You need to look no further than the arch-rival Yankees to find an outfielder producing at that level: Brett Gardner, 35, has 105 wRC+ and a wOBA of .331 as well.
So when you look at the huge need for a top-tier closer, is Brett Gardner-level production enough to keep Benintendi untouchable?
Not too sure, but it certainly could save Dombrowski some prospects in a potential one-for-one deal.
And it’s not to say he 100 percent should be included in a deal for a reliever, but if San Diego is willing to trade Kirby Yates –– 1.05 ERA and a league-leading 31 saves –– straight up for Benintendi, you’d be foolish to not consider it if you’re Dave Dombrowski.
Yes, Benintendi is a fan-favorite. But when you’re in a market such as Boston, you can’t afford to get too attached to players. Benintendi is a great talent, but he’s replaceable for the right return.