After another loss to the crosstown Mets, the New York Yankees have made the first big move of trade season 2022, sending three pitching prospects to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for outfielder Andrew Benintendi. The Royals will add T.J. Sikkema, Beck Way, and Chandler Champlain to their farm system. MLB Pipeline ranked both Sikkema (No. 19) and Way (No. 21) on the Yankees’ top prospects list.
Power for Contact
Benintendi’s first season with the Royals was 2021, and he was painfully average. He hit 17 home runs with a 106 OPS+ and a .324 OBP. Nothing too special. He has since traded any resemblance of power for getting on base; the former first-round pick owns a .321 average and a .389 OBP this season. (For context, Aaron Judge is the only Yankee with an average over .280.) Despite a career-worst .399 slugging, Benintendi currently has a career-best 124 OPS+.
This move is the exact opposite of last year’s trade for Joey Gallo, though both were acquired to fill the same hole. Benintendi has a strikeout rate of just 13.5 percent while Gallo has been one of the worst hitters in baseball this season, especially when it comes to batting average. The Yankees aren’t a team that seems too concerned with their batting average, but Benintendi still brings on-base percentage, much more than Gallo ever did. He also won a Gold Glove in left field last season, a bonus for the Yanks.
Benintendi is known to Yankee fans as the former World Series-winning Red Sox outfielder. A concern with him is his vaccination status. When the Royals recently traveled to Toronto, Benintendi could not play in Canada. The Yankees have one more regular season series in Toronto and could face the Blue Jays in the postseason. However, Jon Heyman reported that the Jays were also in on Benintendi, meaning that he may be willing to get vaccinated for the team down the stretch.
Kansas City did not get a massive haul back because Benintendi is a free agent after the season. The Yankees have a plethora of pitching prospects, so there is still value here. Sikkema was a supplemental first-round draft pick in 2019, selected with the choice the Yankees acquired for Sonny Gray (not the name that Yankee fans want to hear around the deadline). He was injured early in his professional career but has a 2.48 ERA in 11 games (10 starts) at High-A this year. Way and Champlain are also starters. All three pitchers have significant strikeout numbers but currently reside in the low levels of the minors.
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