The Royals Trade Benintendi to the Yankees…But Was It Enough?

In a bit of late news last night, the Kansas City Royals announced their trade of left fielder and All-Star game representative Andrew Benintendi to the New York Yankees…en route to New York for a four-game series against the Yankees, of course.

It’s not a surprise that the Royals traded Benintendi, as he was Kansas City’s most public and widely sought-trade piece this summer leading up to the August 2nd Trade Deadline (which will be next Tuesday). Ever since the All-Star break, it was not a matter of “if” Benny would be traded, but when.

In return, the Royals received three pitching prospects from the Yankees, none of whom have advanced beyond High-A over their Minor League careers.

As expected, the trade has been polarizing for many Royals fans, which has been seen in full force on Twitter and Reddit.

On one hand, some are happy that the Royals got a decent package for essentially a “rental”. Benintendi will be a free agent at the conclusion of the 2022 season, and it doesn’t seem likely that Benny will re-sign with the Yankees (or if the Yankees have interest in extending him beyond this year).

On the other hand, many Royals fans, especially those who have been frustrated with this front office for most of the season, were not quite as impressed.

None of the three were listed as Top-10 prospects in the Yankees system (at least according to Baseball America), and many were surprised that the Royals would acquire three pitchers when hitting development, not pitching development, has been their Minor League player development’s “calling card” over the past couple of seasons.

Therefore, did JJ Picollo (who’s been doing all the interviews and seems to be in charge this “hot stove” season) and the Royals front office get enough in this trade? And how does the deal affect not just the Yankees and Benintendi currently, but the Royals going forward, whether it’s this season or beyond?

Let’s take a deep dive into this trade and what it means for Benny, the Yankees, and the Royals.


Why Did the Yankees Want Benintendi?

The Yankees are one of the best teams in baseball, as their 66 wins are the most in baseball currently, and their winning percentage is only three percentage points behind the Dodgers when it comes to the best percentage in baseball. The Yankees offense ranks first in baseball in runs and home runs, as well as second in OPS.

It’s no surprise that the Yankees are not just the favorite in the American League East, but an AL Pennant and World Series one as well this postseason.

However, their outfield contribution has been questionable this year beyond Aaron Judge, which can be seen in the Fangraphs metrics tables below for Yankees outfielders this season:

Giancarlo Stanton has been producing on an offensive end, which is evidenced in his 125 wRC+ and 24 home runs. On the other hand, he is currently on the IL and his defense has been pretty poor, as he has been 4.8 runs BELOW average according to Def. This has suppressed his overall fWAR (1.3), and proves why he should just be a DH full time.

Matt Carpenter has also been on a tear recently, but his 229 wRC+ seems unsustainable, and his defense leaves some to be desired as well (-1.4 Def). And Yankees fans know all about Joey Gallo, who’s been bad on both an offensive and defensive end, as demonstrated by his 0.3 fWAR.

In fact, it seems like the Yankee fanbase’s disenchantment with Gallo, who was acquired at the Trade Deadline from Texas last season, was a big factor in the Yankees’ decision to pursue Benintendi, whose high-contact approach is a stark contrast to Gallo’s high-strikeout profile.

Benintendi’s defense hasn’t been quite as good this year, as he is producing a Def of -2.5 this season, which is worse than Carpenter and Gallo.

That being said, he fares much better on a DRS and UZR basis, as he is one run above average on a DRS end and 7.1 runs above average on a UZR end. Additionally, he did win a Gold Glove last year in left field, which is something Stanton or Carpenter can’t say (Gallo does have two Gold Gloves, though he’s known more for his arm).

At the very least, Benintendi solidifies the Yankees outfield with Hicks and Judge and allows them to move Carpenter around in a utility role since he can play multiple positions in the infield as well. Benintendi also gives manager Aaron Boone a guy who can make contact consistently and draw a walk at the top of the batting order, which the Yankees plan to do by batting him leadoff tonight.


Who Did the Royals Get In Return (And Why)?

The Yankees player development system is known for developing pitchers. Thus, it makes sense the Royals would tap into their pitching ranks in this trade.

I am not going to pretend to know much if anything about Yankees prospects beyond the obvious ones (i.e. Anthony Volpe and Jasson Dominguez), but Alex Duvall had a pretty good summary of the prospects in return on Royals Farm Report:

Here’s a snippet from Alex’s post that summarizes his views of the Royals’ return:

I’m going to give the trade a B+ overall. I would feel much better about it IF…
1. TJ Sikkema had been healthy last year
2. Either Way or Champlain had a better than 50/50 shot at starting long-term

I’m a believer in Sikkema. I think he’s incredibly talented and his “stuff” is sure-fire big league stuff. It’s just that pitchers don’t normally just stop being hurt once they’ve started. So…we’ll see. Overall, they got three crazy talented pitchers for two months of Andrew Benintendi and that’s about all you can ask for. Now we just sit back and see what happens now that they’re in the system.

“Thoughts on the Andrew Benintendi trade” by Alex Duvall; Royals Farm Report

I know Royals fans may have preferred hitting prospects in return, much like the Atlanta trade where outfielder Drew Waters was the primary piece. At the same time though, whenever a team trades with an opposing one, they want to get players who come from an area of strength in the opposing organization.

And there’s no question that the Yankees pitching development is that area of strength, as well as depth. Thus, the deal is a win-win for both organizations: the Royals get some much-needed pitching in the Minor Leagues, and the Yankees get their high-batting average corner outfielder.

While we could debate the capacity of the Royals’ pitching development team in the minors, the Royals need to re-stock the pitching in their farm system. That is especially true with Alec Marsh and Asa Lacy, two highly-rated Royals pitching prospects, going through their fair share of struggles this season which is a surprise as they were considered fringe Top-100 prospects going into this season.

While Brady Singer and Kris Bubic have made progress over the past month, and Daniel Lynch and Jon Heasley showed promise pre-injuries, there still is a bit of a dropoff in the Royals system starting pitching-wise, especially in that Double-A/High-A level. Sikkema, Way, and Champlain definitely help in this regard and provide a nice bridge between the depth of arms in Omaha, and the bevy of recently drafted prep arms in Low-A (Frank Mozzicato, Ben Kudrna, and Shane Panzini).

In addition, these three former Yankees prospects have proven to be “high-strikeout, low-walk” starting pitchers in the Minors this season. That kind of collective command has definitely been lacking from pitching prospects this season in the Royals system, so they will bring a nice boost to the Royals pitching corps in the Minors.

The three starters may not necessarily debut in the Royals organization any higher than High-A (at least that’s what Roster Resource thinks). That being said, it would not be surprising to see at least one of them make their way to Double-A Northwest Arkansas by the end of the season, with Sikkema the most likely candidate.

This is exciting to think about, especially when one checks out his clips on Twitter:

None of the three pitchers are “sexy” prospects by any means when it comes to prospect status.

But that’s not a bad thing, especially if the Royals can continue the progress that the Yankees Minor League pitching development team made with the three so far in 2022.


What Can Royals Fans Takeaway From This Deal?

The fact of the matter is that the Royal pitching development will need to take some steps forward this offseason, wherever or however it may be.

While people are harping about MAJOR changes in the system when it came to staff makeup of that development team, Royals Weekly did point out that Paul Gibson, who is the Director of Pitching Performance in the Minors is only one year in the job.

While they are being “tongue-in-cheek” of course, I think he’s onto something when it comes to major changes “not” happening this offseason, though a change in a pitching coach (or pitching coach team) at the Majors could be a step in the right direction.

Therefore, when it comes to these three recently acquired pitchers, Royals fans will just have to pay attention closely and see if their walk and strikeout numbers stay consistent in the transition, whether it’s in Columbia, Quad Cities, or Northwest Arkansas. If that remains the case, I think Royals fans can be hopeful about their potential, even if only one may be a starter long-term (which seems to be Sikkema).

As for the Major League squad, I am curious how many trades the Royals front office has left in them.

And right now, my gut says it may be only one or two, with the one being the more realistic scenario.

It’s just going to be tough for teams to get highly-rated prospect capital for non-star players. If Benintendi cannot get a Top-10 prospect in return, then it is unlikely that Whit Merrifield or Michael A. Taylor can do so as well (who have been the Royals’ most widely rumored trade pieces).

In addition, it seems like Picollo and the Royals are going to react to what the market dictates, which could make “big returns” even less likely at the August 2nd deadline. Nonetheless, he did say it could be “interesting”, which makes one think that Picollo will be more eager to trade players away, unlike his GM predecessor Dayton Moore.

Now that the Royals’ biggest trade piece has been dealt away, it probably will be important for Royals fans to temper their expectations when it comes to possible trade returns. The more important part of this trade deadline season will not necessarily be the “star power” of who the Royals return, but the opportunities that will open up for younger players on the Royals roster as a result of those veterans being traded away.

Seeing younger players like Kyle Isbel, Nate Eaton, Michael Massey, and even Maikel Garcia (who got called up and got the start tonight) get more opportunities at the big league level is the most important thing for now, especially with Whit and Taylor (and maybe Scott Barlow) being the only tradeable players right now on the market. It’s likely that the Royals’ trade returns will be far more underwhelming than what they got from New York on Wednesday night.

And that’s okay…

The focus needs to be on who the Royals currently have on the 40-man roster (or players who are close to being added).

The other prospects, including new ones to the system, can wait until 2023 at the earliest.

Photo Credit: Reed Hoffmann/Getty Images

3 thoughts on “The Royals Trade Benintendi to the Yankees…But Was It Enough?

  1. good article, and I agree. It is far too early to try and calculate who “won” this trade, and in the best trades, both teams win. For me, we need to be supportive and encouraging for the front office – fans have long wished this team were more transactional. As they start moving in that direction, if the fanbase and bloggers only complain that it is never enough, how will that impact the team’s approach. For me, we clearly need help with pitching, and I love the return here. At least one, and possibly 2 future starters plus a bullpen arm – yes please. Or I guess we could have just kept Foster Griffin …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! And I agree, I think the “winners and losers” of trades are always an overrated aspect of trades. The whole point is finding win-win for both sides. At the very least, on the surface level, you can say both the Yankees and Royals address organizational needs immediately through this trade.

      I agree that being supportive is important, and I think JJ wants to be more transactional than Dayton. They definitely have demonstrated that this year with trading Santana and Benny, and hopefully Whit and/or MAT. I think honestly though, with some Royals fans, it will never be enough, no matter what this org does. They could clean house, and they will still find problems with the replacements. I know this has been a disappointing year, but it also becomes kind of tiresome that Royals fans, especially online, just harp on the same arguments over and over again even when the org addresses them.

      Like

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