10:10pm: The Yankees announced the trade.
9:52pm: In return, Kansas City is acquiring pitching prospects TJ Sikkema, Chandler Champlain and Beck Wayreports Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).
9:45pm: The Royals will acquire three minor league players in return, reports Jeff Passan of ESPN (on Twitter).
9:38pm: The Yankees are set to acquire outfielder Andrew Benintendi from the Royals, reports Jack Curry of the YES Network (Twitter link). New York has sought an outfield upgrade in recent weeks, and they’ll fill the gap by landing one of the top rental bats on the market.
Benintendi has been one of the game’s most obvious trade candidates for the past few months. The Royals entered 2022 with designs on competing, but they stumbled to a 16-32 through the end of May. That made Kansas City an obvious likely deadline seller, and an impending free agent like Benintendi a strong candidate to change uniforms.
New York adds a contact-oriented bat to their outfield mix. Benintendi owns a .321/.389/.399 on the year, walking at a strong 10.1% clip while only punching out in 13.5% of his trips to the plate. He’s only connected on three home runs, but Benintendi leads the majors with 91 singles and has picked up 14 doubles. He hasn’t looked like the 15-20 homer bat he was during his early seasons with the Red Sox, but he’s made contact on a strong 82.6% of his swings.
Benintendi’s production has been propped up by a career-high .368 batting average on balls in play. As a line drive hitter who uses the entire field, he typically generates solid results on batted balls, although it’s unlikely the Yankees are anticipating his 2022 mark remaining quite so high. Even if his BABIP regresses closer to his .325 career mark, his plate discipline and bat control should support a solid on-base percentage.
Those plus bat-to-ball skills contrast Benintendi sharply with the player whom he’s likely to displace from the lineup, Joey Gallo. New York’s biggest deadline pickup last summer, Gallo has struggled mightily since landing in the Bronx. He’s a .160/.293/.371 hitter in 498 plate appearances as a Yankee, striking out at a massive 38.4% clip over that stretch. Among hitters with 200+ plate appearances this season, Gallo has the third-highest strikeout rate (38.1%) and third-lowest rate of contact on swings (62.2%).
The Yankees are now set to roll out an outfield of Benintendi, MVP candidate Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks — owner of a massive .333/.471/.593 line this month after a slow start to the season — on most days. Giancarlo Stanton is the primary designated hitter, although he landed on the injured list yesterday. New York has already begun to cut back Gallo’s playing time while working the scorching hot Matt Carpenter into the corner outfield mix, and tonight’s acquisition is the firmest signal yet the Yankees are prepared to squeeze Gallo out of the mix entirely. It stands to reason they’ll try to find a taker for him in trade before next Tuesday’s deadline.
Judge has adequately handled a move from right to center field this year, leaving Hicks and Benintendi to handle the corners. The latter has played exclusively left field since landing in Kansas City’s spacious home ballpark, rating well in the eyes of both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating. Statcast’s Outs Above Average has pegged him as exactly a scratch defender in each of the past two years. He should add an adequate to above-average glove in the outfield while offering a notable improvement over Gallo’s recent work at the plate. It’ll be a notable boost to a lineup that already led the majors with 523 runs scored.
More to come.