The full-time left fielder for the Boston Red Sox since 2017 has been a young man whose five-foot-nine-inches frame dwarfs in comparison to the behemoth, 37-foot-2-inch-high wall he roams in front of inside the living museum he calls his place of employment. The young man? Andrew Benintendi. The Wall? The fabled Green Monster. The place? Fenway Park.
2021 Red Sox Trade Rumors: Moving at a Glacial Pace
Benintendi may find himself no longer the left fielder at America’s Most Beloved Ballpark by the end of this weekend, if any of the 2021 Red Sox Trade Rumors are true. Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in just thirty-three days, and the biggest free agency splash so far has been the Chicago White Sox signing Liam Hendriks to a record breaking three-year, $54 million dollar deal. The Red Sox front office continue to be the “interest” kings in free agency, and the trade market could just be what the doctor ordered.
Teams desperate to be better in 2021 need to ramp it up, and ramp it up quickly. It has been reported recently by ESPN Insider Buster Olney that the Red Sox will upgrade in 2021.
2021 Red Sox Trade Rumors: Benny Baseball
Andrew Benintendi was drafted in 2015 by the Boston Red Sox, with the seventh overall pick, out of the University of Arkansas. Benintendi was arguably the best position player in NCAA Division I Baseball that year, putting together a sophomore season for the Arkansas record book, with a hitting line of .376/.488/.717/1.205. He led the SEC in batting average, home runs (20), slugging percentage, on-base percentage, and walks (50).
Benintendi also look home the following accolades: the Golden Spikes Award, the Dick Howser Trophy, SEC Male Athlete of the Year, Baseball America National Player of the Year, and was named the Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Year. Benintendi was primed for superstardom.
The stardom didn’t end in college, as in February of 2017, Benintendi was named the number one prospect in the Red Sox farm system, jumping from Double-A Portland right to the majors. Benintendi finished his minor league career hitting .312/.392/.540/.932 between Greenville, Lowell, Salem and Portland. He quickly rose to fan-favorite status in his 34 2016 regular games due to producing on the field with a line of .295/.359/.476/ (OPS+ 118), his boyish good looks, flowing hair, and infectious bromance with utility man Brock Holt. Benintendi looked like the Red Sox left fielder of the future.
Benintendi finished his first full MLB season runner up to Yankees Aaron Judge in the Rookie of the Year voting, hitting .271/.352/.424/.776 (103 OPS+), in 151 games, with a WAR of 2.9. 2018 was his breakout season, finishing with a line of .290/.366/.465/.830 (123 OPS+), a WAR of 4.5, and a World Series Championship.
What exactly happened? How come a player who was seemingly a great fit for Boston, a proven winner, an above league average player, how come he’s on the trade block?
Baseball is not the kindest of sports. Season to season, there is variability of change, sometimes for the better, other times for the worst. A player the caliber of Mookie Betts can put together a very good, but down season by his standards. The perfect example being in 2017, when he hit .264/.344/.459/.803 (108 OPS+) and finished outside the top ten in WAR with a 6.3. Benintendi’s offensive numbers in 2018 were in fact better than Betts’ in 2017, although he fell in comparison of WAR. In 2018, the whole baseball world saw Betts have an unreal, .346/.438/.640/ (186 OPS+) season, on his way to an American League MVP and surmounting himself as the second best player in MLB behind Mike Trout.
2019 was unkind to Benintendi, as his numbers dropped to .266/.343/.431/.774 (100 OPS+). Those were down from 2018 for sure, but nothing overly alarming. He just needed a bounce back in 2020. If 2019 was unkind, 2020 was a festering open wound of pain. Benintendi played in just 14 games, missing the remainder of the shortened 2020 60-game season after a rib injury and hitting .103/.314/.128 (27 OPS+). Can Benny become the player he once was? There’s still time, and still potential. We’re talking about someone whose final college season was better than Dansby Swanson‘s and Alex Bregman‘s, the number one and two overall in the same draft class. Benintendi has a great deal of upside left in his bat.
2021 Red Sox Trade Rumors: A Left Field Without Benintendi
Ozuna’s had an impressive line in 2020 of .338/.431/.636/1.067 (175 OPS+). He led the National League in total bases with 145, finished sixth in the NL MVP voting, and he had one heck of a game for himself at Fenway in 2020. Red Sox fans were screaming for that swing to become a fixture at Fenway. At 30 years of age, Ozuna will most likely be looking for a deal around five years at a large annual salary. This might not be the exact path the Red Sox decide to go down.
According to Red Sox Stats, Pederson’s 2021 projected WAR and plate appearances rank above Benintendi. Pederson’s career numbers, .230/.336/.470/.806/ (116 OPS+) paint a slightly better picture than Benintendi’s career line, .273/.353/.435/.789 (107 OPS+), but at what cost? Pederson’s numbers are not eye-popping and he too had a down season. Pederson does however possess far greater power than Benintendi, with 130 career home runs to Benintendi’s 51. Why give Pederson the opportunity for bounce back, but not the asset the Red Sox already possess?
Michael Brantley has put together a very nine 12-year MLB career. .297/.354/.440/.794 (116 OPS+), to go along with 114 home runs. His 2020 line of .300/.364/.476/.840 was very good, and his OPS+ of 126 was one of the better of his recent career. At 33 years old, Brantley is a solid short term addition until outfield prospect Jarren Duran is ready for the majors.
Kris Bryant is a three time All-Star, 2016 National League MVP, and World Series Champion. Kris Bryant sure sounds like a great addition to nearly any team. He would most likely cost less in prospects given that after 2021 he would be a free agent, and he’s had multiple down and injury riddled seasons since 2017. It’s hard to not believe that Bryant is not destined for a great comeback season in 2021. Again, much could be said the same for Benintendi, yet Bryant’s comeback could prove to be MVP worthy.
Does Kris Bryant to the Red Sox make any sense? On paper not really, not with burgeoning superstar Rafael Devers at third base, meaning Devers either changes positions and moves to first base, or Bryant takes over for Benintendi in left field. Devers moving to first doesn’t make sense, not with the power-hitting Bobby Dalbec and potential All-Star Triston Casas down in the minor leagues. Bryant playing left field doesn’t make much sense either, as it takes him away from his natural position. Kris Bryant speculation stems mostly from rumors that the Red Sox had interest in Bryant, according to the Chicago Tribune, this past summer, and went as far as to engage in trade discussions with the Cubs.
A trade for Kris Brant will most likely not happen for the Red Sox, but it sure would heat up those 2021 Red Sox trade rumors and one never really knows. Stranger things have happened. Just don’t hold your collective breath on this one Red Sox fans.
2021 will be better for the Boston Red Sox, and whether or not Andrew Benintendi will be a part of it, that’s up in the air as of this moment. Wherever Benintendi plays in 2021 and whatever outfield he roams, he’ll be better. The Red Sox will have to decide if they’re better with Andrew Benintendi.
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