It wasn't long ago teams likely couldn't pry Andrew Benintendi from the Red Sox front office no matter how hard they tried.
This week, the Sox sold low on their 2015 first-round pick, sending him to the Royals as part of a three-team deal.
Benintendi landed in Kansas City, outfield prospect Khalil Lee went from the Royals to the Mets and outfielder Franchy Cordero, right-hander Josh Winckowski and three players to be named later were sent to the Red Sox in Wednesday's deal. The Royals also received $2.8 million from the Red Sox to help cover Benintendi's $6.6 million salary for the 2021 season.
The big move here is Benintendi to the Royals, a welcome blank page for the embattled 26-year-old. After bursting onto the scene with 20 homers and 20 steals in 151 games in his rookie year in 2017, he put up another strong season in 2018 before sliding the wrong direction each of the past two seasons. Last year, Benintendi hit just .103/.314/.128 in 14 games before a right ribcage strain ended his season.
A new team, a new city and a new start, free from the expectations that come with his pedigree and early success could be just what Benintendi needs. Royals general manager Dayton Moore hopes so.
“We just believe in the player,” Moore said after the trade. “He’s 26 years old, and he’s always performed. He’s performed at every level. We are confident that he’ll be able to get back to his accustomed level. He’s just entering his prime. And we do know from all the information we were able to obtain that he’s worked his tail off this offseason, he’s in great shape, he’s in a great frame of mind and he’s ready to go.”
The draft cost isn't prohibitive -- Benintendi's down 2020 season has him going after pick 250 in FantasyPros' consensus ADP this spring -- and even in a mildly disappointing 2019 season the outfielder hit 13 homers and stole 10 bases with a .266/.343/.431 line in 138 games. It's not hard to believe the rib cage injury that ended his 2020 campaign might have also affected his performance prior to hitting the shelf, so drafters would be justified in leaning into the bounceback narrative and snagging Benintendi as the Royals did -- as a buy-low candidate.
Cordero is now on his third team in less than a year after he went from the Padres to the Royals last July. The Red Sox suddenly have an opening in their outfield with Benintendi going the other way, but the team also signed Enrique Hernandez earlier this winter and agreed to terms with Marwin Gonzalez on Thursday.
Both players have outfielder gloves and can at least play there if needed, and with Hunter Renfroe in tow and Michael Chavis having also logged time in the outfield last season, the playing time picture is too crowded to feel good about any one of the Sox outfielders not named Alex Verdugo getting a full season's worth of at-bats. It would be interesting to see what Franchy, a tantalizing power-speed player, could do with regular run, but he'll have to earn his way into those plate appearances in Boston. He's a guy best left on watch lists in most mixed leagues right now.
Lee is an interesting return for the Mets, a guy who cracked Baseball Prospectus' top-101 prospects list ahead of the 2019 season. He stole 53 bases at Double-A in 2019 and also has 37 homers over parts of four minor league seasons. It's unclear whether the Mets will keep Lee with an eye on him being a future contributor or whether they'll try to flip him for more immediate help -- more on that shortly -- but he's a nice piece for a team that didn't have to send a major leaguer out in the deal.
Mets, Cubs talking Bryant deal?
One scenario that follows the Lee acquisition is the Mets turning around and using him or other prospects to acquire another former star who's fallen on harder times recently.
Kris Bryant, whose name has been involved in trade rumors for months, may be back in play for the Mets, according to SNY's Andy Martino. Previously, Martino had reported that talks between the Mets and Cubs were no longer active, but he tweeted Thursday that "it has changed since." Martino said it's "unclear how likely it is to happen, but there is at least something there."
Both teams' interest in a Bryant deal makes sense, or as much sense as trading a former Rookie of the Year and MVP can make. The Mets, of course, made one of the winter's biggest moves in trading for ace shortstop Francisco Lindor, and their aggressiveness has made them a frontrunner in the NL East.
Despite that offensive and defensive upgrade at short, though, the team is not as sold on J.D. Davis' defense at third base and has not publicly committed to him as their starter at the hot corner. With World Series aspirations, it would stand to reason they'd like to upgrade over Davis if possible, maybe even sending Davis the other way in a deal.
The Cubs' relationship with Bryant began to sour the day they sent him to the minors to game his service time in 2015. Now staring at a season in which they've got one foot in and one foot out of the contention window, dealing Bryant and getting something of value for him now makes more sense than keeping him and watching him leave for a draft pick next winter.
Whether this gets done remains to be seen -- the Mets already used some dry powder to acquire Lindor, so they may not be keen on using some more to secure another player with an expiring contract that they'll either have to pony up to keep or let walk at season's end -- but there at least seems to be some smoke. Now we'll see if there's any fire.
Duvallll! Slugger lands in Florida
Florida sports fans are no stranger to cries of "Duuuval."
Now, they'll get a chance to bellow "Duvallll" as well.
On Tuesday, the Marlins and free agent outfielder Adam Duvall agreed on a one-year, $5 million contract that includes a $7 million mutual option for 2022. The deal has a $3 million buyout.
The signing is a nice addition for the Marlins late in free agency, as Duvall is coming off a powerful 2020 season. The 32-year-old mashed 16 homers in just 57 games for the Braves last year, posting a .237/.301/.532 line as the team's primary left fielder.
In Miami, how the playing time breakdown will shake out is less clear. Starling Marte is locked in as the team's everyday center fielder, but in the corners the Marlins have at least five guys -- Duvall, Corey Dickerson, Garrett Cooper, Lewis Brinson and Magneuris Sierra, not to mention Monte Harrison -- for two spots. Cooper can play first base and has been rumored to be of interest to the Dodgers in trade talks, but otherwise the Fish seem to have a camp battle on their hands.
The club isn't paying Duvall to be a guy who gets 300 at-bats, though, so he will presumably get the lion's share of work in one of the corner spots. With enough at-bats, that prodigious power should be allowed to play up, even if he'll never post a batting average worth talking about. Drafters seeking late power can get Duvall closer to pick 400 than 300 at the moment, but that discount is likely fleeting now that he's got a home. Even so, the price won't be prohibitive for his late-round pop.
Quick Hits: Mets signed INF Jonathan Villar to a one-year, $3.55 million contract. Villar also has the ability to earn more in incentives. The 29-year-old switch-hitter hit just .232/.301/.292 over 207 plate appearances last year with the Marlins and Blue Jays, but has had prior success, and has a chance for fantasy relevance if he can carve out enough playing time. Because it's unclear what kind of role he'll have to begin the season, however, it's probably best to take a wait-and-see approach ... Tigers signed 1B/DH Renato Nunez to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Nunez was released by the Orioles back in late November despite registering an impressive .816 OPS with 12 home runs and 31 RBI over 52 games for Baltimore during the truncated 2020 campaign. The 26-year-old should get regular playing time this season in Detroit between first base and the designated hitter role ... Multiple outlets report that the Rangers are closing in on an agreement with left-handed hurler Hyeon-jong Yang. Yang, 32, has spent the last 11 seasons in the Korea Baseball Organization with the Kia Tigers. The southpaw made 31 starts for the Tigers in 2020, and he registered a 4.70 ERA with a 149/64 K/BB ratio in 172 1/3 innings. The year before, he was one of the best starters in the KBO with a 16-8 record, 2.29 ERA and 163/33 ratio. The Rangers will be betting on him finding the form again, and if he does sign in Texas, will likely give him one of the spots in the 2021 rotation to begin the year. ... According to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand, two rival executives believe the Red Sox will ultimately re-sign free agent outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. ... Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Mets are interested in Justin Turner, but the two sides aren't matching up in terms of years and dollars ... Craig Mish of the Miami Herald writes that Anthony Bass is "the very likely closer" for the Marlins this year. Take note ... According to Robert Murray of FanSided, the Giants have signed free agent reliever Jake McGee. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic says it will be a two-year contract with a $7 million total guarantee. McGee revitalized his career last year in the Dodgers' bullpen, working to a 2.66 ERA, 0.836 WHIP, and 33/3 K/BB ratio over 20 1/3 regular-season innings before making four appearances in the postseason -- including one in the World Series. He could potentially be an option in the closer role for San Francisco if Reyes Moronta (shoulder) is unable to rebound health-wise ... According to SNY's Andy Martino, free agent starter James Paxton "is said to be seeking" more than $11 million ... Phillies signed RHP Brandon Kintzler to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. That Phillies closer situation keeps getting murkier and murkier ... Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Red Sox have reached agreement on a deal with Marwin Gonzalez. Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic reports that the 31-year-old will get $3 million for the 2021 season ... MLB.com's Jon Morosi reports that free agent outfielder Jake Marisnick has agreed to a deal with the Cubs. Jon Heyman of MLB Network says it will be a one-year, $1.5 million pact and USA Today's Bob Nightengale adds that there is a $4 million mutual option for 2022 ... Dodgers and RHP Walker Buehler avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $8 million contract ... Ryan Braun told Adam McCalvy of MLB.com on Tuesday that he is "currently not interested in playing" ... Randy Miller of NJ.com reports that the Yankees have yet to make Brett Gardner a contract offer this offseason ... Rangers signed RHP Mike Foltynewicz to a one-year, $2 million contract. Texas will hope he can return to form on this low-risk, high-reward pact for 2021 ... Cody Stavenhagen of The Athletic reports that the Tigers have reached agreement with Nomar Mazara ... Shannon Drayer of ESPN 710 reports that the Mariners have reached agreement on a multi-year deal with free agent reliever Ken Giles ... Daniel Alvarez Montes of El Extrabase reports that the Indians have signed OF Billy Hamilton to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training ... Rockies signed 1B Greg Bird to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training ... Pirates signed OF Brian Goodwin to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training ... Athletics signed INF Jed Lowrie to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training ... Angels signed OF Jon Jay to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training ... According to SNY's Andy Martino, "discussions continue" between the Mets and free agent starter Jake Arrieta ... Blue Jays designated RHP Shun Yamaguchi for assignment.