The first domino has fallen. On Wednesday night, Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees acquired 28-year-old lefty-hitting outfielder Andrew Benintendi from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for three minor league pitchers: Chandler Champlain, Beck Way, and T.J. Sikkema. In the wake of a two-game Citi Field sweep at the hands of the Mets, the Yankees’ lineup was greeted with a trade bringing Benintendi to The Bronx. After representing the Royals in his first career All-Star Game, it was certain that he would be moved before or at the deadline, and it finally happened.
With Joey Gallo’s rapid decline in play, the outfield quickly became a position of need for the Yankees, and acquiring a player like Benintendi who hits for contact, gets on base, and has postseason experience should do wonders to strengthen the everyday lineup. He is slashing .316/.383/.393 in 2022 with an OPS+ of 121 and 2.3 rWAR. He’s also sporting a 124 wRC+ and 2.0 fWAR to further prove his value by FanGraphs measures compared to Baseball Reference.
In his postgame presser after the Subway Series loss, Aaron Boone pointed out that the Yankees don’t have too many sluggers in their lineup. But adding a contact bat never hurts, right? Benintendi is also a contact bat that plays decent enough defense. If he’s filling in for Gallo’s role, then there’s still that good arm strength, and he’s playing at or above the same level on that side of the ball, depending on which metric you look at. Below are his full Statcast percentile metrics, courtesy of Baseball Savant.
If there’s anything to gain from this visual, Benintendi does not suffer from Gallo’s strikeout woes, and he also walks plenty. In terms of K-rate among Yankees players, he sits with the second-lowest, behind only DJ LeMahieu, and in walk rate, he sits eighth. Benintendi won’t hit the ball super hard, and the short porch could potentially help him out, but very rarely will Benintendi chase bad pitches and strikeout.
So what does the best Yankees lineup look like currently with Benintendi slotted in?
- DJ LeMahieu, 3B
- Aaron Judge, RF
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Gleyber Torres, 2B
- Matt Carpenter, DH
- Andrew Benintendi, LF
- Aaron Hicks, CF
- Isiah Kiner-Falefa, SS
- Jose Trevino, C
That’s not half bad, and it’s vital to remember that plenty can and will change around when Giancarlo Stanton returns from injury. Benintendi could hit leadoff, as he did last night, but he might not end up batting very high in the lineup on a regular basis. Benintendi should mostly play left field, pushing Hicks over to center rather than right. Carpenter will not need to push his versatility as much as he has in recent weeks, so he shouldn’t need to play as much outfield. Boone said that he would like to use Judge a little less in center down the stretch to avoid too much wear and tear on the superstar’s body. (Benintendi could possibly play center too, though he hasn’t appeared there since 2019.)
However, there are two sides to every trade. We know what the Yankees are getting, but what are the Royals getting with the three pitchers Champlain, Way, and Sikkema?
Sikkema, a 24-year-old lefty drafted in the first round of the 2019 MLB Draft, is the highest-ranked Yankees prospect by MLB Pipeline in the deal at No. 19. After dealing with injuries over his first few seasons, he has pitched well in High-A ball with Hudson Valley in 2022. Sikkema has a 2.48 ERA and an extremely impressive 0.83 WHIP with 54 strikeouts and 9 walks in 36.1 innings pitched. He also has a 2.94 xFIP and is sporting the highest K-BB% among all three pitchers in the deal.
Way, the 21st-ranked prospect in the Yankees system, is a monster 6-foot-4, 22-year-old right-hander whose best pitch is his fastball. In 15 games and 72.1 innings pitched with Hudson Valley in High-A, he posted a 3.73 ERA with 80 strikeouts and 26 walks with a K-BB% of 18.6, the lowest among all three pitchers in the trade.
Here’s some video of Beck Way, who’s seen as the best prospect the Eoyals received in the Andrew Benintendi deal. As @kileymcd says, Way has flashed very good stuff, mid-rotation potential. Lefty T.J. Sikkema and righty Chandler Champlain also went to KC. pic.twitter.com/y9F05Jz7pM
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 28, 2022
Finally, there’s Champlain, a 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher who was unranked by MLB Pipeline. He was selected in the ninth round in 2021, and in 16 games played (15 starts) in Low-A, he has pitched to the tune of a 4.30 ERA with 94 strikeouts and 19 walks in 73.1 innings pitched. Additionally, he has a 2.72 xFIP, but there is a significant increase in FIP, moving up to 3.69.
There is plenty of talent to like here from the Royals’ perspective. They’re betting on the high ceilings of each of these players, and adding pitchers to the prospect pool that was ranked eighth overall in MLB.com’s preseason rankings is never a bad thing. It may take some time for them to make an impact in the major leagues, but this move could also turn out for the best on this side. PSA’s prospect expert Dan Kelly will have more to say on this trio of departing pitchers tomorrow.
Both teams got what they wanted in this scenario. One got an effective major league bat at the ready, while the other gained more for the future. With Benintendi’s future vaccination status potentially changing, there will be plenty more opportunities for him to make an impact, especially if the Yankees see the Toronto Blue Jays in the playoffs. Time will tell, as it always does, but this looks to be a solid trade for both sides of the aisle.
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