The trade deadline is a week away, and the New York Yankees have made their first move. On Wednesday night, the Yankees acquired All-Star outfielder Andrew Benintendi from the Kansas City Royals for three pitching prospects, the team announced. The Royals open a four-game series at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, so Benintendi should be able to join his new team immediately.
“Adding a guy like that will definitely give us a little pump-up, that’s for sure,” Yankees slugger Aaron Judge following Wednesday’s loss to the New York Mets. “Bat to ball skills, speed, always works a good at-bat and he can leave the yard. I’ve seen it many times at Yankee Stadium. He’s a well-rounded player.”
Benintendi, 28, owns a .320/.387/.398 line with three home runs this season, which earned him his first All-Star Game berth. He will replace Joey Gallo, who is expected to be moved prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline. Benintendi and Gallo are polar opposites — Benintendi is a high average/low power hitter and Gallo is low average/high power.
It should be noted Benintendi did not travel to Toronto with the Royals earlier this month. The Yankees were said to be rethinking their interest in Benintendi following that, though obviously they were not deterred. Benintendi has indicated he will get the COVID-19 vaccine so he can enter Canada in the future.
The Yankees have a 11.5-game lead in the AL East and only one more regular-season series in Toronto (Sept. 26-28). The larger concern is a potential postseason matchup with the Blue Jays. That September series may not matter given New York’s big division lead. You can be sure the Yankees want Benintendi available in the postseason, however.
Benintendi is scheduled to become a free agent after the season. Because he was traded at midseason, he is no longer eligible to receive the qualifying offer and will not be tied to draft pick compensation. MLB and the MLBPA did not agree to an international draft prior to Monday deadline, and as a result the qualifying offer system remains in place.
Adding a lefty outfield bat in Benintendi likely takes the Yankees out of the running for Washington Nationals wunderkind Juan Soto. The Yankees figure to focus their trade deadline energy on pitching these next few days, both starters and relievers. They’ve been tied to high-end starters like Luis Castillo and Frankie Montas, as well as a host of relievers.
All three pitching prospects the Royals acquired in the trade ranked are in Single-A: righties Beck Way and Chandler Champlain, and lefty TJ Sikkema. Sikkema, the No. 38 pick in the 2019 draft, missed 2021 with injuries but has been very good this season. MLB.com ranks Sikkema the No. 19 prospect in New York’s system and Way the No. 21 prospect. Champlain is unranked.