Image credit: Andrew Benintendi (Photo by Tom DiPace)
The Red Sox, Mets and Royals swung a three-way deal on Wednesday night. The prize of the deal was outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who moved from Boston to Kansas City after parts of five seasons with the Red Sox.
In return, the Red Sox received outfielder Franchy Cordero from the Royals, righthander Josh Winckowski from the Mets and three players to be named later. The Mets acquired outfield prospect Khalil Lee, who was Kansas City’s No. 9 prospect, to complete the trade.
Khalil Lee, OF
After reaching Double-A as a 20-year-old in 2018 and hitting .264/.363/.372 at the level in 2019, Lee entered 2020 needing to cut down on his strikeouts. The Royals say he made strides toward that goal at the alternate training site by learning to hone in on certain pitches and avoid getting into two-strike counts. If Lee can hold those improvements, he’ll have an easier time getting to his above-average raw power. He doesn’t project to hit for a high average, but he has a keen eye at the plate and draws plenty of walks for a high on-base percentage. If he can tap into that power in games, he has a chance to be regular. Defensively, Lee spent the summer working with Royals coach Mitch Maier to improve his routes and jumps in the outfield, where his above-average speed could help him stay in center field the long-term. His plus arm fits in right field if he needs to move to a corner.
RED SOX ACQUIRE
Franchy Cordero, OF
Cordero’s tools have outstripped his performance thus far in his career. He was dealt from San Diego to Kansas City just before the 2020 season in a trade that netted the Padres lefty reliever Tim Hill. Cordero boasts double-plus speed in center field and generates massive power from a huge frame and long levers. Even so, his lack of pitch-recognition has hampered his ability to make contact and thus get to his power. When he puts it together, Cordero’s gifts are tremendous. But inconsistency and injuries—he’s played just 95 games over four big league seasons—have made him a bit of a tease. He’ll get a chance to try to make his results match his tools as part of a rebuilding Red Sox team.
Josh Winckowski, RHP
After going unselected in the Rule 5 Draft, Winckowski has been dealt twice in two weeks. He went from Toronto to the Mets in the Steven Matz deal and now moves to Boston for Benintendi. Winckowski ranked as the Mets No. 20 prospect after the first deal. The big 6-foot-4 righthander’s only formal action in 2020 came at instructional league with the Blue Jays, where he touched 96 mph with his four-seam fastball and was learning a split-finger. He’s a solid strike-thrower, and his growing stuff makes him an interesting potential starter candidate. Winckowski struck out 108 hitters in 127.1 innings in 2019 between Low-A and High-A and should be ready to start at Double-A, and possibly Triple-A, in 2021.
Andrew Benintendi, OF
The Red Sox had one of the top outfields in baseball with Benintendi in left, Jackie Bradley Jr. in center and Mookie Betts in right when they won the 2018 World Series. Now, Betts is a Dodger, Bradley is a free agent and Benintendi has been shipped to Kansas City. The championship year was Benintendi’s best season, when he put up 4.1 WAR, as measured by Baseball Reference. His offense dropped a bit in 2019—his OPS fell from .830 to .774—and he was limited to just 14 games in 2020 because of a strained muscle in his rib cage. At his best, Benintendi provides a leadoff man’s skills and, despite the decline from 2018 to 2019, was showing an ability to more consistently impact the baseball. His average exit velocity, hard-hit rate and barrel percentage each improved year-over-year. The Royals are betting that Benintendi—Baseball America’s 2015 College Player of the Year and the No. 1 prospect in the game entering the 2017 season—can get back on track with a change of scenery. He is under team control for two more seasons.