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Choosing a centerpiece for a Chris Sale trade: Yoan Moncada vs. Andrew Benintendi

Who do you go with if you have to pick one?

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

If you're looking to make a trade rumor, Jeff Passan has provided quite the quote for you:

If the Red Sox want Sale, the deal starts with Yoan Moncada or Andrew Benintendi (whom the White Sox wanted in last year's draft before the Red Sox sniped him a pick before).

It sounds a lot more significant than it is. Passan is a well-connected guy, and many are taking this to be some sort of report on actual talks between the Sox and, well, Sox. It doesn't seem to be. Here's the rest of that paragraph:

If the Dodgers want Sale, the deal starts with Julio Urias. If the Rangers want Sale, the deal starts with Nomar Mazara. If the Astros want Sale, the deal starts with Alex Bregman. Most teams don't have someone to build a trade around.

Simply put, this is a list of teams with the sort of premier talents that could get the conversation started. The reason the Red Sox have two--and the reason we see an "or" in there--is because they've got two such players. And just because the deal starts with one, does not mean it won't, in turn, extend to the other, and perhaps beyond. That's the realm this hypothetical trade lives in.

But let's go ahead and assume that it is a choice, and that they have equal value. If  you're given the choice of a trade featuring players X, Y, and Z, and are told that the headliner at the top can be either Moncada or Benintendi...who do you give up?

By-and-large, scouts would suggest that Moncada would be the man to keep. He's been fairly consistently ahead of Benintendi at the top of the charts, though it's not a unanimous opinion. He's got tools for days, and has them working for him all the way up at Portland even though he's just 21 years old.  Benintendi, by comparison, is almost understated. He's not quite the athletic freak Moncada is, and certainly comes in a less imposing physical package. I'll believe he's taller than Dustin Pedroia when I see the two standing side-by-side.

But if we're talking who's the more polished, finished product, Benintendi starts to take a pretty clear lead. Where Moncada's strikeout rates are a bit concerning, Benintendi has the second lowest strikeout rate in the system outside of short-season ball, coming in at just under 10%. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two, though, is in their work in the field. In the outfield, Benintendi can already hang at all three positions in the majors, if his arm is not exactly well-suited to right. Moncada, on the other hand, still isn't solid enough at second that the Red Sox are even willing to try him elsewhere for fear that the added unfamiliarity and work will keep him from making the fundamental improvements he needs to.

That lagging defense also brings up another consideration for the Red Sox: proximity. Yes, both players are in Portland, but that doesn't mean they're equidistant from Fenway. The Sox are a pretty strong team throughout the lineup, but there are some spots which are stronger than others. For Yoan Moncada, the target would presumably be third base, where Travis Shaw has been solid, but unspectacular. If Moncada were a defensive whiz? The Red Sox might at least test the waters with him at third at some point in 2016 in a secondary role to Shaw. But he's not, and they haven't even moved him to third yet. There's some chance Moncada does force his way onto the scene before the season is over, but given his strikeout rates and defensive issues, Moncada seems likely to finish the year as a minor leaguer.

Benintendi, on the other hand? He finally started playing left field the other day, but he doesn't exactly need a lot of time at the position before the Sox would be comfortable calling him up given that he's just a generally strong defensive outfielder. He would be playing center if the Sox didn't have two other great young outfielders ahead of him in line for that position.

And who does he have to top? Well, Brock Holt, and kind of not even him. Holt just works better as a backup player than a full-time starter. Benintendi is the better defender and, very likely, already the better hitter when we consider Holt as a starter, given how he wears down. Even if in the long run you believe Moncada will be the better player, the reality is that, if you're trading for a player like Sale in no small part for what he'll bring to a 2016 World Series push, then you can't exactly ignore what Benintendi will bring to that same push over Moncada.

There's obviously a third option, which is "neither," but that's not really the point here. The point is to make a choice here between Moncada and Benintendi. If the Red Sox do make a huge Sale-style trade, it's going to require at least one of them. If you're given the choice, who do you choose?