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Taking stock of the return in the Andrew Benintendi trade

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It’s underwhelming at this point.

Detroit Tigers v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Well, it’s been a night. Andrew Benintendi is no longer on the Red Sox, with the trade officially being announced shortly before 11:00 PM ET. We talked about the trade a little bit when it was first rumored to be going down, but it’s worth going into a bit more detail here about the return before looking more big picture tomorrow and in the coming days. For starters, the Red Sox got five players back in the deal, though we only know Franchy Cordero and Josh Winckowski. There are also two players to be named later from the Royals and one PTBNL from the Mets.

We’ll start with that latter part of it, because obviously it is unusual to have three players to be named later in a deal like this. Of course, we’re coming off an unusual season in which there was no minor-league baseball, so it’s not without explanation. Still, I’m not really sure what to make of this piece. Typically PTBNLs are not very good, to be frank about it. They are the throw ins of the deal. But you also don’t see three in one deal very often. Presumably the reason they are not being named yet is because the Red Sox want to see whatever players they may have in mind to be able to get more up-to-date scouting. I have a hard time believing they are going to be difference-making prospects, but I suppose anything is possible.

As for the players we do know, Franchy Cordero is the headliner. A 26-year-old left-handed hitter, he is a natural replacement on the roster for Benintendi, though they are starkly different players. Cordero was originally signed by the Padres out of the Dominican Republic back in 2011, and was traded to the Royals last summer. He hasn’t gotten a chance to play full-time in the majors, largely due to various injuries, but across four seasons he’s gotten 315 plate appearances in which he’s hit .236/.304/.433 for a 97 wRC+.

Cordero is very clearly a high-upside, high-risk player, which is not always that appealing when you’re talking about someone who will turn 27 before the coming season is over. But the argument for him is that he still has not gotten a chance to play consisently, and the tools are still there. And those tools are power and speed, with the power being the more notable one at this point. Cordero has mammoth power. There’s really no other way to put it. When he makes contact it can go a long way. He’s also been graded as a 70 runner as recently as 2018. Power/speed combination players are the most coveted in the game, and he has that.

Of course, there is also plenty of downside here, as he just doesn’t make a lot of contact. Power is great, but it only works if you put the bat on the ball and that has been easier said than done over Cordero’s career. Again, the playing time hasn’t been consistent but he has a strikeout rate in his career of 35 percent. That’s really hard to make work, and while he has solid patience (career nine percent walk rate) it needs to be elite to go with the elite power to make that strikeout rate work. For Cordero to reach even his mid-level outcome where he’s a usable semi-regular, he needs to cut that strikeout rate by at least five percentage points. That’s not impossible, but it’s easier said than done.

Ultimately, as of now I think Cordero will be at least in a platoon in left field, playing most days against righties. Without knowing how else, if at all, they will address the outfield before the season it’s hard to lock down an exact role but I’d expect they want to give him every chance to get in a groove and get some regular playing time. If they do add a more permanent center fielder — whether it be Jackie Bradley Jr. or someone else — or go with Enrique Hernández in center, a straight platoon with Cordero and Hunter Renfroe could make a lot of sense to start the year.

The other piece of this trade is Josh Winckowski, a right-handed pitching prospect. He’ll turn 23 years old and was a 15th round pick by the Blue Jays in 2016 and was traded to the Mets just a couple of weeks ago in the Steven Matz trade. Winckowski last pitched in 2019, splitting the season between A-ball and High-A, pitching to a 2.69 ERA over 23 starts plus one relief appearances, striking out 108 batters to 43 walks over 127 13 innings.

In the past, Winckowski has been largely a non-prospect who projected as maybe a back-end rotation member at best and more likely with a ceiling of a sixth or seventh starter. However, his stock has started to rise after recovering from injury and showing up well in Instructs this fall. According to Baseball America, his fastball was getting up to 96 mph and he’d added a splitter to the mix. I’d expect him to start the season in Portland’s Double-A rotation.

So, overall I think this deal is a little underwhelming, though I expected to be underwhelmed by any potential Benintendi deal. Cordero is the type of player I typically shy away from, so if you’re more willing to live with swing and miss for the power potential you’re probably a little higher on the return. That said, if I had to put an initial grade on it I’d probably lean around a C or a C-, but that obviously is contingent on those players to be named later, which we likely won’t know for at least a couple of months.