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Revisiting the Trade: Benintendi Leaves Town,

There was a point in time where Andrew Benintendi was considered not just untouchable, but a future cornerstone of the Red Sox core. Benintendi could really hit, was capable of playing all three positions in the outfield, and mashed double A so badly that the team decided not to subject triple A to his brand of baseball terrorism.

In his first year, a 34 game stretch, Benny ran a 121 wRC+ and generally looked like he was already an average regular in the outfield, playing okay defense and bringing a mature approach to the plate. By 2017, Benny was firmly established as a regular player, going 20/20 in his first full season while upping his walk rate and cutting his strikeout rate. Then in 2018 he was able to maintain those gains, while also hitting for more power by upping his ISO by 20 points and played an important role in getting the Sox to the World Series.

Then in 2019 his strikeout rate started ballooning, his bat to ball started suffering, and he was looking like he was regressing. He was basically back to being the player he was as a rookie, without the stolen bases. If you'll remember, his performance started falling off a cliff toward the end of that year, his 15 game rolling wOBA ending up at .194 to end the year.

It perhaps wasn't surprising then that the Red Sox moved on from Benintendi, acquiring Franchy Cordero, Josh Winckowski, and PTBNLs Freddy Valdez, Luis De La Rosa and Grant Campbell. The entire trade was lottery tickets. Benintendi was, for the Royals, hopefully going to bounce back to something closer to his 2018 play and the Red Sox were betting that Franchy could figure out his contact problems and at least one of those PTBNLs would hit and become a real prospect.

Well, it's been losers all around at the major league level so far. Benintendi has been a replacement level player for KC, running a wRC+ of 90 while going 8/16 on stolen bases and seeing his walk rate fall from 9.6 in his last full, healthy year to just 6.2 this season. Franchy has been even worse, running a 33 wRC+ with a strikeout rate approaching 40 percent, to go with a single homer across his 136 plate appearances. Now, Benintendi's obviously the better bet to turn his fortunes around, but this trade was meant to elevate the Royals roster. It's had the opposite effect.

Now, as for the various lottery tickets the Red Sox acquired, there is some intrigue there. I wrote a little about De La Rosa earlier this summer and lauded his pitchability, but he's still sitting around 89 the last I checked. There's lots of room to project, so don't be shocked if he's throwing 92-93 next year with some added weight and suddenly becomes a top 30 organizational guy.

Grant Gambrell had velocity jump this spring, up to 94-96 from 92-93 but still needs to show he can carry that deeper into his starts. He can miss bats with it at times, and he'll sink it occasionally. He has a very interesting curveball/slider/slurve thing that has flashed plus even without quite knowing what it is. Longenhagen has it as a FV 60, with his fastball also grading above average with the velocity tick. From what I've seen and heard, it's a real hammer with late and sharp break that could one day be a true weapon. His changeup is a clear third offering but has flashed average and could be a decent keep-them-honest type pitch down the line. the trouble for Gambrell is that he's a college arm who hasn't seen action above high A yet and is already 23. Late bloomer potential, but there's some injury issues there as well. Floor is that of a middle reliever, ceiling is a mid rotation starter.

Freddy Valdez came form the Mets and I think this is the guy to keep at least one eye on. He's a power first corner outfielder, and boy howdy is this kid big. He's just 19, and while I've seen a couple places list him around 210-220, that's simply not true. I have him closer to the 250 Fangraphs had him weighing, I'm guessing it's probably 240ish. None of that is important. This guy is Franmil Reyes, Miguel Sano style of big. The bat looks silly in his hands, the guy is a monster. Plus-plus raw power, and demolishes pitches to the pull side. His fall exit velos were below what you'd expect, and that's largely because his hit tool is very much a work in progress. I have a 30 on it, with potential to get to 50 simply because I don't think he's seen enough high level pitching to know what exactly he needs to fix. The leg kick, stride and swing are all way too long but I wouldn't call his approach necessarily bad. Freddy has a great eye for a kid this age, and it helps him spit on the pitches he can't hit, which is why the hit tool is 30 and not 20. He's eventually going to be even bigger than this, which means at best he can be a fringy corner guy, but if he gets this power into games it won't matter. He'll be 35+ homer guy with a .350+ OBP if that works out. If not? Well, plenty of triple A rosters need players.

Of course, there's a better chance that none of these guys ever make an impact at the major league level. Most prospects as a rule just don't pan out. But with Benintendi having been on the downswing and about to become expensive/hard to price in an open market, I think getting three high upside fliers to stash in the system is a fair enough outcome for the Red Sox.