The Red Sox have reportedly been engaged in serious trade talks regarding outfielder Andrew Benintendi, per The Athletic’s Jim Bowden.
Per Bowden, the Sox are in serious talks with multiple teams and are looking for a prospect-centered return focused on young pitchers and outfielders. It is worth noting that nothing is imminent as of this moment.
Benintendi, 26, is coming off his worst season in the majors in 2020.
Over just 14 games played, the former first-round pick posted an abysmal .103/.314/.128 slash line to go along with just one extra-base hit and one RBI.
That lone extra-base hit, a double, came against the Rays on August 11, the same night Benintendi suffered a right rib cage strain on the base paths, which would place him on the injured list and wind up costing him the rest of the year.
Benintendi’s struggles in 2020 added on to an underwhelming 2019 campaign in which he yielded a wRC+ of 100 (league average), adding on to the notion that the Cincinnati native has been trending in the wrong direction recently.
Even with that concerning trend in mind, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom spoke quite highly of Benintendi during his end-of-the season presser back in September.
“I think talent-wise, I wouldn’t factor this year into an evaluation of his talent at all,” Bloom said of Benintendi’s performance in 2020. “I mean, this guy has great all-around ability. It’s just unfortunate how the year started. He actually looked great at Summer Camp, and then for whatever reason the season opened and he wasn’t operating on all cylinders. He had a couple bad weeks and then got hurt, so I wouldn’t let that change anyone’s mind.
“This is a guy who has shown the ability to perform at a really high level, including in some really critical situations,” added Bloom. Still young, still has all that ability. It’s just a shame that his year kind of got wiped out.”
Benintendi’s manager for the time being, Alex Cora, also appeared confident that the young outfielder could return to form in 2021 when speaking with reporters last month.
“The Andrew that we saw in October 2018, that’s the Andrew we want,” Cora said. “The swings-and-misses — we talked about it in ’19, we saw it in ’20 — we need to find a balance between driving the ball and not swinging and missing. I’ll take Andrew Benintendi, the complete player. I don’t want Andrew to hit 35-40 home runs. I want him to get on base, be fast in the base paths, steal bases, play better defense — the way he played in October  — and if we get that guy back, we’re in a good position.”
Seeing how Benintendi has not lived up to his promising potential over the past few seasons, it would seem like if the Red Sox were to trade the former top prospect now, they would be selling relatively low on him.
There is still plenty of optimism that Benintendi can bounce back in 2021, which would lead to the belief that 2020 was a fluke.
With that in mind, “the Sox wouldn’t want to sell [Benintendi] at a low-value point. Given his potential upside and the likely modest return [he] would bring, the risk of dealing him likely exceeds the payoff,” as The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier noted back in November.
Benintendi, who does not turn 27 until July, is under team control for two more seasons. He is set to earn $6.6 million in 2021, which will mark his sixth season in the major-leagues.
UPDATE: WEEI’s Rob Bradford adds that “at least one interested team is more interested in what happened [for Benintendi] in ’19 rather than small sample ’20.”
(Picture of Andrew Benintendi: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)