Former Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi did not find out he was going to be traded to the Royals until relatively late Tuesday night, but he at least got some heads up about it.
The 26-year-old had been mired in trade rumors for much of the offseason, yet he was able to shut out most of that noise. Tuesday night, however, was a different story.
“I got a call last night from Chaim Bloom, and he said, ‘There’s a good chance you’re going to get traded tonight, so I’ll let you know,’” Benintendi recounted when speaking with the Kansas City media via Zoom earlier Wednesday. “I didn’t know the team, and then I find out it’s the Royals and I’m extremely excited — I’m from the Midwest — going to a Midwest team. So, I’m excited. I’m ready to get there, ready to meet people, build those relationships, and get going.”
Boston officially dealt Benintendi, as well as $2.8 million of his $6.6 million salary for 2021, to Kansas City in exchange for outfielder Franchy Cordero and two players to be named later as well as right-handed pitching prospect Josh Wincowski and one player to be named later from the New York Mets.
For Benintendi, the trade comes at an interesting point in his career.
The former 2015 first-round draft pick of the Red Sox has seen his once promising potential dip as of late. Most recently, he managed to collect just four hits in 14 games last year before suffering a season-ending rib injury in August.
“Last year, obviously, it’s unfortunate,” Benintendi said in regards to the pandemic shortened 2020 season. “It was the first time we had ever experienced something like that. I played 13 or 14 games and I broke my ribs, which is unfortunate. Obviously, it’s tough to swing with some broken ribs. But, I’m feeling good now and ready to get going.”
Expanding upon that, Benintendi’s injury, which occurred while he was rounding second base during an August 11 game against the Rays, was originally announced by the Red Sox as a right rib cage strain.
“I tripped around my own feet going around second base,” he said. “It was a rib strain, but there were a couple fractures. But, I’m feeling great now. Feel back to 100%.”
In being moved to a market like Kansas City, there is a level of comfort involved here for Benintendi, and it’s not just because of the city’s proximity to Nashville and his home state of Ohio or its quality barbecue.
For one, the former Arkansas Razorback is already quite familiar with Royals manager Mike Matheny. That being the case because Matheny’s son, Tate, was also drafted by the Red Sox in 2015, so the two played their rookie ball together with the Lowell Spinners.
“I’m extremely excited to be playing for him,” Benintendi said of the ex-Cardinals skipper. “I’ve known Tate since I was drafted. In 2015, we were in Lowell together in rookie ball for the Red Sox. And I also lived in St. Louis for a number of offseasons, so I got to know them pretty well. I’m excited going into this that I have somewhat of a relationship with Mike and having some familiarity. So, I’m excited to play for him.”
Adding on to that, Kauffman Stadium is a ballpark Benintendi has enjoyed success at in his time with the Red Sox. For his career, the left-handed hitter owns a lifetime .485/.564/.848 slash line to go go along with four doubles, one triple, two home runs, and three RBI at ‘The K.’
“Obviously it’s a lot different than Fenway,” Benintendi said of the Royals’ ballpark. “Left field, you have a lot more room to run out there, which I’m excited about. I always love playing there and something about it, I feel like I see the ball well. So, it’s exciting. It’s a big field. I feel like I’m a gap-to-gap kind of hitter and obviously those gaps there are pretty big, so we’ll see if we can run a little bit.”
While getting the chance to “run a little bit” for a new team, Benintendi is also hoping to show that the Royals made a smart decision in trading for him and the Red Sox made an unwise decision in letting him go.
“It’s nice to be wanted,” the 5-foot-9, 180 lb. outfielder said. “I feel like there’s a sense of pride for me. I want to go perform well, obviously, and show them it was worth the trade. I want to go play well for the fans and the organization. I’m excited and it’s nice to be wanted.”
Even while saying that, Benintendi will still cherish what he did with the Red Sox, highlighted by winning the World Series in 2018, for the rest of his career.
“They drafted me, and I’ll always have that connection with Boston,” he eloquently stated. “2018 is a tough one not to mention. That year was unbelievable. Most of all, it’s the relationships I’ve had with teammates, coaches, things like that. You get to meet a lot of people in this game and some of the relationships I had there, I’ll have forever. It’s something I’ll take with me.”
Taking those experiences with the Red Sox and what he learned from them to Kansas City, Benintendi is certainly open to the idea of becoming a player his new teammates can lean on for information if the occasion arises.
“If guys have questions or anything like that, I’m an open book about it,” he said. “If they want to bounce questions or anything like that off me, I’d be more than happy to share those experiences and whatever it takes.”
(Picture of Andrew Benintendi: Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)