In Brian Keller, Red Sox add intriguing right-hander who found success out of the bullpen at Triple-A in 2021

The Red Sox have seemingly made an annual tradition of poaching prospects away from the Yankees in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft, and they did so again on Wednesday.

After selecting Royals left-hander Austin Lambright with their top pick, the Sox took Yankees right-hander Brian Keller with their second and final pick of the day.

Keller, 27, was originally selected by New York in the 39th round of the 2016 amateur draft out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has been used as both a starter and reliever throughout his professional career, but what he did out of the bullpen in 2021 stands out.

On the heels of the 2020 minor-league season getting cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Keller opened the 2021 campaign at Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre as a member of the RailRiders’ starting rotation.

Out of the gate, Keller managed to keep runs off the board as evidenced by his 2.57 ERA through his first six starts. However, the Wisconsin native did so while walking as many batters as he struck out (21) and putting up a sky-high 6.36 FIP over 21 innings of work.

Beginning June 15, Keller was moved to Scranton’s bullpen on a near-full-time basis, as 15 of his 20 appearances from that point forward came as a reliever. As a result of that switch, the righty proceeded to post a 2.88 ERA and 3.16 FIP to go along with 44 strikeouts to 25 walks across 34 1/3 innings pitched to close out the season.

All told, Keller pitched to the tune of a 3.56 ERA, 1.88 WHIP, and .781 OPS against in 11 starts spanning 30 1/3 innings in 2021. Out of the bullpen, he produced a much lower 1.80 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and .535 OPS against in 15 outings spanning 25 innings in 2021.

Not only that, but Keller’s strikeout rate increased from 19.7% as a starter to 34% as a reliever, while his walk rate slightly decreased from 19.7% as a starter to 16% as a reliever.

Per a recent report from Baseball America, Keller “gave up very little hard contact as a reliever” this year. He also “works up and down in the strike zone with a four-seam 91-95 mph fastball and a downer curveball, but he also can mix in a slider and cutter.”

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Keller — who does not turn 28 until next June — was identified by Baseball America as someone who could provide a team with pitching depth given his experience in the minors.

Since Chaim Bloom took over as Boston’s chief baseball officer in 2019, the Red Sox have made a habit of combing the Yankees’ farm system for both major- and minor-league pitching depth.

In 2019, the Sox selected right-hander Raynel Espinal from the Yankees in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft and did the very same thing with fellow righty Kaleb Ort the following winter.

Both Espinal and Ort made their big-league debuts this past season, but Boston’s biggest discovery was undoubtedly Garrett Whitlock, who they poached from New York in the major-league portion of last year’s Rule 5 Draft.

On that note, it is worth mentioning that the big-league phase of the 2021 Rule 5 Draft has been postponed indefinitely while Major League Baseball remains in a lockout.

(Picture of Brian Keller: Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Hunter Renfroe comes up short, but former Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi wins first career Gold Glove Award with Royals

Red Sox right fielder Hunter Renfroe was unable to win his first career Gold Glove Award on Sunday night.

Renfroe was named one of three finalists for the award among all American League right fielders late last month alongside Houston’s Kyle Tucker, but the honors on Sunday instead fell to Yankees outfielder Joey Gallo.

The winners were announced by Rawlings and Major League Baseball on ESPN.

While Renfroe outpaced Gallo in terms of both defensive innings (1,166 to 764 2/3) and outfield assists (16 to 9) from right field this season, Gallo led the way in fielding percentage (.980 to .956), defensive runs saved (11 to 0), ultimate zone rating (2.8 to -1.6), and ultimate zone rating per 150 games (3.8 to -2.1), according to FanGraphs.

It also did not help that Renfroe led all major-league outfielders in errors with 12 while registering negative-one outs above average in right field this year, per FanGraphs.

Renfroe, who turns 30 in January, was Boston’s lone finalist for a Gold Glove Award, though Christian Vazquez and Enrique Hernandez are among those on the team who may have had a case to be made at their respective primary positions (catcher and center field) but wound up getting snubbed.

Despite the fact that Renfroe came up short on Sunday, it should be mentioned that former Red Sox left fielder won his first career Gold Glove Award as a member of the Royals.

Benintendi, who the Red Sox dealt to the Royals as part of a three-team, seven-player trade back in February, logged 1,116 defensive innings over 129 games in left field in his first season with Kansas City.

The 27-year-old was named a finalist for the Gold Glove Award for American League left fielders alongside the likes of Tampa Bay’s Randy Arozarena and Toronto’s Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

All three of Benintendi, Arozarena, and Gurriel Jr. finished the 2021 campaign having put up seven defensive runs saved in left field, but Benintendi ultimately led the pack in ultimate zone rating (4.9), ultimate zone rating per 150 games (5.5), and outs above average (1).

By winning his first Gold Glove Award, Benintendi joins former teammates Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. as now-former Red Sox outfielders to win at least one Gold Glove in their respective careers.

Betts has taken home five Gold Glove Awards in his time with the Red Sox and Dodgers, while Bradley Jr. and Benintendi have each won it once.

(Picture of Andrew Benintendi: Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)

J.D. Martinez and Hunter Renfroe homer, Kiké Hernández makes jaw-dropping diving catch as Red Sox top Royals, 6-2, on rain-filled night at Fenway Park

It took more than five hours to complete on account of two lengthy rain delays, but the Red Sox were able to come away with a 6-2 win over the Royals on a stormy Wednesday night/early Thursday morning at Fenway Park.

With the victory, Boston reaches the halfway point of their season having improved to 50-31 on the year. They also extended their winning streak to six consecutive games while increasing their lead over the Rays for first place in the American League East to three full games.

Martin Perez made his 16th start of the season for the Sox on Wednesday (at 7:40 p.m. as opposed to 7:10 p.m. thanks to a 30-minute delay), facing off against Kansas City for the second time in as many weeks.

The left-hander stumbled out of the gate a bit by serving up a solo home run to Salvador Perez in the second inning, but then managed to settle in nicely from there.

Over 5 1/3 innings of work, Perez wound up surrendering just two runs — both of which were earned — on seven hits and zero walks to go along with two strikeouts on the night.

In the top of the fifth, Perez received some help from his center fielder, as Enrique Hernandez made a fantastic sprawling catch on a Hanser Alberto fly ball to both prevent the Royals from scoring and end the inning since it came with two outs.

The only other run Perez gave up came in the top half of the sixth, when he yielded an RBI groundout to Carlos Santana, and his outing came to a close shortly after that.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 86 (54 strikes), the 30-year-old hurler was ultimately hit with the no-decision in this one, though he did lower his ERA on the year to 4.04. His next start should come against the Angels in Anaheim next Monday.

In relief of Perez, Brandon Workman came on and escaped the sixth by inducing an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play off the bat of Hunter Dozier.

At that point, the skies opened up in the Fenway-area, the tarp came on the field, and another rain delay commenced, with this one lasting nearly two hours.

By the time the game resumed and a Red Sox pitcher took the mound again, it was nearly midnight. That long layoff did not seem to affect the Boston bullpen, though, as Darwinzon Hernandez tossed a 1-2-3 top of the seventh, Josh Taylor extended his consecutive scoreless appearance streak to 24 games with a perfect eighth inning, and Matt Barnes shut the door on the Royals in the ninth to preserve a 6-2 win for his side.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar foe in Royals left-hander Mike Minor, who they also saw last week in Kansas City.

Despite falling behind early on Wednesday, J.D. Martinez did not mess around in taking that lead back, as he belted a 420-foot three-run home run to deep center field off Minor to get his side on the board in the third inning.

Martinez’s 16th homer of the year had an exit velocity of more than 108 mph, and it also gave the Sox a 3-1 lead.

Fast forward to the fifth, and a leadoff single from Alex Verdugo proved to be the catalyst for another multi-run inning, with Xander Bogaerts plating him on an RBI base hit off the Green Monster and Hunter Renfroe driving in another run (Martinez) on a force out.

Renfroe’s productive night at the plate would not end there, however, as the right-handed hitting slugger came out of the in-game delay and cranked a 427-foot solo shot over everything in left field with one out in the eighth inning.

Capping off his month of June with a bang, Renfroe’s 12th big fly of the season (and fifth of the month) left his bat at 106.9 mph on a hanging slider from Royals reliever Anthony Swarzak.

The towering blast also gave the Red Sox a 6-2 lead over the Royals, and that would go on to be Wednesday’s final score, though the final out was technically recorded on Thursday morning.

Some notes from this win:

From Red Sox Notes:

From MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo:

Next up: Bubic vs. Eovaldi

The Red Sox will wrap up their four-game series against the Royals while simultaneously opening up the second half of their season (Game No. 82) on Thursday afternoon.

Left-hander Kris Bubic is slated to get the ball for Kansas City, while Nathan Eovaldi will be doing the same for Boston. Also expect Connor Wong to get the start behind the plate.

First pitch Thursday (weather permitting) is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Final game of the homestand in which the Red Sox are a perfect 6-0.

(Picture of Enrique Hernandez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox acquire right-handers Luis De La Rosa and Grant Gambrell from Royals as players to be named later to complete three-team Andrew Benintendi trade; Freddy Valdez also acquired from Mets

In addition to acquiring outfield prospect Freddy Valdez as the player to be named later from the Mets in the three-team Andrew Benintendi trade, the Red Sox have also received right-handed pitching prospects Luis De La Rosa and Grant Gambrell as the two players to be named later from the Mets, according to The Boston Globe’s Julian McWilliams.

De La Rosa, who turns 19 next month, was originally signed out of the Dominican Republic for approximately $147,500 by Kansas City in July 2018.

While he is not listed at the top of many prospect boards, De La Rosa did impress in his professional debut in 2019.

In 12 outings (11 starts) in the Dominican Summer League, the lanky 6-foot-1, 170 pound righty posted a 2.33 ERA and 1.92 xFIP to go along with seven walks and 52 strikeouts over 38 2/3 innings of work en route to being named the Dominican Royals 1 Pitcher of the Year.

According to his Baseball America scouting report from when he first signed with the Royals three years ago, De La Rosa — a former shortstop — “has an array of positive projection indicators, with some of that projection already starting to bear out.” As of that writing, the young hurler was working with a fastball, a slider, and an “advanced changeup for his age.”

A native of Santo Domingo, De La Rosa will become Rule 5 eligible for the first time in December 2022.

Gambrell, meanwhile, was originally selected by the Royals in the third round of the 2019 amateur draft out of Oregon State University. He later signed with the club for $647,500.

The 23-year-old came into the 2021 campaign regarded by FanGraphs as the No. 21 prospect in Kansas City’s farm system even after not pitching at all the previous year due to the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling the minor-league season.

Listed at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Gambrell’s FanGraphs scouting report goes as follows (courtesy of Eric Longenhagen):

“At his best, Gambrell sits in the mid-90s with a plus breaking ball (there might be two, but if so, they’ve run together in my looks) and a tailing, mid-80s changeup that he uses in some clever ways, including as a means to jam righties. His stuff has been inconsistent and he missed considerable time with injury during college, which creates some relief risk. We’re talking about a pitcher who only worked about four innings per outing during his sophomore year, and struggled when the Royals asked him to work as a starter and blow way past his previous single-year innings total after they drafted him in 2019. 

“But Gambrell was sitting 94-96 during 2021 spring action and looked to me to be in much better shape than the last time I saw him. The 2020 layoff means the innings increase piece of Gambrell’s developmental track still feels harrowing, but he has a power-pitcher’s repertoire and a chance to really blow up this year because he came to camp with a totally different body.”

Opening the 2021 season with High-A Quad Cities, Gambrell produced a 4.37 ERA and 4.06 xFIP to go along with seven walks and 28 strikeouts through his first five starts (22 2/3 innings pitched) of the year.

Upon his integration into the Red Sox organization, it seems likely that Gambrell would report to High-A Greenville. We will have to wait and see on that.

The three-team trade between the Red Sox, Royals, and Mets, which was initially agreed to back on February 10, has now been made completely official.

Here are the full returns for all three teams:

Red Sox get: OF Franchy Cordero (from KC), RHPs Luis De La Rosa and Grant Gambrell (from KC), RHP Josh Winckowski (from NYM), and OF Freddy Valdez (from NYM)

Royals get: OF Andrew Benintendi (from BOS)

Mets get: OF Khalil Lee (from BOS via KC)

What a journey it has been.

(Picture of Andrew Benintendi: Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)

Red Sox could be nearing decision on which 2 players to be named later they will be acquiring from Royals to complete Andrew Benintendi trade; player to be named later from Mets due June 4, per report

UPDATE: According to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, the Red Sox “are due to acquire the remaining three players to be named later” in the near future, while “the player from the Mets — assumed to be the best player of the three — is due by Friday,” June 4.

The Red Sox could soon decide on the two players to be named later they will be acquiring from the Royals as part of the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City, according to The Kansas City’s Star Lynn Worthy.

Per Worthy, the Sox could very well make their decision within the next week or two.

Boston originally dealt Benintendi to the Royals back in February in exchange for outfielder Franchy Cordero, outfield prospect Khalil Lee, and two players to be named later. They then traded Lee to the Mets in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Josh Winckowski and another player to be named later.

According to @RedSoxStats on Twitter, the two players the Sox receive from the Royals will likely be of the “lower-level” variety in regards to prospect rankings, while the player they get from the Mets “is likely to be a higher quality prospect.”

Of the five players Boston will eventually get back in this three-team swap, they have gotten mixed results from the two who have already joined the organization.

Cordero, who made the Red Sox’ Opening Day roster out of spring training, hit a disappointing .179/.228/.274 with just one home run, six doubles, nine RBI, six walks, and 37 strikeouts in 34 games before being demoted to Triple-A Worcester on May 26.

Since being sent down, though, Cordero has shown some signs of life. The 26-year-old has gone 5-for-12 with a pair of homers and three RBI in his first three games with the WooSox.

Winckowski, meanwhile, has been one of the organization’s most impressive pitching prospects to this point in the minor-league season.

Through his first five starts with Double-A Portland, the 22-year-old hurler has posted a miniscule 1.33 ERA and 0.89 WHIP to go along with a 26:9 strikeout-to-walk-ratio over 27 innings of work thus far.

His latest start was unquestionably his best, as he twirled seven scoreless frames of one-hit baseball against the Hartford Yard Goats on Saturday en route to picking up his second win of the season for the Sea Dogs.

As noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, Winckowski operates with a fastball, slider, changeup and splitter.

“There’s a good foundation there,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters (including Smith) when speaking about Winckowski last month. “The changeup shows a lot of promise. It’s a pretty hard changeup right now but you can still have success with that. It’s more of a power change. And that pitch is going to evolve but I think his other stuff will evolve, too. And he’s going to learn different ways to use it as he goes.”

(Picture of Andrew Benintendi: Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)

Andrew Benintendi crushes 2 homers for Royals; former Red Sox outfielder has found success since moving down in Kansas City’s lineup

Andrew Benintendi’s tenure with the Royals did not get off to the best of starts.

After being dealt from the Red Sox to Kansas City as part of a three-team, seven-player trade back in February, Benintendi struggled throughout his first spring training in Arizona, and that coincidentally carried over into the regular season as well.

Through his first 15 games as a member of the Royals, the 26-year-old put up an underwhelming .193/.270/.246 slash line with just three extra-base hits (all doubles), four RBI, three stolen bases, six walks, and 17 strikeouts over 63 plate appearances.

In that time, Benintendi — primarily Kansas City’s No. 2 hitter — failed to barrel up a single ball and posted a dismal wRC+ of 51 to show for his efforts.

As of the morning of April 21, it looked as though the former first-round pick was still on the path towards regression that started during the final month of the 2019 season.

But on that day against the Rays, Benintendi did something he had not done in a while: make significantly hard contact, and he did it twice by barreling up a pair of balls in the fourth and eighth innings.

Both balls the left-handed hitter squared up went for lineouts, but the fact he made more than solid contact on more than one occasion was encouraging — and a harbinger of positive things to come.

Since then, Benintendi has been on a roll as of late. He came into Saturday’s action riding an eight-game on-base streak and undoubtedly put together his best performance of the season to this point against the Twins at Target Field.

Batting seventh and starting in left field for Kansas City, the Cincinnati native went 3-for-4 at the plate with a pair of home runs — his second and third homers of the season, two RBI, and three runs scored while leading his side to an 11-3 victory over Minnesota.

At the time Benintendi hit his first big fly of the afternoon (about 4 p.m. eastern time), Red Sox manager Alex Cora was fielding questions from reporters during his pregame Zoom call at Globe Life Field.

Cora had the Royals-Twins game on the television playing in his office as well.. That being the case because at one point, while talking about Eduardo Rodriguez, he paused, saw Benintendi’s home run, and said, “Look at Benny. He hit a homer.”

Following Saturday’s showing, Benintendi raised his batting average on the season to .262 and his OPS on the season to .757.

Over his last seven games alone, Benintendi is slashing an unworldly .435/.519/.870 with three homers six RBI, seven runs scored, four walks, and one stolen base dating back to April 23.

The success Benintendi has enjoyed as of late can be linked to when he was dropped from second to seventh in the Royals’ lineup on April 19.

The Red Sox moved on from Benintendi over the winter after originally taking the outfielder in the first round of the 2015 amateur draft out of the University of Arkansas.

In exchange for Benintendi, the Sox acquired outfielder Franchy Cordero and two players to be named later from the Royals as well as pitching prospect Josh Winckowski and one player to be named later from the Mets.

Cordero, the only player Boston got back in that trade who has seen any major-league time to this point, came into Saturday’s game against the Rangers sporting a .176/.236/.216 slash line to go along with 26 strikeouts in 55 trips to the plate (47% strikeout rate).

(Picture of Andrew Benintendi and Michael A. Taylor: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Former Red Sox right-hander Mike Shawaryn signs minor-league deal with Royals

Former Red Sox right-hander Mike Shawaryn has signed a minor-league deal with the Royals, the team announced Tuesday.

Shawaryn, 26, was originally selected by the Sox in the fifth round of the 2016 amateur draft out of the University of Maryland.

In his time with the organization, the New Jersey native emerged as one of the top pitching prospects the club had to offer before he made his big-league debut in June 2019.

Over 14 appearances spanning two separate stints with the Red Sox in ’19, Shawaryn posted a 9.74 ERA and .978 OPS against while accruing 20 1/3 innings of work.

On the surface, those numbers were far from encouraging, but Shawaryn’s first exposure to the major-leagues was really a tale of two seasons.

From June 7 through June 18, the former Terrapin yielded just one earned run on four hits, five walks, and 15 strikeouts over his first six outings and 10 innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 0.90.

From June 22 through September 26, he surrendered a whopping 21 earned runs on 22 hits, eight walks, and 14 strikeouts over his final eight outings and 10 1/3 innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 18.29.

Despite those struggles, Shawaryn was still invited to the Sox’ alternate training site last July, though he was ultimately designated for assignment and outrighted off the club’s 40-man roster the following month.

Going into the 2021 season, the 6-foot-2, 240 pound hurler did not receive an invite to big-league spring training but was still included on the Red Sox’ initial alternate site roster.

It’s unclear how much work Shawaryn got while in Worcester, but he was apparently released by the Red Sox on April 25 and has since joined the Royals on a minor-league pact.

Kansas City should already be quite familiar with Shawaryn, as they originally drafted the righty out of Gloucester Catholic High School (N.J.) in 2013, but he chose to honor his commitment to Maryland instead.

Equipped with a four-seam fastball, slider, curveball, sinker, and changeup, Shawaryn has been assigned to the Royals’ alternate training site in Northwest Arkansas and will presumably begin the minor-league season with the club’s Triple-A affiliate in Omaha, Neb.

(Picture of Mike Shawaryn: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox bring back right-hander Joel Payamps via waiver claim, place outfielder Franchy Cordero on COVID-19 related injured list

The Red Sox have claimed right-hander Joel Payamps off waivers from the Blue Jays, the team announced Monday afternoon.

In order to make room for Payamps on their 40-man roster, Boston also placed outfielder Franchy Cordero on the COVID-19 related injured list.

Payamps comes back to the Sox a little less than three weeks after being designated for assignment by the club in order to open up a roster spot for starter Garrett Richards on February 3.

The 26-year-old hurler was then claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays a week later, but his stint with Toronto obviously did not last that long.

Prior to getting DFA’d earlier this month, Payamps originally came to Boston from the Diamondbacks via a waiver claim back in November.

In limited action with Arizona the last two seasons, the Dominican native yielded four runs (three earned) on six hits, six walks, and five strikeouts over four total appearances and seven innings of work. That’s good for an ERA of 3.86 and a FIP of 4.35.

Now that he is back with the Sox, Payamps will presumably compete for a spot on the team’s Opening Day roster as a mid-inning reliever, assuming he does not get designated and/or claimed by another club again.

Of course, Payamps, who works with a four-seam fastball, slider, sinker, and changeup, does have one minor-league option remaining, so him starting the year with Triple-A Worcester is a legitimate possibility as well. He is also under team control through 2026, for what it’s worth.

Moving on to Cordero now, the Red Sox placed the 26-year-old outfielder on the COVID-19 injured related list, but as noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith, “being placed on this list does not require a confirmed positive test.”

MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo tweeted earlier Monday that Cordero was not yet with the team and that manager Alex Cora was not sure of the exact reason as to why.

Cotillo later tweeted that the reasoning behind Cordero being placed on the COVID-19 related IL was “unclear,” noting that it’s not yet known if “he tested positive or has a disputed test or what the exact deal is.”

Cordero joins catcher Kevin Plawecki as the only two members of the Red Sox currently on the team’s COVID-19 related injured list. Both players will not count towards Boston’s 40-man roster as long as they are on said list.

The Dominican-born slugger was originally acquired by Boston from the Royals earlier this month as part of the trade that sent fellow outfielder Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City. He figures to see significant playing time in left field for the Sox this coming season, assuming he is healthy.

Following this particular transaction, the Red Sox’ 40-man roster is back at full capacity, though some spots may be in jeopardy relatively soon assuming both Cordero and Plawecki return sooner rather than later.

Also, the Marwin Gonzalez signing still needs to be made official, so there’s that.

(Picture of Joel Payamps: Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: The Athletic’s Alec Lewis joins the show to discuss the Andrew Benintendi trade

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by The Athletic’s Alec Lewis, who covers the Kansas City Royals for the site.

Alec and I mostly talked about the trade between the Red Sox and Royals last week that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City and Franchy Cordero and two players to be named later from K.C. to Boston.

We also discussed how Benintendi will have to adjust to the dimensions at Kauffman Stadium, how Cordero needs to stay healthy as a member of the Sox, and much more.

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thanks to Alec for taking some time out of his busy schedule to have a conversation with me. You can follow him on Twitter by clicking here, and you can check out his work for The Athletic by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Andrew Benintendi: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox were originally going to acquire outfield prospect Khalil Lee in Andrew Benintendi trade, flip him to Mets, Royals assistant GM J.J. Picollo says

In the three-team trade that sent former Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi to the Royals on Wednesday, Kansas City ended up trading outfield prospect Khalil Lee to the Mets.

As it turns out, though, New York was not originally involved in trade conversations between the Sox and Royals, meaning Boston was going to acquire Lee from Kansas City before flipping him to another team.

Speaking with Quinn Riley of BostonSportsWave.com on Saturday, Royals assistant general manager A.J. Picollo detailed how the three-team swap between his club, the Mets, and Red Sox came to be.

“That was something that the Red Sox had orchestrated themselves, and informed us about a day before the trade that they were probably going to trade Khalil Lee to another team,” Picollo said. “And then as we got down to the last hours before the trade was finalized, they told us that he was going to be going to the New York Mets. Sometimes those three-team deals, all three teams are involved to make it work and in this case, it was really just us and the Red Sox, and then the Red Sox trying to be creative and improve their system. They had the idea that we could maybe trade Khalil Lee and get something else we need and they flipped him to the Mets. So, those deals are always interesting and they come together in different ways.”

Given the information provided by Picollo here, it seems more like the Red Sox traded Benintendi (and $2.8 million of his 2021 salary) to the Royals in exchange for Lee, Franchy Cordero, and two players to be named later, then traded Lee to the Mets in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Josh Winckowski and one player to be named later.

Just this past Friday, Mets acting general manager — and former Red Sox assistant GM — Zack Scott told reporters that New York acquiring Lee in the first place was more capitalizing on an opportunity as opposed to something that came together more formally.

“It was an opportunity. We didn’t have direct conversations with Kansas City on that,” Scott said. “They were obviously looking for a major-league player to add to their roster, so that wasn’t going to be necessarily where we were going to match up. With my connections to Boston, quite frankly they know that I like Khalil Lee as a prospect from when I was there. He was someone we had talked about, and I knew they liked Khalil Lee as well.

“Just they reached out and asked if there would be interest here, and we were excited and I know our pro scouts here really like the player,” he continued.”[Lee’s] got a lot to like, a lot of tools and athleticism. We like a lot of things about his performance as well. That was how that came about, just that kind of conversation. I believe in being pretty active in talking to other teams because you never know what ideas might come up in those conversations, especially the informal ones. And that was one of those cases.”

Lee, 22, was regarded by MLB Pipeline as the Royals No. 8 prospect.

The former 2016 third-round draft pick spent the entirety of the 2020 season at Kansas City’s alternate training site. In his most recent organized minor-league action, Lee slashed .264/.363/.372 with eight home runs, 51 RBI, and 53 stolen bases over 129 games for Double-A Northwest Arkansas in 2019.

Rather than take on Lee in a straight swap with the Royals, the Red Sox, as previously mentioned, opted to flip the speedy outfielder to the Mets in exchange for Winckowski and two additional players to be named later.

Winckowski, 22, posted a 2.69 ERA and .231 batting average against over 24 appearances (23 starts) and 127 1/3 innings pitched between Class-A Lansing and High-A Dunedin in 2019, when he was still a member of the Blue Jays’ organization.

Since that time, the 6-foot-4 righty was not added to Toronto’s 60-man player pool at any point last year and was promptly traded to the Mets along with two other pitchers in exchange for veteran southpaw Steven Matz in late January.

Prior to his being traded to Boston earlier this week, Winckowski had been regarded by MLB Pipeline as New York’s No. 26 prospect.

Because they essentially traded Lee to the Mets for Winckowski and a player to be named later, it seems like there’s a solid chance that PTBNL could be someone significant given Lee’s standing as a sought-after prospect.

That being said, it will likely be a while before the Red Sox decide on which two PTBNLs from the Royals and one PTBNL from the Mets they will be acquiring.

“I don’t want to get into too many specifics on it, but the specific identities of the players are still to be determined,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said late Wednesday night. “We have frameworks in place with the clubs as to how and when we are going to do that. But, there’s not names of the players that we are getting that we are involved with right now.”

The process for trades involving players to be named later can take as long as six months to play out, so it is not like Bloom and Co. will be in a rush to get this done.

As a matter of fact, according to The Athletic’s Peter Gammons, the Red Sox have a list of four Royals minor-leaguers to choose from as their players to be named later from Kansas City. After the first month of the minor-league season, they can then choose any two players from that list.

Who will those two players from the Royals — and one from the Mets — be? Only time will tell.

(Picture of Khalil Lee: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)