Thursday, July 28, 2022

Yankees Acquire Benintendi To Address Their One Glaring Weakness

Andrew Benintendi on Thursday at Yankee Stadium. @Yankees on Twitter.

The Yankees have had a phenomenal season, but there has been one glaring weakness, and that is left field, specifically the performance of Joey Gallo.

About an hour after Wednesday night's game against the Mets, the Yankees addressed it with a move that’s been anticipated for awhile, as they acquired left fielder Andrew Benintendi from the Kansas City Royals for three prospects - right-handed pitcher Chandler Champlain, left-handed pitcher T.J. Sikkema, and right-handed pitcher Beck Way.

Benintendi, who was a member of the 2018 World Champion Boston Red Sox, whom he played for from 2016-20 before joining the Royals last season, is hitting .320 with 3 home runs and 39 RBI, and a .387 on-base percentage (OBP) and .398 slugging percentage (SLG), in 97 games this season.

That 2018 season was the best of Benintendi's time in Boston, as he hit .290 with 16 home runs and 87 RBI, with a .366 on-base percentage (OBP) and .465 SLG, with 71 walks and 106 strikeouts in 148 games. 

The next season, he took a step back in all major categories. In 138 games, he hit .266 with 13 home runs and 68 RBI, with 59 walks, and his strikeouts jumped to 140, while his OBP dipped to .343 and his slugging to .431.

A big reason the Yankees got Benintendi is his time in Boston, playing in a big market and his performance in the postseason with the Sox. In 21 playoff games, from 2016 to '18, he played in 21 playoff games, hitting .272 (22-for-81) with two home runs, nine RBI, and 18 runs scored. 

In 2018, Benintendi appeared in all of their 14 postseason games, and started in 13 of them. He led all playoff participants with 15 runs scored, and became the 15th player in Major League Baseball history to score at least 15 runs in a single postseason, and the first since Ben Zobrist did it with the Kansas City Royals in 2015. In the World Series against the Dodgers, he went 4-for-5 with a double, and RBI, and three runs scored in Game 1, and he hit .333 (6-for-18) overall for the series. His defense in that postseason made a lasting impression. He leaping catch in front of the Green Monster in Game 1 of the World Series, and he made a diving catch on the final out of Game 4 of the American League Championship in Houston, which was immortalized as the play of the Year across all sports by the Associated Press. That helped Boston take a 3-1 lead in the series, and clinch the American League pennant the next night.

The acquisition of Benintendi came after the Yankees dropped both games of the Subway Series to the Mets. Gallo's only at-bat in the series coming on Tuesday night as a pinch-hitter for Isiah Kiner-Falefa. It was a strikeout in the bottom of the eighth against Mets closer Edwin Diaz with a runner on and two out and the Yankees down 5-3 at the time (the Mets went on to win 6-3).

Gallo, who was the Yankees' big acquisition at last year's trade deadline, is hitting .161 with 12 home runs and 24 RBI, with a .285 on-base percentage thanks to 40 walks, but that his outweighed by his 103 strikeouts in 80 games.

The one thing, to give Gallo the benefit of the doubt, is it had to weigh on him mentally that everyone else on the team performed exceedingly well in the first three months, and he never got going, becoming the target of fans' ire with each strikeout.

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