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Andrew Benintendi’s time with the Kansas City Royals is over after fewer than two full seasons.
The team agreed to trade the outfielder to the New York Yankees for three minor leaguers on Wednesday.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan first reported the trade Wednesday night.
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the minor leaguers are T.J. Sikkema, Beck Way and Chandler Champlain.
Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported Benintendi informed the team that he will receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Benintendi has missed games against the Toronto Blue Jays this season due to his vaccination status because of Canada’s border policies.
That the Royals moved him doesn’t come as much of a surprise. After all, he is scheduled for free agency following this season, and the team isn’t a realistic contender at 39-59 in last place in the American League Central.
Rather than risk losing Benintendi to the free-agency market during the upcoming offseason, Kansas City got what it could in this move with an eye on the future.
There was a time when Benintendi was seen as the future of the Boston Red Sox as a highly regarded prospect in their system. He did nothing to temper expectations when he finished in second place in the American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2017 and then helped lead the Red Sox to the World Series title the following season.
The Cincinnati native slashed .290/.366/.465 with 16 home runs, 87 RBI and 21 stolen bases for the championship team.
However, Benintendi took a step back in 2019 with every one of those numbers dropping on his way to a .266/.343/.431 slash line, 13 home runs, 68 RBI and 10 stolen bases. He then played just 14 games during the shortened 2020 campaign.
Boston traded him to the Royals ahead of the 2021 season, and it was fair to wonder if he would bounce back after struggling to live up to his early production and high expectations.
Yet Benintendi was a pleasant surprise for Kansas City last year as a Gold Glove winner with an OPS+ of 106 after it was 99 in 2019 and 25 in limited action in 2020, per Baseball Reference.
He also made his first career All-Star Game this season and is slashing .321/.389/.399 with three home runs and 39 RBI.
“If he continues to rake, he could be one of the biggest prizes of this year’s trade deadline, and a hefty payday could be waiting next winter,” Bleacher Report’s Joel Reuter wrote of Benintendi in April.
The payday may be coming down the line, but for now the 28-year-old who is in the middle of his prime and just received an individual boost from his last change of scenery will focus on pursuing his second career World Series title with a top contender.
New York is already in the middle of the playoff race at 66-33, and Benintendi should see plenty of pitches to hit in a lineup that also features Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo and more.
If he continues to play at an elevated level for the rest of the year, he may know what it’s like to be a champion on both sides of the biggest rivalry in baseball.