Andrew Benintendi changed teams, but he didn’t switch hotels. As of Friday, he still was staying with the Royals, and the outfielder hung out with his suddenly former teammates after his new club, the Yankees, beat them Thursday.
The scene was never stranger than in the immediate moments after the baseball world learned Benintendi had been traded to the Yankees on Wednesday night, on the eve of the two clubs beginning a series in The Bronx. He and a few teammates had agreed to meet in one room to play cards, but they retreated first to their individual rooms. Their phones began buzzing.
“Benny told us how everything went down,” Kansas City utility man Hunter Dozier said before the Yankees topped the Royals 11-5 on Friday in The Bronx. “Then we just hung out and played cards like normal.”
According to Benintendi’s former team, the Yankees have struck gold in acquiring an outfielder with excellent contact skills in the midst of one of his best seasons.
The 28-year-old, who had an RBI on an infield single in the Yankees’ eight-run eighth inning and finished 1-for-3 with a walk Friday, hit .320 and posted a .387 on-base percentage in 93 games with Kansas City.
“We would joke around saying every day, Benny’s going to get two hits and a walk at least,” Dozier said of his teammate of one and a half seasons. “He just has been very consistent this year. Finding hits, getting walks, playing really good defense. It’s been impressive to watch him play.”
One downside for the Yankees is Benintendi’s unvaccinated status, which kept him from playing a series in Toronto earlier this season. The lefty hitter, who essentially is replacing Joey Gallo, said Thursday he is staying “open-minded” about the vaccine. The Yankees travel to Toronto for a series in September, and a postseason series against the Blue Jays is a possibility.
Another downside is Benintendi’s lack of power. He hit three home runs this season before the trade a year after he slugged 17.
According to Statcast, his home run total would be doubled to six if he had played all his games in The Bronx this year.
“He’s a guy that can do everything,” said Royals second baseman and right fielder Whit Merrifield. “I know that his power numbers aren’t there, but he [was] playing in the biggest and hardest park to hit a home run in, in baseball.
“He can sprint, he can steal bases [four with the Royals], he can hit for average, he can hit for power. They got a complete, well-rounded hitter, defender and just a great teammate. It’s a slam dunk for any team that went out and got him.”
Benintendi spent his first five major league seasons with the Red Sox, with whom he won the World Series in 2018. During the postseason that year, he excelled against the Yankees in the ALDS, posting a .444 on-base percentage in a series Boston won in four games.
In 21 career playoff games, Benintendi has a .729 OPS.
“The experience of having been in that situation helps,” said Royals outfielder Michael A. Taylor, who won the World Series with the Nationals in 2019. “He knows what to expect on and off the field because there’s a lot of media and things like that in the playoffs and the World Series.”
The consensus from several who know Benintendi best was that he is both a relaxed and easy-going person away from the field and a hard-nosed competitor on it.
“He’s a guy that is going to fit in in any clubhouse because he works hard. He’s quiet. He’s a great guy.”