I have read a ton about Andrew Benintendi already this offseason. Max Rieper wrote an excellent piece over at Royals Review the other day that highlighted the fact that Andrew Benintendi kind of had four mini-seasons all wrapped up into one in 2021. You can read that article here. Here’s the TLDR for the article:
- From April 1 through April 21, Benintendi was awful in 16 games
- From April 23 through June 13, Benintendi was spectacular in 44 games
- In what I would call his 5th mini season, Benintendi missed a bunch of games with a rib injury
- From July 4 through September 2, Benintendi was almost completely unplayable in 45 games
- From September 3 through October 3, Benintendi hit like a damn All-Star in 29 games
In total, here were Benintendi’s season numbers in 2021, along with every other full season he’s played in in the big leagues:
- 2021: .276/.324/.442/.766, 106 wRC+, 2.1 fWAR, 2.4 bWAR
- 2019: .266/.343/.431/.774, 100 wRC+, 2.0 fWAR, 1.8 bWAR
- 2018: .290/.366/.465/.830, 123 wRC+, 4.4 fWAR, 4.8 bWAR
- 2017: .271/.352/.424/.776, 102 wRC+, 2.0 fWAR, 2.8 bWAR
Since 2017 (min. 1000 PA), Benintendi ranks 61st in wRC+ and 34th in fWAR among MLB outfielders. He may be a better defender than I’ve been giving him credit for on the interwebs but my goodness is it painful watching him try to throw a baseball. Benintendi is in his prime at age 28 and has been a fine outfielder for much of his big league career. He’s under contract in 2022 so talking about Benintendi only REALLY matters as it relates to 2023 and beyond. I have seen several folks suggest that the Royals either will or should extend Benintendi this offseason before he reaches free agency. My question: why?
The only reason you *should* extend a player before their contract runs out is if you think you’re getting the player on a discount compared to what they could get on the open market. Why would Benintendi be looking to give the Royals a discount right now? He wasn’t drafted here, he doesn’t necessarily owe the Royals any favors. I’m not saying he wouldn’t look to cut a deal, but Benintendi could potentially get a good chunk of money next offseason with a good showing in 2022. I just don’t know who eager he should be to cut JJ Piccolo and company a deal on an extension now, coming off a season where he was injured and didn’t hit well for a large stretch of the season.
Regardless of what kind of discount Benintendi may or may not be willing to cut the Royals, the bigger question at hand seems to be what kind of fit he is for this team’s future.
Benintendi is an okay defender. I’m willing to back off of calling him a “bad” defender because the metrics don’t seem to support that claim. I don’t think he’s good by any stretch, so I won’t be going there, but he’s fine. Serviceable. Then there’s the question about his offensive abilities. He’s going to be an above average contributor for the next few years. I’m pretty confident of that. I just don’t know what the upside is. Do you think there’s another season or two of him posting a 123 wRC+? That’s going to require him to start walking again and the Royals haven’t shown any ability to help players improve on their plate discipline lately.
On the other hand, the Royals are about to bring up a wave of young hitting prospects that could potentially be extremely volatile in the big leagues. Nick Pratto and MJ Melendez have struck out plenty in their minor league careers and there are still some potential concerns about Bobby Witt Jr.’s swing and miss traits. Not that these issues will be the bane of these kids’ careers, but it could help to have guys like Benintendi, Nicky Lopez, and Whit Merrifield has constants in a lineup that could have some volatility with its young guys.
My final question is this: how much is all that worth? Seems like every debate we ever have about free agents and extensions comes down to money. If the Royals can get Benintendi to sign a 3-year extension worth $40M, that probably isn’t going to cripple them moving forward. Benintendi will be entering his age-27 season in 2022 and a 3-year extension would allow him to still sign a second contract at the age of 30 in 2025. Maybe 3/42 would make some sense, averaging $14M/year for the life of the extension, potentially even putting some of that money into his 2022 salary so they can relieve the 2025 payroll?
That could actually be a potential benefit for both sides. If the Royals aren’t looking to spend a bunch of money this offseason, they could potentially give Benintendi an extension, front load that money so he gets a substantial raise in 2022, and create some flexibility for themselves in the future when the team is more ready to be competitive. That’s not actually something I’d considered before writing that last paragraph, but if you’re going to try to extend the guy anyway, doing it now creates some unique opportunities.
Anyway. I’ve kind of been on the “hell no” train when it comes to an Andrew Benintendi extension. Looking at it from 30,000 feet I may have talked myself into not hating it while I was writing this. I still think there’s options that will become available with more upside. You could also trade Benintendi this offseason, or in July, then just sign him back after the 2022 season. I don’t hate the idea of him being around, I just balk at the idea of giving him all that money while you still have him under control for one more season. There’s no need to rush this, I don’t think. Although I will say that I see more value in the idea now than I did 45 minutes ago. We’ll talk about this quite a bit on the podcast tonight I’m sure.
Photo Credits: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports