Andrew Benintendi knew there was a strong possibility that his 2020 season, which was marred by injuries and underwhelming play, could be his last in Boston.
Once trade rumors began roughly two months ago, the chances of the outfielder remaining with the Red Sox appeared slim. It was all but confirmed when Benintendi received a phone call Wednesday from chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, who updated him on his future with the organization.
“He said, ‘There’s a good chance you’re going to get traded tonight,’ ” Benintendi said Thursday.
Shortly thereafter, Benintendi was a Kansas City Royal, ending a six-year relationship that began when the Sox selected the former University of Arkansas star with their first pick (seventh overall) in the 2015 draft.
Benintendi didn’t have much of a reaction to the trade, knowing it was out of his control. He only drew on the memories when looking in the rearview mirror Thursday.
“They drafted me and, you know, there’s always that connection with Boston. And I mean, obviously, 2018 is a tough one not to mention,” said Benintendi, recalling the Sox’ most recent World Series title.
“That year was unbelievable, but I think most of all would be the relationships that I’ve had with teammates and coaches. You get to meet a lot of people in this game, and some of those relationships I had there, I’ll have forever.”
When the three-team trade became official Wednesday night, Jackie Bradley Jr. posted a photo to his Instagram page. To Bradley’s right was Mookie Betts, and to his left was Benintendi.
While Bradley is a free agent and could remain in a Red Sox uniform (though that is unlikely), the photo showed where the Sox were just a short time ago, and where they stand now, attempting to beef up their farm system.
“It’s crazy to think that was just that short ago,” Benintendi noted. “But … we all understand it is part of the business. So, we move on and are ready to start at a new place.”
Benintendi is joining a team in win-now mode and one that will look for him to play a huge part in that. In his last two seasons with the Red Sox, Benintendi struggled offensively, including in 2019 when he struck out a career-high 140 times.
“There was an effort on my end to just try to get the ball in the air more,” Benintendi said. “At the time, I think that’s where the game was, and it might be getting away from that a little bit now, but it was about power.”
Even though the sample size was small, Benintendi’s 2020 season was even worse. He looked lost, tinkering with his stride. He wasn’t quick to the ball, either. In 52 plate appearances, he hit just .103, striking out 17 times, before missing the rest of the shortened season because of a right ribcage strain.
On Thursday, Benintendi acknowledged he had broken ribs, too,
Benintendi said he worked tirelessly this offseason to return to his previous form. He’s gotten back to more of a lean frame, and also worked with Red Sox hitting coaches Tim Hyers and Peter Fatse last month in an effort to correct the holes in his swing.
“I kind of understand the player I am, the player I want to be,” Benintendi said. “Physically, I feel back to where I need to be.”
In the deal, the Red Sox received power-hitting outfielder Franchy Cordero and two players to be named later from the Royals, as well as minor league righthander Josh Winckowski and a player to be named later from the Mets.
The move to Kansas City brings Benintendi closer to his Ohio roots, as well as to manager Mike Matheny, whom he has a close relationship with after playing in the Red Sox farm system with Matheny’s son, Tate.
“I’m excited to play for him,” Benintendi said. “And then just get things going with the team. I sound like a broken record here, but I’m pumped.”