Andrew Benintendi launched a solo homer against Jake Arrieta in the Red Sox’ 5-4 victory over the Cubs on Friday in no small part because of what Arrieta had done to the Red Sox three years earlier.
The Cubs were in Fenway Park on Friday for the first time since the two teams met June 30 to July 2, 2014. That three-game series, in one respect, played a significant role in altering the futures of the two franchises.
The Cubs, who were in unapologetic, full-scale rebuild mode in 2014, swept that three-game set from the Red Sox in Boston. Arrrieta delivered the signature performance of the series, dominating through 7 2/3 no-hit innings in the opener of an eventual 2-0 victory.
At the time, a Cubs official wondered whether the performance in Boston might come with a drawback for the club’s rebuilding efforts. It seemed impossible, given that the Sox had entered 2014 as the reigning World Series champions, but the Red Sox had struggled to the point where it looked like their season had a chance to go off the rails, thus positioning the Sox for a high draft pick. So there was some curiosity: Might the three-game sweep by the Cubs improve the Red Sox’ draft position at Chicago’s expense?
That is precisely what happened. The Red Sox finished the year with a 71-91 record, which earned them the seventh pick in the draft. The Cubs went 73-89 and picked ninth, just behind a White Sox team that likewise finished 73-89.
Had the Red Sox won just one of the games in Fenway, Boston and Chicago would have concluded the year with identical 72-90 records. Had that occurred, Chicago would have gotten the higher pick due to the tiebreaker of the teams’ respective records in 2013 (a year in which the Cubs finished last and the Sox won the World Series). And that, in turn, could have yielded a significant change.
The Cubs, after all, held outfielder Andrew Benintendi in extremely high regard. Prior to the draft, they seemed likely to pounce on the top college player should he slip to their pick.
“His agent heard from the Cubs that he was the guy they wanted,” said Chris Benintendi, Andrew Benintendi’s father. “But obviously he didn’t fall that far.”
That’s because the Red Sox tabbed Andrew Benintendi with their No. 7 pick. But had the Red Sox claimed just one win in that three-game series, Chicago would have had dibs.
The Cubs still ended up with a well-regarded prospect in Ian Happ, who entered Friday with a .259/.344/.593 line and eight homers in 20 Triple A contests this year. That said, while Happ is a top-100 prospect, Benintendi has zoomed to a different class – laying claim to the title of consensus top prospect in the majors entering 2017.
For his part, Benintendi has no misgivings about where he ended up, and spent no time last October contemplating what might have happened had the Cubs selected him.
“There wasn’t really one team, except the Red Sox, honestly, that stood out [in the draft process],” Benintendi said. “It’s worked out well so far. It’s fun to play here. I’m happy with where I am now. Obviously they broke their drought, but we’re going to try to not let them repeat.”
On Friday night, Benintendi – who is now hitting .325/.394/.446 – helped to assert himself as just such an obstacle – rather than the asset he might have been for the Cubs had the 2014 standings shifted ever so slightly.
Follow Alex Speier on Twitter at @alexspeier.