The Royals had been in talks with the Red Sox (and as many as six other teams) about potentially acquiring Andrew Benintendi going all the way back to November, said assistant general manager JJ Picollo in an interview with Quinn Riley of Bostonsportswave.com. Another Royals’ assistant GM, Scott Sharp, did a lot of the legwork in terms of keeping Boston on the line, per Lynn Worthy of the Kansas City Star.
Despite the Royals’ belief in Franchy Cordero’s power potential – Picollo invoked the name of David Ortiz in comparison as a late-blooming power bat – Benintendi better fits the needs of their ball club. To replace the legendary Alex Gordon in left, the Royals had explored a pact with Jurickson Profar, notes Worthy. But the Padres’ three-year commitment to Profar ultimately proved a pricier acquisition than Benintendi by quite a bit in terms of pure dollars, especially since Boston is chipping in cash to help with his $6.6MM salary this season.
The Royals plan to utilize Benintendi near the top of the order, probably in the two-hole. The Royals have a noted need for on-base ability – Kansas City finished tied for 26th in the Majors with a .309 On-Base Percentage – and while Khalil Lee looked like a potential internal candidate to bring those skills to the table, the 26-year-old Benintendi is the more proven commodity. Even considering questions surrounding his recent performance and decline in foot speed, Benintendi has maintained an ability to get on base with a solidly above-average 10.5 percent career walk rate. If anything, Benintendi was over-patient in 2020 as his swing rate fell to 44.5 percent, though he also saw less strikes than ever with just a 44.1 percent zone rate in the extremely small sample season.
Regarding Lee, the Royals never spoke directly with the Mets about their speedy young outfield prospect. That leg of the deal was entirely cooked up by Boston, writes Ken Davidoff and Mike Puma of the New York Post. The Red Sox know Mets GM Zack Scott well considering his 16 years in the Boston organization, and they knew about his longstanding interest in Lee as a prospect. The Royals were aware of another team’s involvement, but didn’t hear about Lee’s ultimate destination until about 90 minutes before the deal was finalized.