Yankees, Royals Have Discussed Andrew Benintendi Trade

The Yankees and Royals have recently held talks around a trade that would send outfielder Andrew Benintendi to the Bronx, according to a report from Jon Heyman and Dan Martin of the New York Post. They add that the Yanks are simultaneously trying to work out a separate trade that would send outfielder Joey Gallo out of town.

Benintendi is one of the most obvious trade candidates, and this isn’t the first time his name has popped up in rumors. Since he’s having a good year on a noncompetitive team and is set to reach free agency at season’s end, everything seems to be lining up for a deal between now and the August 2 deadline. As such, MLBTR recently placed him #2 on our list of trade candidates. Back in June, it was reported that the Royals were actively seeking a buyer for the outfielder, with the Blue Jays reportedly showing interest.

The Yankees have been the best team in baseball this year and are therefore the most obvious of deadline buyers. As a team with a 61-24 record, they don’t have many holes, but one area they seem to be interesting in improving is the outfield, by swapping in Benintendi or some other deadline acquisition for Gallo. Reports from earlier this month indicated the Yankees were looking to upgrade on Gallo in some way.

The fact that Gallo has been a disappointment in the Bronx is well-known to Yankee fans, as his production has cratered since coming over from the Rangers in a deal last year. Prior to the deal, Gallo was well-established as one of baseball’s most fearsome sluggers. In the four full season from 2017 to 2021, Gallo put up 38 home runs or more in three of them. In 2019, he was limited to 70 games but still hit 22 long balls. His wRC+ was between 108 and 144 in each of those four seasons, indicating he was between 8% and 44% better than league average. 2020 was a disappointing campaign but under the strange circumstances of the pandemic season, and he seemed to bounce right back in 2021. In his time with the Rangers last year, he hit 25 home runs in 95 games and was slashing .233/.379 /.490 for a wRC+ of 139. After the deal, though, he hit just .160/.303/.404, 95 wRC+. That’s carried over into this season, as he’s hitting .166/.288/.341 on the year, producing a wRC+ of just 84. After almost a year of subpar production, it seems the Yanks are willing to move on. MLBTR placed Gallo at #39 on the aforementioned list of trade candidates.

Benintendi is having a much better season than Gallo, though in a very different style. In contrast to Gallo’s high-powered, high-strikeout approach, Benintendi would bring a more contact-oriented profile. His 14.2% strikeout rate is well below the 22.2% league average and far lower than the 38.3% rate Gallo has on the year. However, he’s hit just three homers on the season, compared to Gallo’s ten. All told, Benintendi is slashing .317/.387/.402 for a wRC+ of 128, a significant upgrade on Gallo’s 84.

Salary wise, swapping in Benintendi for Gallo wouldn’t make a huge difference for the Yanks. Both players are impending free agents, with Benintendi making $8.5MM and Gallo $10.275MM. Jason Martinez of Roster Resource calculates the Yankees’ CBT number to be $262MM at the moment, placing them beyond the $250MM second threshold but shy of the $270MM third threshold.

The Royals will have no interest in Gallo, of course. As a rebuilding team currently sporting a 31-52 record, they will be looking for long-term assets, either prospects or perhaps players recently reaching the majors. That leaves the Yankees to figure out who wants to take a shot on Gallo and hope for a bounceback. If a team wanted to convince themselves that Gallo was due for a turnaround, they could perhaps look at his HR/FB rate. It’s 17.5% this year, well below his career rate of 27% and his single-season career high of 37.3% in 2019. However, his Statcast page is a real mixed bag, with Gallo still capable of hitting the ball very hard, though not with enough frequency. His max exit velocity is in the 90th percentile, but his average exit velocity is just in the 40th. Any team acquiring him would have to hope for a bit more consistency, with that average exit velocity ticking up from this year’s 88.6 mph towards the 93-95 mph range of his better seasons.

The report from Heyman and Martin suggests the Yankees’ best bet would be teams run by his former bosses in Texas. There’s the Rangers themselves, who are within four games of a playoff spot and could consider doing some buying. Seeing them go after a rental like Gallo would be surprising, though, as this is the first year of what the club hopes to be a multi-year competitive window. Players with a bit more control would be more obvious fits, though perhaps the Yankees are motivated enough to move on from Gallo that they package him with someone else or eat part of his salary. In the short-term, there’s certainly room for Gallo, given the club’s roster. The Rangers have been featuring an outfield mix of Adolis Garcia, Kole Calhoun, Brad Miller and Leody Taveras in recent days. Miller is having an even worse year than Gallo, slashing .210/.261/.347 for a wRC+ of 73. The club has also been featuring Mitch Garver at designated hitter most of the time, but he’s going to undergo season-ending surgery tomorrow.

There’s also the Padres, whose president of baseball operations AJ Preller was in the Rangers’ front office when Gallo was drafted. They have been looking for outfield help for a while and have been snakebit by injuries to Wil Myers and Jurickson Profar. Nomar Mazara has stepped up and filled one spot admirably, but they’re still getting subpar production from Trent Grisham and jose azocar. Myers is nearing a return but was having a dismal campaign before landing on the injured list, meaning there’s no guarantee he’ll fix things once healthy. Despite those outfield struggles, the club is 49-37 and currently in possession of an NL Wild Card spot, making them clear deadline buyers.

There’s also the financial situation to consider with the Padres, as they are right up against the luxury tax and seem loath to cross it for a second straight year. Jason Martinez of Roster Resource calculates their CBT number to be $228.9, just shy of the $230MM first threshold. They have been trying to trade Myers and Eric Hosmer to get rid of some salary for quite some time, though without success thus far. They have also reportedly been considering trading a starting pitcher for the same reasons, with Blake Snell standing out as perhaps the most viable option. MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently took a detailed look at the situation. It would be a surprise for the Padres to create that breathing room and then use it on a dice roll like Gallo as opposed to someone currently having success. Though Preller has shown a tendency towards acquiring former Rangers like Profar, Mazara and Yu Darvishmeaning it can’t be completely discounted.

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