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What’s this about Andrew Benintendi?

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Are the Phillies looking at a reclamation project?

Tampa Bay Rays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

So yesterday there was a little blip on social media that started getting ears perked up.

Couple of things first.

We have a pretty hard and fast rule here at The Good Phight where unless Salisbury is tweeting it, any rumor about the Phillies feels a little far fetched. This woman, who does have some connections to the Red Sox, isn’t a Philadelphia writer so it’s a little hard to swallow. I’m not doubting her sources; it’s just that the Phillies have been so tight lipped about their moves in the past few seasons that if a local beat writer isn’t talking about it, we believe that there should be a healthy dose of salt to be taken.

Second, there have been rumors swirling around Andrew Benintendi and his departure from Boston for some time.

After the tweet that initially talked about the connection to the Red Sox came out, a local reporter sent this:

This was then followed by the nationally linked Mark Feinsand:

Is that a rival executive with an offer out for Benintendi using Feinsand to subtly nudge the Red Sox into action? It’s possible, but the smoke surrounding his departure seems have a real fire to it. At our Red Sox sister site, they have been discussing a lot of things surrounding Benintendi, so it makes sense that the possibility of his moving soon is legit.

So why the Phillies? Let’s examine this.

Where would he play?

The first thing that springs to mind is the fact that Benintendi is a left fielder and the team already has one in the form of Andrew McCutchen. I wrote earlier about how McCutchen did not look good defensively last year, but with the bat, he was a force once he overcame a slow start. Taking him out of the lineup only to be replaced by Benintendi feels like addition by subtraction at the plate.

Why?

Because Benintendi was bad last year. Real bad. Really, really bad. He was injured, limiting him to only 52 plate appearance on the year, but he hit .103/.314/.128 for a 43 wRC+. Compare that with what McCutchen hit (.253/.324/.433 for a 103 wRC+). Basing this trade off of what happened last year and the team should definitely stick with McCutchen in left field. That would mean Benintendi would move to center field, displacing Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn.

The only problem there is that he’s pretty bad as a center fielder. There isn’t much of a sample size of his playing center during his time in Boston (they had a pretty good while he was there), but what we do have shows he wasn’t very good there.

While he might be able to hold down the fort in a short term setting, the team would be getting him to play him there for 140-150+ games. That type of exposure could be bad for him and for the team as a whole. Looking at some Statcast data, were Benintendi to play center field, he would be flanked by Bryce Harper to his left and McCutchen to his right. The problem is that one of Harper’s weak points with fielding is that he is below average when it comes to OOA to his right (toward CF). For McCutchen, the same holds true when he is forced to move to his left, something he has had trouble with even prior to the injury. This means that Benintendi would be forced to cover more ground while in center field moving laterally, something his own Statcast data has said he struggles with.

Is the package good enough?

Giving up Mickey Moniak shouldn’t be too much of an issue. It’s looking increasingly like his ceiling is that of a fourth outfielder. If there was a way to unlock any untapped potential, then yes, the team should hold fast onto him. However they have been locked into a new approach to hitting philosophy for about two years now and Moniak still hasn’t reached the heights of being a starter yet. A change of scenery might be best for him.

A “Triple-A arm”, what the first tweet mentioned, could mean any number of things. Are we talking about Adonis Medina? Enyel de los Santos? Cole Irvin? Damon Jones? All of these pitchers would fit that billing and losing any one of them would hurt the depth of the team, but it shouldn’t stand in the way of a deal. Of those four, losing Medina would probably be the worst idea since he looked the most likely to contribute this year.

So why should the Phillies do it?

Well, even with Benintendi’s poor offensive showing last year and dubious Statcast data suggesting center field might not be the best spot for him, the Phillies should still strongly consider the deal if what is being proposed is true. There are two reasons.

First, there has to still be something left in the tank. It was only two seasons ago that Benintendi was hitting .290/.366/.465. His 2019 season wasn’t all that bad either, though there was a marked increase in his strikeout rate, something that no one really wants to see. However, being only 26 years old for most of 2021, time is still on his side. The chances of his completely having fallen off the earth developmentally are pretty slim, though not quite zero. His 2020 season is a cause for concern, but with the team not particularly good at developing outfielders, getting Benintendi would help gloss over that problem a bit.

Second, this year, he will be on the cheap side, having signed an extension that bought out his first two arbitration seasons for $10 million ($6.6 million this year), meaning he would be able to fit into the meager offseason budget the team has to work with this year. He’ll have one more year of team control, a season after McCutchen will have departed. That would give the team plenty of time to evaluate how to proceed with him, whether they would extend him or simply move on after 2022. Were they to decide to move on from him, the package potentially going back to Boston isn’t one where they would be kicking themselves for having dealt it away.

Rolling the dice on a 26 year old left fielder to masquerade as a center fielder is something that this team should be doing. They have fallen behind the Braves and Mets in the team talent level and are in danger of falling behind the Nationals as well. Adding talent to this roster at most any position can only improve their standing in the National League East, as well as in the game on the whole.