If you follow the Yankees, then you’re aware that we’re well into the discourse about what the team “needs” at or before the trade deadline to fill any holes and head down the stretch (and into the postseason) with an optimal chance at winning the World Series. Juan Soto’s name has come up often as has Luis Castillo’s, and understandably so – both would be massive upgrades for the Yankees’ roster at their positions.
Kansas City outfielder Andrew Benintendi’s name has entered the chat on more than a few occasions as well, which tracks perfectly. He’s a good player on a bad team who’ll be a free agent at season’s end. More importantly, perhaps, he fits perfectly into the mold of the type of player that Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman love – the stop gap guy. (Why sign Corey Seager when we can have IKF? Why re-sign Tanaka or sign Kevin Gausman when we can have Corey Kluber’s corpse? Justin Verlander – ha, who needs him! We’re getting Sonny Gray!) Passing on a 23-year-old Soto who’s on his way to Cooperstown to acquire Benintendi would be peak Hal and Cashman.
That said, I have to ask: Would adding Benintendi even make the team better? I.e., is he better than Aaron Hicks? Let’s take a look.
Since 2017 (Benintendi’s first full season):
WAR per 162 games:
OK, so if you’re on team get Benintendi, you’re off to a bad start. Of course, the above doesn’t consider that a) Benintendi is five years younger, b) has been generally healthier, and c) is having a better 2022 season than Hicks.
The health and age issues aren’t significant factors in this discussion as you’d only have Benintendi for the next three months, after which point the questions change. Secondly, is he really having a better 2022 than Hicks, and if so by how much?
So far in 2022 Benintendi has produced 2.3 bWAR to Hicks’ 1.4, while FanGraphs has the gap a little closer with 2.0 fWAR for Benintendi and 1.4 for Hicks. Either way, at their current pace we’re talking less than one team win difference between the two over the remainder of the season.
Something else to consider – and if you’ve watched the Yankees this season you know this – is that Hicks got off to an awful start in 2022. Benintendi may have been a better player over the season’s first two months, but since then, not so much…
Since June 1st:
Also worth noting is that Benintendi’s 2022 BABIP of .366 is the highest of his career by a pretty good margin. The fact that it went from .378 in April and May down to .351 since June 1st may be an indication that he’s regressing to his career norm and that his hot streak to start the season just wasn’t sustainable.
To be clear, “Who is the better player, Andrew Benintendi or Aaron Hicks?” isn’t the question we should be asking. The question is “Is Benintendi a big enough of a roster upgrade*to justify giving up prospects for him?”
The answer to that is quite obviously, no.
(*If you’re thinking that the Yanks should get Benintendi and lose Gallo, you’re somewhat missing the point. You still need to justify Benintendi being better than Hicks in order for Benintendi to be in the lineup every day – because if he’s not good enough to be in the lineup every day, you shouldn’t be acquiring him.)
You may have noticed we’re 600 words in and we haven’t mentioned that Matt Carpenter has performed decently (sarcasm) and that a left-handed corner outfielder isn’t really a need, nor that Benintendi isn’t allowed in Toronto – not insignificant aspects of this discussion.
Don’t go the frugal stop-gap way Hal (again). You’re the New York Yankees – use the considerable resources at your disposal and go big or go home.
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