It would’ve been understandable for Boston Red Sox fans to groan Wednesday night when the New York Yankees acquired Andrew Benintendi in a trade with the Kansas City Royals.
After all, the optics weren’t great.
An old friend joining a fierce rival. Said rival in first place in the American League East — by a wide margin — while the hometown club sits in last place with a record under .500. All on a night when Franchy Cordero — one of the pieces the Red Sox acquired from the Royals in exchange for Benintendi back in February 2021 — committed three errors in a loss to the Cleveland Guardians, further compounding a brutal stretch for both the player and the team.
But sit down. Relax. Pour yourself a drink. Grab a snack. Whatever. And allow us to explain why the Yankees’ trade for Benintendi actually might be a good thing for the Red Sox — or, at the very least, not the nightmare development it looks like at first glance.
Sure, the Yankees just improved their roster, perhaps rather significantly when you consider just how awful Joey Gallo — the player Benintendi more or less is replacing — has been this season. But that’s not terrible for Boston, because the Red Sox probably aren’t catching the Yankees, anyway.
The Red Sox’s focus should be on their own issues, first and foremost. After that? They should be more concerned about the teams ahead of them in the AL wild-card race — the Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Guardians, Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox — than the boys in pinstripes. And it just so happens the Yankees have 22 games against those clubs — nine against Tampa Bay, seven against Toronto and six against Seattle — between now and the end of the regular season.
The Yankees being better, in theory, should increase their chances of beating those teams, in turn benefitting the Red Sox in Boston’s quest to reach the postseason.
Now, if you want to argue that advantage is negated by the Red Sox having nine more head-to-head matchups with the Yankees, that’s fair. Just know that six of those games are in September, when New York might be on cruise control, and the Red Sox have played the Yankees relatively tough this season, with the exception of the two games immediately preceding the MLB All-Star break.
Blood still boiling? Well, consider the alternative: The Toronto Blue Jays reportedly were “in the mix” for Benintendi before he landed in the Bronx. Him heading north of the border — assuming he got vaccinated — would be far more detrimental to Boston’s playoff push.
Maybe you’re just not a believer in this year’s Red Sox. That’s OK. If so, you should be even less concerned — and maybe even receptive — to the Yankees acquiring Benintendi. Because while he boosts their World Series chances in the short term, he’s set to become a free agent this offseason. It’s possible the Yankees are just renting him for two or three months at the expense of three pitching prospects, who otherwise might’ve contributed for New York at the major league level when Boston’s contention window reopens.
It’s important to note, too, that if the Red Sox — losers of 17 of their first 23 games in July — decide to become sellers before the Aug. 2 trade deadline, they’ll now do so with one less option available for buyers. There’s not a perfect one-to-one comparison for Benintendi on Boston’s roster, but simple supply and demand suggests the Red Sox stand to potentially benefit from players coming off the board, provided the early-moving sellers adequately set the market — which the Royals seemingly did Wednesday by landing a trio of intriguing arms for a player on the cusp of reaching free agency.
Admittedly, it’s probably a reach. Soto is a generational hitter whose talent and contract (two more years of club control) is such that acquiring anyone — let alone a solid but unspectacular rental, like Benintendi — shouldn’t deter the Yankees, or whoever, from keeping tabs on the situation brewing in the nation’s capital. But maybe, just maybe, it opens the door a little wider for another team to swoop in for the Washington Nationals superstar. And hey, maybe that team will be the Red Sox?
OK, we’ll draw the line somewhere. But the overall point stands for Red Sox fans: Don’t sweat the Benintendi trade as much as you might have when the news first broke, for its impact on Boston is negligible at worst and surprisingly positive at best.