One of my favorite Yogi-isms of all time is, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Originally coined to refer to Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris’s tendency to hit back-to-back dingers in the early 1960s, it’s come to be used to refer to problems that just won’t seem to let themselves be solved. Unfortunately for the Yankees, left field has reached “It’s déjà vu all over again” status.
Thanks to a litany of injuries in the outfield, the 2019 Yankees had a revolving door in left field, with Mike Tauchman, Cameron Maybin, Brett Gardner, Jackson Frazier, Giancarlo Stanton, Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, and even Gio Urshela seeing time out there. There was a tiny bit of stability in the abbreviated 2020, with Gardner and Tauchman penciled in there most of the time, while Frazier set himself up as the apparent starter of the future despite mostly covering in right field for an injured Aaron Judge. Due to concussions, unfortunately, Frazier stumbled out of the gate in 2021 and lost the job to the positionless Miguel Andújar, prompting the Yankees to trade for All-Star Joey Gallo to, finally stabilize the position at long last.
Except we all know how that ended. Almost overnight, Gallo stopped hitting, and after 12 months of dealing with him and the husk of Aaron Hicks, Brian Cashman turned once again to the trade market, reeling in former Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi from the Kansas City Royals to give the team a high-contact doubles machine with elite defense — exactly what the team needed. And once again, the trade turned out to be a flop.
2022 Statistics: 33 games, .254/.331/.404, 2 HR, 4 SB, 111 wRC+, 0.8 fWAR, 0.7 bWAR
2023 Contract Status: Free Agent
Trying to accurately and concisely summarize Benintendi’s time in the Bronx is a futile endeavor. In truth, we have to divide it into four stages.
Acquired on July 27th in exchange for a trio of minor league prospects, Benintendi immediately found himself part of the teamwide slump that defined the month of August. Over his first nine games, he had just a pair of hits in 34 plate appearances, walking eight times and recording six strikeouts; this led to a dismal slash line of .080/.294/.120 that was still, amazingly, not worst on the team (his 53 wRC+ in that span was ahead of both Gleyber Torres and Hicks).
During August 7th’s 12-9 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, Benintendi went 2-for-5 with a double and two runs scored. At this point, something clicked, and he began to look like the left fielder the Yankees had actually intended to acquire. From that day until September 2nd, he slashed .303/.344/.483 with two home runs and eight doubles; his 135 wRC+ was second only to Aaron Judge’s astronomical 194, and with near-Gold Glove defense to boot.
Benintendi was a major reason why the Yankees lineup looked ... well, it didn’t look functional, but at least it not completely broken.
Then, just as the Yankees were beginning to emerge from the darkness of August, Benintendi heard a “pop” in his wrist and left a key game against the AL East-chasing Rays in the middle of an at-bat on September 2nd. He would go on the injured list the next day with “right wrist inflammation,” which would later turn out to be a broken hamate bone that required surgery. Because of the short turnaround — the recovery period is usually about six weeks — there was hope that he would be able to rejoin the Yankees in the playoffs, but he simply ran out of time.
At the end of the day, Benintendi’s stint in the Yankees outfield will likely go down as one of the most forgettable examples of a former member of the Red Sox donning the pinstripes. It’s certainly possible that he could re-sign with the Yankees (he was “open” to a return), but there’s a good chance that the next time you see Benintendi in pinstripes, it will be as part of a stock segment on ESPN when the Yankees and Red Sox inevitably appear on Sunday Night Baseball, joining such legends as Alan Embree, John Olerud, and Alfredo Aceves on the “Oh right, they played for both these teams” list.
Still, it’s not Benintendi’s fault; you can’t really blame a guy for a freak injury like that.