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Andrew Benintendi is a Yankee, and we never would have foreseen that not long ago

The Yankees make their first deadline move and bring the Royals outfielder back to the AL East

Tampa Bay Rays v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Well, for a brief window of time, it looked like the Yankees being swept at the hands of the crosstown Mets was going to be the story that dominated New York sports media tonight. And then... something came up.

To be exact, the news that the Yankees had acquired Royals outfielder Andrew Benintendi quickly overshadowed events on the field. Yankees beat writer Jack Curry broke the news of the deal mere minutes after the Bombers lost in the bottom of the ninth at Citi Field.

Specific details of the trade just became public, and New York sent a trio of minor leaguers to Kansas City in exchange for Benintendi, who returns to the division wherein he started his career, as a young phenom and eventual World Series champion for the Red Sox.

So what does the deal mean? Well, a few things immediately jump out. First, the trade is an immediate infusion of offense to an outfield that is currently marred by injury (Giancarlo Stanton) and underperformance (Joey Gallo). For the season, Benintendi has hit .321 with an on-base percentage of .389 and a wRC+ of 127. With Stanton’s bat out of the lineup and Gallo’s MIA for virtually his entire tenure as a Yankee, this acquisition should provide an immediate jot of offense at the top of the lineup.

That leads into the next focus: the starting nine. It seems pretty likely that we’ll see a lot of Benintendi at the top of the lineup, where that high OBP can put traffic on the bases in front of Aaron Judge’s torrid bat. And it is a nice bonus that Benintendi swings from the left side, adding another left-handed bat to help balance out the Yankee order. Could we see a first inning lineup of DJ LeMahieu-Benintendi-Judge, with the new Yankee hitting leadoff on DJ’s days off? One way or another, it’s almost certain that Aaron Boone will enjoy playing lineup Tetris.

But for every at-bat Benintendi gets, someone loses one. And if we were doing a “Winners and Losers” post for this deal, it’s almost certainly Gallo, who has been abysmal at the dish since the Yankees acquired him at last year’s deadline. With Matt Carpenter doing his best Prime Barry Bonds impression and Aaron Hicks riding a 200 wRC+ in July, there is probably no path to much playing time for Gallo, even in the short-term with Stanton on the IL. It won’t be a surprise at all to see the Yankees part way with Pal Joey before the deadline passes, giving both the club and the player a fresh start.

Finally... Benintendi’s COVID-19 vaccination status is the elephant in the room. He was one of a plethora of Royals who were unable to cross into the Great White North for a series against the Blue Jays, and that immediately prompted speculation about whether the Yankees would remain in the hunt for his services. Obviously, we know the answer to that.

What we don’t know, and what remains utterly opaque, is whether Benintendi is planning to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in the short term. There have been conflicting reports on Twitter since news of the trade broke, but The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the issue never even came up, and that the Blue Jays, who play a lot more games in Canada than the Yankees, were trying to obtain Benintendi.

The Jays report plus Jon Heyman’s would seem to indicate that the Yankees aren’t concerned about any absences. Benintendi later confirmed that he remains unvaccinated, but is “open minded” about getting the shots. So make of that what you will.

Anyway, that wasn’t the final thing that came to mind for me regarding this trade. (I lied earlier.) Benintendi, in a way, is coming home. After spending his first five seasons in the American League East as a Red Sox, he now gets to don pinstripes and experience an AL East championship chase as a Yankee, with some career numbers that suggest he won’t be fazed by coming back to the AL East pressure cooker.

For his career, Benintendi has an .800 OPS at Fenway Park. At Camden Yards, that number is .855. And at Yankee Stadium: .823, with seven home runs, tied for the most at any park where he hasn’t played home games. His track record is worse at Tropicana Field and Rogers Center, but between his performance this season and his career numbers in this division, he should be a productive piece for the Yankees down the stretch.

It feels almost sacrilegious for me to type this considering where Benintendi cut this teeth as a big leaguer, but I like this trade. The Yankees didn’t pay an exorbitant cost. And in return, they receive a left-handed bat who’s been an on-base machine this season, has extensive experience in the AL East, and has pretty good career numbers at Yankee Stadium. It’s a good night to be a Yankees fan.