On the surface, the decision by the Red Sox to aggressively shop outfielder Andrew Benintendi may seem a strange one.
Benintendi is just 26 years old and has shown, in the not-too-distant past that he's capable of posting an OPS of .850 or so while offering at least league-average defense and speed. Moreover, Benintendi is hardly outrageously overpriced with a $6.6 million salary due to him in 2021 and has two years of control remaining. Finally, he's coming off a poor season that was cut short by injury and to trade him now would be to do when his value has bottomed out.
So, why then are the Red Sox almost certain to deal Benintendi elsewhere?
Based on conversations with numerous executives and evaluators throughout the game, here are some possible clues:
1. There's been a reckoning when it comes to salaries.
While $6.6 million isn't about to bust a team's budget -- especially a big-market team like the Red Sox -- it's not insignificant, either.
Part of that is the flood of free agents, the vast majority of which remain unsigned. Another element is the basic economic uncertainty in the game. Every team lost substantial money last year, with the big market team incurring losses in the hundreds of millions. And the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic -- Will fans be allowed in ballparks in 2021? And how many and how soon? -- makes it tough for teams to anticipate revenues.
"One disconnect with fans,'' noted one MLB general manager, "is that the guys who are signed (to pre-existing deals), in most cases, wouldn't come close to getting that same number if they were on the open market.''
That's undoubtedly true of Benintendi. If he were a free agent, it's highly doubtful he would match or top that AAV of $6.6 million. And when you think about the fact Benintendi has another year of eligibility remaining, he'll likely make more than that this year.
Even with a modest raise (let's use $8 million for 2022), would free agent Andrew Benintendi land a two-year deal worth $15 million right now? Doubtful.