By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
What we have here, for lack of a better term, is a fire sale. And if the latest name being bandied about in Red Sox trade discussions surprises you, it shouldn’t.
Currently sidelined with a rib cage injury suffered earlier this month, Benintendi’s name has popped up in trade discussions according to the respected Ken Rosenthal, who listed Benintendi as “available” in an array of trade scenarios he posted recently. Benintendi’s inclusion in any deal would be a significant move for a Red Sox team generally lacking in young, relatively cheap and productive players, though one could certainly question whether Benintendi fully qualifies as “productive,” particularly this year.
Would I trade him? Sure. For the right price. But the more you think about it, trading Benintendi wouldn’t really be about Benintendi at all.
It would be about Chaim Bloom.
Bloom has been on the job for a little less than a year, after all, and the biggest trade he has made with the Red Sox wasn’t really his trade at all. The Red Sox sent Mookie Betts to the Dodgers in February, but that was hardly Bloom’s decision. It was more like a mandate. The Red Sox had made unsuccessful attempts to sign Betts and needed to get under the luxury tax – and everybody knew it.
And then there was the matter of reneging on a deal that would have brought pitcher Brusdar Graterol to Boston in the package, something that many believe resulted from the intervention of Sox ownership.
Regardless, here’s the point: nobody decides to trade Mookie Betts. You kind of get forced into it. Since that time, Bloom’s deals have included small trades with the Chicago Cubs (for catcher Jhonny Perada) and Tampa Bay Rays (a cash transaction for Dylan Covey) before last Friday’s deal that sent Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitchers Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold.
Know what all of those deals were? Relatively small, easy and obvious. Workman was headed for free agency. Hembree is a disposable middle reliever. Pivetta and Seabold are 20-something pitchers who are younger, cheaper and have a chance to be decent, which made the Philly deal a borderline no-brainer. (Now, if other teams pay higher prices for comparable relievers, well, then we’ll have something to second-guess Bloom about.)
But Benintendi? He’s a different animal. He was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2015 draft. And even if Benintendi hasn’t lived up to the expectations many have had for him, he’s still a perfectly decent, everyday, major league outfielder. He’s also ineligible for free agency until the fall of 2023.
According to Rosenthal, the Cleveland Indians are among the teams who might have interest in Benintendi, which makes perfect sense. Cleveland needs offense and has pitching to deal – and Benintendi would be a good fit for their ballpark. The question is whether the Red Sox would pull the trigger on a player whose value might be at an all-time low, which brings us back to Bloom.
Given the Red Sox’ predicament – few if any prospects, bad free agent market for pitching after the season – they are in a weak position. Benintendi shouldn’t be given away. But given the emergence of Alex Verdugo, Benintendi is an obvious piece to deal for good pitching, something the Red Sox desperately need as they try to rebuild their wretched organizational pitching pool.
In the end, here’s what we’re going to learn about Bloom:
First, unlike Ben Cherington during his time here, does he have the gumption to make a bold deal involving significant, young talent that could blow up in his face?
And second, if he does, does he have the steadfastness to demand fair value, even when his hand is weak?
Little by little with the new GM of the Red Sox, we’re going to find out.