Braves: Could this trade with the Royals make sense?

Braves FanGraphs Andrew
Welcome back to the “Atlanta Braves Way Too Early Trade Candidates” column.

It is obvious that the Atlanta Braves need help if they are going to compete in the division. In fact, it may be time to consider doing a soft retooling of the roster to get ready for next year.

The Braves have a solid core of cheap, controllable players that will keep them competitive in the future if holes are filled, but they still have a shot at the playoffs this season, theoretically, even if that probability is dropping by the day.

One area that has become apparent as the days go by is that a bat is sorely needed. If the eye goes to the run differential, it can be very deceiving.

At the time of this writing, the Braves have scored 21% of their runs in only five games

If you take those five games out, which seem to be anomalies, it sheds a completely different light on how this offense is performing. Not only are the Braves regularly starting three players who are veteran AAA players, but they are also extremely top-heavy offensively. Since June 1st, Austin Riley, the cleanup hitter, is slashing .232/.290/.360, leading to a terrible .650 OPS (this was before yesterday’s game). The 5th hitter has been bouncing between a AAA-level player in Orlando Arcia/Guillermo Heredia or Dansby Swanson, who is getting on base at a .287 clip.

If the Atlanta Braves want to make a run at the postseason this year, an upgrade in the hitting department is needed.

It would also be smart to go after someone who can help the Braves past this year. At this point, it does not make much sense to go after strictly a rental.

Who should the Atlanta Braves Target?

Let’s review. We’re only looking at realistic trades here. There are endless possibilities, but there are typically three reasons why teams make trades.

  1. Rebuilding: Teams that know they won’t compete may trade their desirable players for prospects to expedite the rebuild process. We’ll be looking for veteran players who can help the Braves win now from these teams.
  2. Contending: Teams that feel they will compete will trade their prospects for players to help the club now to a rebuilding team. The Braves currently fall into this category.
  3. Salary Dump: Baseball is a business, and a team in a tight spot financially may be willing to trade a contract they no longer want for financial flexibility. Depending on the scenario, a team could part with a prospect or Major League players for cash considerations.

For a while now, the Pirates, Orioles, Tigers, Rangers, Diamondbacks, and Rockies project to be sellers. New to the list are the Kansas City Royals. On paper, they looked like a decent team at the beginning of the year, but much like the Braves, nothing is going their way. They do not have the strong core that Atlanta has, which could lead to a total rebuild.

Enter former 7th overall pick, Andrew Benintendi (Royals)

Andrew Benintendi never quite lived up to the hype, but don’t let that fool you. He has been one of the most consistent bats in MLB. Since his rookie year in 2016, he has had an OPS+ below 100 (league average) just once, and that was the COVID-19 shortened season.

Benintendi’s offensive statistical output has been solid:
  • He is a career .274/.351/.435 hitter, which equates to an OPS+ of 107
  • In 2021, he is right on track with his career at .278/.333/.432 and an OPS+ of 107
  • 2020 was the only year with a negative offensive Wins Above Replacement (oWAR)
  • As recently as 2018, he had an oWAR of 4.1

When making a trade, it is always important to try and evaluate if a player is over or underperforming. After all, a team is trading for future performance, not what the player has done in the past.

As we can see from the surface numbers, Benintendi seems to be right on track with his career averages, even with his anomaly 2020 season. However, it is a good idea to look at the peripherals.

According to Baseball Savant, we can see the following:
  • Actual batting average .278, expected is .262
  • Actual OBP .333, expected .338
  • Actual slugging percentage .432, expected .435

Using these metrics, it appears that what you see is what you get with Benintendi. Which, for the Atlanta Braves, would be a substantial upgrade.

Trading for an outfielder could also add some flexibility. If Orlando Arcia remains serviceable, he seems to have higher offensive potential than Dansby Swanson. In theory, the Braves could move Swanson in another deal, slot Arcia as a place holder as the field general, and put Benintendi in left. If not that route, Benintendi is still an upgrade at 2 of the 3 outfield positions.

The Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Royals line up well in a trade

As stated earlier, it makes sense for the Royals to sell here. They did have the 10th ranked farm system during the pre-season and could expedite an incoming rebuild by moving players who will not be under contract when they are legitimate contenders again for players who can help them in the future.

The Royals just acquired Benintendi, so they may not want to move him. However, it is not like he is a lifelong Royal that would get serious backlash for being dealt either. He is currently on the final year of a two-year, 10 million dollar contract with 1 year of arbitration remaining. Benintendi’s trade value will go down as his contract shortens, so it makes sense to move him while his value is the highest.

On the flip side of the trade for the cash-limited Braves, they have the potential to add a solid upgrade that won’t mortgage the farm and will not cost much financially either.

Here’s the trade proposal

Braves receive:

  • Andrew Benintendi

Royals receive:

It could be argued that this is a slight overpay by the Braves. However, come the trade deadline, it is a seller’s market. Not to mention, there is no guarantee these prospects pan out. As the saying goes, “no risk it, no biscuit.”

Photo: Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire

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