Of all the uncertainty facing the Red Sox, Andrew Benintendi has placed himself at the top of the list.
The player once considered a solid piece of the Sox’ foundation is now one its biggest question marks.
Benintendi picked a terrible time to have one of the worst two-week stretches of his baseball-playing life, finishing his 2020 season by collecting just four hits in 39 at-bats (.103 batting average), striking out 17 times.
It was what it was: A terrible 2020 season, albeit one that included just 14 games due to his season-ending rib injury.
“I think talent-wise, I wouldn't factor this into an evaluation of his talent at all,” said Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom Tuesday. “This guy has great all-around ability. It's just unfortunate how the year started. He actually looked great in Summer Camp and then for whatever reason when the season opened he wasn't firing on all cylinders, had a couple of bad weeks and then got hurt. So I wouldn't let that change anyone's mind. I thought he looked great coming in, both in spring training and Summer Camp. This is a guy who has shown the ability to perform at a really high level including in some really critical situations. Still young. Still has all that ability. It's just a shame his year kind of got wiped out.”
Benintendi still has time to live up all those expectations.
He is 26-year-old, heading into the second year of the two-year, $10 million extension he signed prior to 2020. Free agency won’t hit for Benintendi until after the 2022 season.
But while it’s hard to believe the former first-round pick will be this player, decisions have to be made. The Red Sox have Alex Verdugo in right field. They know that. After that, the outfield is in a state of flux.
Jarren Duran is on the horizon, but he was supposed to be the fail-safe if Jackie Bradley Jr. didn’t return. The Benintendi uncertainty wasn’t part of the plan.
Considering the price tag and the potential, it only makes sense to see if the lefty hitter can get back to the player he showed for his first two full seasons in the majors, when he combined to hit .280 with an .803 OPS and 36 home runs in 2017 and ’18.
It’s just another uncertainty in the Red Sox’ very uncertain world.
“I think we've made some progress,” said Red Sox general manager Brian O’Halloran when asked about the progress the organization has made in building toward becoming a title contender. “Obviously we're not where we need to be yet and it's a process that is never going to be over. We're going to constantly be tryin to add talent to the organization and continue to build and supplement the core and have a deep roster, as we talked about. But I do think we've made progress in the last year, primarily through trades but also adding through the Draft in different ways. But more work to be done.”