Don’t answer the phone.
It’s a foregone conclusion that Theo Epstein is the best GM is baseball. If you didn’t believe it by the time he delivered two World Series trophies in Boston, you have to accept it after what he’s done in Chicago. It’s like global warming, or the Tom Brady GOAT argument, it’s settled science.
When the best GM in baseball is interested in Andrew Benintendi, all you can do is check your caller ID and let it go straight to voice mail. Then delete it, throw away the sim card and change your number.
The total package
Of course Epstein wants Benintendi. He is the total package – great bat, great glove, above average speed and exceptional hair. In 151 games in his rookie campaign, Benny Biceps hit .271, 20 home runs, and 90 RBIs. He slugged .424, stole 20 bags and played above average defense in baseball’s most fickle left field.
He’s 23 years old. He is only going to get better, and his upside projection is Mookie Betts-level. He isn’t yet hitting for the same power he did in the minors (.546 ISO-P/K), but that will come. We saw it in Ellsbury, we’ll see it in Benny.
What’s important to Theo
In a word, value. In baseball terms, value is production over cost. The Cubs, despite their recent splurges in payroll, are not the Yankees or the Dodgers. Epstein understands this as well as he understands sabermetrics. Which is to say, better than basically everyone else in the game.
Epstein is a master of data analytics, recognizing potential and projecting talent better than anyone. He drafted Pedroia in the second round of the 2004 amateur draft, when everyone else in baseball projected him as little more than a utility player.
Theo also drafted Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley and Ellsbury. In Benintendi’s case, Epstein sees high performance, unlimited potential, and manageable cost for years to come.
The Cubs have more than enough talent to compensate Boston for Benintendi, but most of that talent isn’t going to be leaving the South Side. Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo would provide the kind of corner infield power Boston is lacking, and if either are on the table, the Sox should make a deal. However, neither will be on the table.
Acquiring Kris Bryant (3B) would force a position change with Devers, which given his yips in the field, might not be a terrible idea to consider. Bryant is arbitration eligible and under team control until 2022. At just 25-yrs old, the 2016 NL MVP is not only already better than Benintendi, he is better than Benny projects. He isn’t going anywhere.
Anthony Rizzo (1B) has four years and $47M remaining on his current seven-year deal. At 28, he is at the precipice of his baseball prime – and he is already an elite talent. Rizzo (.273 BA, 32 HR, 109 RBI this year) has a career ISO-P/K of .304. He won a Platinum Glove in 2016, and finished this year with the highest fielding percentage of all NL first basemen.
If Chicago were strapped for cash or bereft of prospects, they could move Rizzo. They’re neither, so they won’t. The most likely marquee player on the table, is left fielder Kyle Schwarber. At 24, Schwarber (.211 BA, 30 HR, 59 RBI this year) was a key contributor to Chicago’s 2016 Championship run.
Just Say No
Schwarber alone wouldn’t be enough. Benintendi is to Schwarber, what Bryant and Rizzo are to Benny – better now, and way better three years from now. At 6’0”/235lbs, Schwarber is also not long for the outfield. He has “future designated hitter” written all over him. There is no value in a Benintendi for Schwarber deal, without much more added in by Chicago.